OT: Tales of AU – Introductions and Inversions

on July 15, 2013 in Other Tales, Tales of AU

In Which Aliases Are Abandoned

It doesn’t take me long to figure out that our resident adviser… one of the only humans on the floor, even if you do count Wyne… is going to be pretty useless. She seems to be afraid of us… that could be inexperience if this is her first semester as an RA, but I have a feeling that there’s more to it than that. This feeling firms up quite a bit when she asks everyone to introduce themselves and uses the term “species” to refer to intelligent races… I’ve seen human supremacists refer to other races that way, but she seems to just genuinely not know better, which is surprising. That’s the kind of thing you learn in elementary school.

Animals have species… even though they’re all a single order of creation, they can’t interbreed outside of their own lines. People don’t work like that. To call goblins or gnomes or whatever “species” is to compare them to animals. I’d guess that there’s no malice in the girl’s heart, but I think the selective apathy it takes to get to the age of nineteen or twenty and manage to avoid picking up even that much of a clue on certain topics can be as bad as malice… maybe worse.

As astounding as it is that she got that wrong, it does help me put into context just how young she is… she’s probably not more than a year ahead of me, which means she’s less than two years older than I am. I remember the warning I gave Alea about taking anything I said with a confusingly proverbial grain of salt… Kiersta the RA has been put into a position of responsibility, but she’s just another student like me, and only an adult under the same bare technicality that declares I’m one.

No one calls Kiersta on her flub, though some people are noticeably uncomfortable, but we just move on and the introductions go pretty quickly. The actual instructions Kiersta gave were to say our name, our “species”, our major, and something interesting about her.

There’s a woman named Lidiya. She has a Khazarusian accent and describes herself as the princess of the rat kingdom of Mariinsky, which I guess qualifies as interesting if anything does. She looks more or less human with some rodent overtones, but that’s probably not the only form she can wear.

The same may be true of the mermaid Feejee, a music major who wants to travel… either every picture I’ve seen of a mermaid is wrong, or she’s able to split her tail into scaly legs. I’ve heard of mermaids coming ashore and walking around, but they’re usually depicted with smooth skin on their lower bodies… I wonder if that’s artistic license, or if this is an intermediate form. If she can choose how to present when she’s wearing legs, then I have to wonder exactly how flexible it is… like, if her legs can be scaly or smooth, is the same true of her upper body?

There’s Oru, a goblin who’s also majoring in the music specialization of bardic arts but who confesses to an interest in metal crafting as her interesting tidbit. I have to wonder if she’s taking any armoury classes, but I’d prefer to catch her alone to ask. She’s paired off with Shiel, a kobold who’s undeclared and says she mainly wants to learn something she can use to get out of the warren for good.

Wyne makes a big deal out of spelling her nickname and saying that everyone calls her it. I wonder if anybody ever called her Wyne who wasn’t told that, but I don’t say anything… if you can’t reinvent yourself in college, then what’s the point of leaving home for it?

Wyne showed up on the arm of an undine, whose name is apparently Celine. I’ve only ever seen a picture of a water sprite before, and that was a drawing on the cover of one of my mother’s romance novels. The figure in the picture was taller and her body was translucent, like she was made out of living water. Celine’s body is the color of sea foam, but it looks like flesh and blood… except when she’s in motion. Solid flesh with the usual earth-heavy elemental balance of most mortal races doesn’t ripple and flow like that. At one point I see Wyne touch her arm to get her attention, and it makes a series of concentric rings, like a raindrop hitting the surface of a pond.

Also, at one point, a third hand smoothly breaks the surface of Celine’s side to brush a strand of hair out of her face. I didn’t read Tides of Love, but I’m pretty sure its protagonist couldn’t do that.

Celine’s appearance is so fascinating I don’t catch her major or what fact she shares… I barely come to in time to learn that Trina is a triclops subtle artist whose human mother was a bit on the nose when it came to naming. There are a couple of burrow gnomes from the shire of Logfallen, named Heather and Hazel, and a belligerent nagakin named Celia. Then Brianna the half-ogre and Clicky the insect woman introduce themselves… Brianna gives her race as human and no one is rude enough to challenge this characterization. Clicky says that the common name for her people is “myrmidon”, from the elvish. She rattles off her actual name in her own language, or at least what she calls “the auditory component” of it. Kiersta asks her if it means anything.

