OT: Tales of AU – Through The Looking Glass

on June 17, 2013 in Other Tales, Tales of AU


“Laurel Anne Blaise,” I tell the mirror. “By-The-Elms, Blackwater Province.”

Middle name and province is usually enough for the divination network to find the right person pretty quickly, but I figure this might be the first time anyone’s tried to reflect her from this province and I might as well make things easy for the operator. There’s a lot of automation woven into the system these days, but a lot of lookups still require an intelligent presence if they haven’t been made before.

I’ve always had an interest in how things work, so much so that I seriously considered the applied enchantment program before settling on armoury. Both of them are excellent at Aurelius University… it’s one of the top public universities for enchantment in the Imperium, and definitely the best in the region.

I watch as the shimmering reflection resolves itself into the image of my mother. She’s like an older, taller version of myself. I was about twelve when I stopped talking about “when I grow up” in terms of being as big as she was. At about five foot six, I’m pretty much just average-ish in height and I’m okay with that. Longer legs and arms carried some advantages, but I have other physical advantages that make up for that in a fight or other physical contest.

That, and fighting is never purely a physical contest, except between two completely unskilled opponents. In any fight involving me, at least one opponent’s not going to be completely unskilled. I’ve seen to that.

“—llo, Kegan,” my mother says when the image is solid, or probably just before. “Oh, am I through?”

“You are now,” I say.

“All settled in?” she asks.

“Pretty much,” I say. I haven’t actually unpacked yet, but I brought so little with me that this feels like the truth.

“Don’t forget to actually make your bed,” she says. “I know you’d just as soon fall asleep on a bare mattress at home if I didn’t do it for you, but remember… that same mattress has been used by a different student every year, and how often do you think anybody does any kind of cleansing on them?”

“Yes, I’m sure a thin barrier of breathable cotton will hold back the tide of contagion rolling off the bodies of generations of former students,” I say. “Don’t worry, Mom… it’s a dormitory, not a plague hospital.”

“Worrying is my prerogative,” she says. “That was the deal: you get to go to school out of province, I get to worry.”

“I don’t remember making that agreement.”

“It’s part of the standard parental contract,” she says. “You signed it before you were born.”

“I don’t think minors can enter into legally binding agreements,” I say.

“Well, you weren’t a minor yet,” she says. “There’s no rule against contracts with fetuses. Have you met your roommate yet?”

“No, she’s here but she’s apparently off taking care of something bureaucratic,” I say.

“I still don’t see why you were so dead-set against the idea of corresponding with her before getting there,” she says.

“Well, you’ll be happy to know that I’ve started,” I say. “She left me a note, so we’re halfway to being pen pals.”

“Kegan!”

“I’m just kidding around,” I say. “But the truth is, there are some things that I think are better talked about in person, and since those things would probably come up pretty quickly in any conversation… well, if she asked me what I was doing in Harlowe, I think asking her to wait a couple of months for an answer probably wouldn’t give her a bunch of positive squishy feelings about me.”

“But what’s the alternative? Wait until she’s alone in a room with you? Kegan, I know you feel like you have to tell her…”

“I don’t feel obligated or anything,” I say. “It’s not that I think anyone has a right to know, but I have a right to be… well, just to be. To be myself. To be open and honest. Is that so bad?”

“No, and I respect that choice… but I think there are smarter ways to do it than springing it on someone,” she says.

“Maybe, but I’m a freshman in college,” I say. “If I don’t get some of the dumb things out of the way now, when am I going to have a chance?”

“Kegan Jo Blaise… if I didn’t know you were saying that just to nettle me, I’d be getting on a coach to drag you home right now.”

“Oh, Mom, I’m not saying it to bug you… usually you laugh at these things, too.”

“Okay, maybe I’m a bit sensitive, but you don’t know the things I’ve done to keep you safe,” she says. “Your grandmother, for all her faults, sacrificed herself to keep you from harm… we shouldn’t dishonor that gift by being reckless.”

“Maybe that story would have more impact on me if you ever actually told it to me,” I say. “I’ve been hearing about it for almost ten years now. Don’t you think I’m old enough to know the truth? You always said when I was an adult… I’m eighteen now.”

“Do you think it would do any good for you to hear it now?” she says. “When you’re just about to start school? I don’t want anything to distract you…”

“I know she’s dead, Mother,” I say. “I’m not asking for any gory details, I just want to know why… and honestly, do you think anything could be more distracting than not knowing? Than wondering? We stopped visiting her when I was little and you never said why, just that she wasn’t good for me… and then… everything else happened, and you told me she was gone and that I should be grateful for her. That on top of everything else.”

“Are you in public?”

“Yeah, they don’t have mirrors in the rooms.”

“Well, you said yourself: some things are better said face-to-face,” she says.

“You never told me face-to-face, either,” I say. “You just kept telling me that you’d tell me when I was older. I kind of thought… this would be it.”

“You’re right… I’ll tell you the whole story,” she says.

“Thank you.”

“When you come back for break.”

“Mom!”

“That’s the final word on the subject, and if you want to keep pushing me, it really will be final,” she says. “Now go make your bed, and finish unpacking.”

“Okay.”

“And be good… and be careful.”

“I will, Mom.”

“And have fun.”

“Does Madame have any particular instructions as to the nature or quantity of the fun that is to be had?”

“See what I get when I try to not be a hardass with you?”

“I’ll be fine, Mom,” I say. “Go. Relax. Enjoy your Empty Lair Syndrome.”

“Okay,” she says. “But don’t forget the mirror is here. And there’s a-mail. And the Imperial Post still reaches us in Blackwater.”

“I’ll keep in touch, Mom,” I say. “I love you.”

“I love you, too, Kegan,” she says, and I’m trying to figure out if we’ve reached a place where I can say goodbye and wave the reflection away without being entirely heartless when she does it herself.

As annoying as she can be, I do love her a lot… I’m looking forward to having a little time and distance between us, but I really can’t imagine what my life would be like if it didn’t have her in it.


I find the door locked when I get back to my room, and open it to find my roommate wrestling a fridge into position. She’s short and kind of squat, with what I think of as a dwarvenesque profile. Her hair’s a kind of reddish-blonde, more blonde than red but just barely.

“Wyne?” I say.

“Whenever you’re ready,” she says. “Hee! Hey, you didn’t just leave the door unlocked when you left, did you?”

“Yeah, but I was just down the hall,” I say.

“Well, it isn’t just your stuff that’s in here,” she says. “It’s kind of inconsiderate of you not to think about that.”

“I’ll keep that in mind for next time,” I say.

“Good… now I’ve got to get my pudding pops put away before they melt. And before you ask: geas gone wrong,” she says. “I was twelve. Now the only things I can eat and drink are the things that were my favorite at the time… which wasn’t quite what I was going for, but can’t really change it now.”

“I wasn’t going to ask,” I say, but my mind can’t help picking at the details now that I know that much. “How does a twelve year old get into a geas?”

“My cousin… has a sort of a gift,” she says. “Faerie gift. She can lay geases.”

“That’s… a powerful thing for someone to be walking around with,” I say. “But I’m surprised you haven’t been able to break it. Unbreakable geases are usually like once-in-a-lifetime things, not something a twelve year old can hand out like candy.”

“Well, there are conditions on how she can do it,” Wyne says. “Hers can be broken, but the person doing it has to know the full terms of the geas. And… she wasn’t twelve, she was sixteen.”

Something in her voice tells me that this is painful territory for her, so I don’t ask any of the other obvious questions, like why she hadn’t told anyone what the terms of the geas are or why a kid who’s young enough to have pudding pops as her favorite food would have acquired a taste for wine.

“Well, anyway, I’m Kegan,” I say.

“That’s an interesting name,” she says. “I kind of pictured you as a boy.”

“It’s kind of… unisexy… I guess,” I say. “My mother likes picking names out of books. I have a brother somewhere named Aidan.”

“Somewhere?”

“My mom had him when she was really young and gave him up for adoption,” I say. “I didn’t know about him until I was like nine or so, which was the year I found out a lot of things.”

“Yeah?”

“Yeah,” I say. “Like, for starters, that was when she told me that my father was a demon.”

“My dad’s a dickhole, too, but my mom didn’t wait until I was nine to start telling me that,” she says.

“…I meant literally,” I say. “I’m half-demon.”

“…fucking seriously? Is that even allowed?”

“Yep,” I say. “It’s not always the most fun thing in the world, but I’m lucky enough to have a mother who was willing to fight for me. I was homeschooled for a bit after it came out, until she could get the local school board in line… they would have taken me before that, but only with a bunch of bullshit ‘safety precautions’ that basically made the school completely unsafe for me.”

“Wow,” Wyne says. “And here when I saw you were human-looking, I was thinking you’d be all impressed with my giant blood.”

“Is that a joke?”

“No!” she says. “There are totally short giants out there, and anyway, I have dwarf blood canceling it out.”

“That I can believe,” I say.

“And that’s just the stuff I can prove,” she says.

“Have you met any of our floormates yet?” I ask, thinking of the conversation I’d cut short with Alea… I couldn’t say what it was that bothered me about Wyne, but I was finding myself wishing I was still talking to her instead.