“It’s the time and location where I was born,” Clicky says.

Then there’s a half-elven woman named Demeter, who describes herself as the “guide” for a pair of domesticated field nymphs who are apparently called Field and Flower… they’re attending AU as part of what Demeter calls a “pilot program” being done by a farm collective.

Field looks attentive, though she says little… Flower seems to be pouting about something. They’re both very attractive, obviously… shapely, blonde, and without a stitch of clothing. Flower is… for lack of a less ridiculous-sounding word… the more buxom of the two. She’s also taller. I would probably think her the prettier of the two, but it seems like she has a permanent scowl and that kind of ruins it… I notice her glaring at Demeter through narrowed eyes while she’s introducing the three of them.

Demeter’s also a student. She’s a druid, majoring in herbalism.

There’s a girl named Twyla who looks for all the world like an ordinary human except for the pair of short, slightly curved horns jutting out of her head. She’s apparently studying divination to try to research her own ancestry.

Alea introduces herself as Alea of Durakesh, major undeclared. It’s weird to think of someone making what was no doubt a long and dangerous journey from an underground city to the surface without some specific goal, but she’s already told me she wasn’t the first choice.

Since I’m sitting next to her, that makes me next.

“I’m Kegan Blaise,” I say. “And… I’m a half-demon.”

There are more human-blood or human-ish people in Harlowe than I’d counted on, so I’m expecting a strong reaction, possibly even a negative one, but I’d rather have it out in the open and since everyone I’ll be living with for the next year is in the room, it seems like there’s no time like the present. Unless the whole room goes all-out angry mob on me, telling everyone at once seems safer than letting people find out one at a time, especially in situations where they might be feeling cornered.

And there is… well, there are reactions. Celine seems to collapse in on herself a little bit, if briefly… it’s like watching a humanoid wave cresting and breaking. Kiersta goes pale and freezes. Demeter looks a little alarmed. Flower just glares at me, but I’m not sure there’s anything personal there because she seems to favor everyone with the same squinty-eyed stare.

And beside me, Alea says in a voice that carries softly, “Are you really?”

“Yeah,” I say. “Yes, I am.”

“Interesting,” she says… and I both want and don’t want to pull her out of the room and find out exactly what she means by that, what she thinks of this.

“And I’m an armoury major, and something interesting about me so that’s me,” I say. I turn to the person next to me, another human-appearing person who I haven’t taken much notice of, and try to move things along. “So I guess it’s you now.”

“My name is Two,” she recites. “I am a golem. I am majoring in domestic arts. There is nothing interesting about me.”

My first inclination is to say that her voice is a monotone, but that would be a lot less affecting. A monotone is what you’d expect from something inanimate or totally not human… okay, so maybe Kiersta’s not the only one with a touch of unaddressed racial chauvinism… you know what I mean, though. Two’s voice sounds… empty, like it’s been drained of all… or never contained any… emotion.

It’s a hopeless voice.

It makes me angry… furious.

Who the hell would make someone like that?

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36 Responses to “OT: Tales of AU – Introductions and Inversions”

  1. Hey folks! Just to let you know of a couple of (related) changes… starting next week, instead of doing regular chapters on Wednesday and Friday like I’ve been doing and a bonus story (if the threshold is met) on Monday, I’m going to be doing regular chapters M-W-F with the bonus story falling on the weekend. In accordance with the fact that normal updates will be 50% more common, the threshold is increasing from $100 to $150.

    Current score: 0
  2. Arkeus says:

    Two ;____;
    Also, huh, a lot of changes there.

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  3. TheEyes says:

    “And I’m an armoury major, and something interesting about me so that’s me,”

    Did you mean to dodge the last bit, or was that a placeholder for an actual “something interesting”?

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    • Burnsidhe says:

      I think that was Mackenzie being droll. They’re not going to remember ‘something interesting’ about her if she said it so soon after revealing her heritage. They’re going to remember ‘half-demon.’

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    • rainbow transfusions says:

      Feeling trepidatious to learn how Kegan and Calahan interact.
      I suppose *react* may a better word than interact, because I suspect it’ll be not dissimilar to elemental sodium meeting water.

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      • Burnsidhe says:

        I don’t know. Kegan’s an arms and armor geek. If anything, Callahan may assume Kegan knows more about fighting than Kegan actually does, and will have to rein in her expectations.

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    • MentalBlank says:

      Well, they were told to “say our name, our “species”, our major, and something interesting about (me) her”. Kegan has Macks’ smart-arsery along with the confidence to express it aloud.

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  4. Burnsidhe says:

    “Flower” and “Field”. That’s.. pretty insulting, really.

    “And this is Blond Female Human.” That would probably be the equivalent.

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    • Glenn says:

      I suspect that Demeter isn’t allowing ‘Flower’ to wear her glasses, either.

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      • Silverai says:

        Ooooh, that would explain the squint. And the pout, too, I suppose. Thanks! I had way more convoluted and annoying reasons I was trying to come up with.

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      • Cadnawes says:

        Or she never acquired them. If I recall correctly it was kind of a random chance that got Amaranth hers.

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        • zeel says:

          That is probably more plausible. That would certainly have an effect on her attitude.

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    • JewceGewse says:

      like amaranth and barley are any less on the nose

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      • Eris Harmony says:

        Those names at least are somewhat specific to them–Flower and Field sound more like “Hey, lets pick names that have something to do with plants.”

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  5. Anvildude says:

    Sorta like “And my name in my native tongue translates to ‘Eleven-thirty-six-and-three-seconds on Thorsday Augustus the 15th of the 3001st year of the Empire from Wormhole Caverns Maternity Ward’?

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  6. Yumi says:

    The last sentence, “Who the hell gives would make someone like that?” is confusing. It seems like it was going to echo Mack’s thoughts of, “Who the hell gives a golem self-awareness? What’s the point?” but then decided to change halfway through.

    Curious if it was supposed to be exactly the same (like much of the previous description of Two’s voice), or pointedly different, like Kegan expressing a stronger anger than Mack.

    Also, since I was looking at the “Introductions” chapter from way back to compare the response to Two, another interesting thing I noticed is that Kiersta (who has the same name) seems to be a couple years younger in the AU, as in MU she says, “This is my third year that I’ve been an R.A.,” contrasting with Kegan’s observation here (which may be wrong) that “she’s probably not more than a year ahead of me.”

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  7. Mike says:

    I’m loving these AU chapters. The changes are very interesting, and Keegan seems to be a bit more perceptive than Mackenzie.

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    • John says:

      Like that’s difficult!

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    • Burnsidhe says:

      Kegan is just as perceptive as Mackenzie is.

      The difference is that Mack was forced to keep her head down and prevented from socializing by her grandmother, where Kegan was encouraged to socialize. That’s why Kegan is more aware of the people around her at this stage than Mack was.

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      • Reb says:

        Very true, Mackenzie has very a very particular way of observing the world- seeing things that are ‘safe’ for her to think about (i.e. enchantment) and in that field, she is incredibly perceptive, and assess how much of a threat things are to her safety. At the outset of the story, she didn’t notice people outside of how threatening she thought they were, she was barely aware when she was attracted to someone.

        /this may all be spurious and half-remembered.

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  8. pedestrian says:

    My computer experience is divided into ancient obsolete networking and almost modern,rule-of-thumb muddling through. I have noticed that some problems seem to occur with monotonous regularity across many sites and postings.

    Someone who specializes in correlating and coordinating different programs and OS’s and www functions could probably explain this phenomenon better then I.

    My suspicion is that when an author posts a work to editing, to curating, to the site and on to the reader, one or more of the involved subroutines automatically separates out and vanishes some of the last-minute-edited words and phrases.

    We already know that WP programs and Spellcheck functions are homophone-phobic. And that some of the WP’s have been set up to autofill words. Now I can see a limited functionality for filling out a multitude of similar forms. Or, used for repetitious reports were you know your boss does not want to see anything new or clever.

    But running those auto-fill functions for anything creative is a real sea-drogue to the imagineering process. May as well be painting by numbers!

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    • Lunaroki says:

      Um, what did that have to do with anything?

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      • pedestrian says:

        From Alexandra’s fingers to your screen. Along that tortuous path of technological mummery. When did the missing words go missing?

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        • Silverai says:

          They went missing between her brain and her fingers. Have you never typed a sentence, looked up, and realised you missed a whole word, or several, or even typed in the entirely wrong word? It definitely happens. (Case in point, I almost left my mistyped “realised to missed” instead of the “you”.)

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          • pedestrian says:

            I agree that is a normal occurrence. I’ve certainly accomplished that myself often enough.

            But there is also a reoccurring phenomena of [edited] words disappearing by time the posting arrives to your screen. I am wondering if any reader who does programming of likely editing subroutines that are known to have that effect.

            If we do not face up to a chronic problem, even an obscure and illusive coding error such as this, it cannot be fixed.

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  9. Peggy says:

    Love love love the description of Celine. Ripples! I’ve always adored flowing water, but I’ve never imagined water in human form. Or at least not that vividly.

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  10. Zathras IX says:

    In which Kegan won-
    ders exactly how flexi-
    ble Feejee might be

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  11. Devin says:

    Wow. Keegan is A LOT more observant than Mack. First day meeting people and she’s all ready guessing things that caught Mack completely by surprise. Such as the mermaids alternate form. And is that rat princess the alternate for the swan princess in the main story?

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  12. Xicree says:

    Its good to see Feejee again… even if only briefly. I kinda miss her.

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    • Whataslacker says:

      I miss Feejee too. Good to see her here.

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  13. Lunaroki says:

    OK, so I’m guessing Demeter is taking the place of the Leighton twins. Raquel has yet to introduce herself, and we haven’t yet met Sooni and her Neko pets or their equivalents. I also noticed that, unlike Mack, Kegan didn’t mention anything about all the massive amounts of jewelry Feejee was wearing. I wonder if that’s because she was less impressed by it or because her attention was on other details or whether this Feejee simply wasn’t wearing jewelry so conspicuously?

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    • Glenn says:

      If “domesticated” nymphs are treated like slaves in this version of Paradise Valley, then Demeter’s relationship with the nymphs would be somewhat similar to Sooni’s relationship with the Nekos in Mack’s world.
      Flower clearly needs glasses. The question is, does Demeter interpret the religious prohibition about Nymphs wearing clothing as also prohibiting the wearing of glasses? If she does, then I expect Kegan and Flower will bond when Kegan defends Flower’s right to either wear her own glasses, or get some from the campus medical clinic.

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      • Brenda says:

        Aren’t Amaranth’s glasses considered unusual in a world where a quick bit of magic could fix someone’s vision? Maybe Demeter doesn’t know about them – or maybe no one’s ever bothered to notice that Flower can’t see clearly. I got along for quite a while before getting glasses – the only thing I remember noticing was that I had a hard time reading the menu board at McDonalds. When I got glasses, it surprised me that you could make out the individual leaves on a tree from a distance.

        I wonder if Kegan’s going to just go with this first impression, or make an effort to be friendly anyway and get to know Flower. We know what Mack would probably do – will Kegan go the extra mile?

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        • Mo says:

          Amaranth’s myopia can’t be “fixed” with magic – she is perfect so any magic that would restore her eyesight would attempt to return her to myopia. Assuming the same goes for Flower (Field? Flower? Worse names than Barley and Amaranth).

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  14. Fiona says:

    I believe the introductions spanned over at least two chapters in the original so I’m looking forward to seeing who else in here in the next chapter.

    Very different attitudes with the nymphs. Their chaperone seems to be really cramping their style, at least for Flower-Amaranth(?). I wonder what’s up with that.

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  15. Anthony says:

    Interesting how so many people are so different, but somehow Two is exactly the same…

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