“No… I haven’t had time to do anything other than get my fridge situation sorted out,” she said. “I figure we’ll meet everyone at the floor meeting, though.”

“Well, I’m going to go see if anyone’s hanging out,” I say. “I do better with people one on one or in small groups than with a whole roomful of people at one time.”

“Suit yourself,” Wyne says. “I’m going to the welcome festival.”


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46 Responses to “OT: Tales of AU – Through The Looking Glass”

  1. Klaus says:

    This is fun

    Current score: 0
  2. Computer Mad Scientist says:

    So this is what, MU if people were sane? Could stay interesting.

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    • Billy Bob says:

      Don’t think so. I think it’s a world where whatever kill Mack’s mom didn’t happen and instead Granny did something to get killed instead. My guess would be that Granny Paladin took on Mack Daddy and now they are both gone.

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      • Elf says:

        Er… Mack’s mom isn’t dead in the MUniverse, either.

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        • Gruhl says:

          Uhm… I am fairly sure I read somewhere that she is.

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          • Marx says:

            There were OT Stories which indicated that Mack’s mom isn’t dead, but instead had to agree to a sort of pact with Mack-Daddy which amounts to something like ‘if you don’t visit her in person, I won’t visit her in person either’ – and since Daddy’s able to visit Mack in her dreams, he abides by the letter of the agreement. so far.

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            • Eris Harmony says:

              Didn’t the first OT with Martha include a line about how Laurel had ‘already died once’ when talking about de-demoning Mack? I wouldn’t be surprised if Laurel had been killed somehow and then resurrected. We know that Laurel isn’t dead currently, but from what we know of the MUniverse that doesn’t necessarily mean she hasn’t died.

              Also, if Wyne has the same personality as Puddy, watching Kegan deal with her could be fun.

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            • Luke Licens says:

              I think Wyne IS Puddy, with slightly different baggage. Just like Kegan is Mackenzie, with slightly different baggage. I’m still curious how Alea wound up at AU after being cast out, though. I’m also curious about New Two, and the Amaranth/Barley scenario. A self confident Kegan is gonna flip that whole thing on its head.

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            • Elf says:

              Yep. That’s probably why Laurel/Lorellon’s series is called “The Untimely Death and Strange Afterlife.” She died, but she’s still living after. A pun on “afterlife,” if you will.

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            • zeel says:

              Remember guys, in the MUniverse “life insurance” means a resurrection policy. Death is not always and end, so even if she did literally die (though I don’t think she did) she could remain.

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      • Computer Mad Scientist says:

        Well, obviously there has to be a /reason/ for Kegan to be sane this early on, and a lack of Martha in her life is a very likely possibility. Presumably Wyne has reasons too.

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    • oldsage says:

      Looks like a bit of “fill-in” on how Puddy, got the eating habits she has. Minus the Sadistic streak yet. Perchance KEGAN ,is the other Demond-Blood that gets killed at the school.

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  3. pedestrian says:

    Okeydokey, we have taken the cerulean pill and are plummeting into a wild delving!

    So, hummph….my brilliant guesses are batting zilch for naught. Which means that Alexandra Erin is being naughty with my turgid pomposity.

    And, congrats AE, those few sentences about Brimstone sacrificing herself to defend Kegan, express so much emotive power in a few words.

    Was Demon Daddy successfully destroyed or more likely cast out the mundane plane back to demonic plane? Rendering him unavailable to interfere in Kegan’s timeline for at least decades or centuries? What new or old villain will Kegan have to battle against?

    It will be interesting to discover at what point in AU/MU history when the divergence occurred.

    Current score: 0
    • zeel says:

      Ya, whatever the key difference is, it must go pretty far back. The university is named differently, which means the event is before AU/MU was established.

      The names are interesting too, Laurel Anne is the same, but Mackenzie is not. The middle name is the same, which suggests that Laurel Anne’s sister had the same name. Since Kegan mentions that she likes to pick names from book, I wonder if ‘Kegan’ was the name of the same character as ‘Mackenzie’ in a book, or if she read different books. Or simply chose a different character. Or her choice of ‘Mackenzie’ was made differently.

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      • Krey says:

        Yea, I noticed that book line too and am currently doing a search for some book that has both as characters. Unfortunately this has been made super obnoxious by the fact that there’s a very prolific publisher out of London with Kegan in the name.

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        • cnic says:

          Our writer might just be playing with etymology. Mackenzie = son of handsome
          Kegan= son of itty bitty fire

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  4. Jonathan says:

    “Your grandmother, for all her faults, sacrificed herself to keep you from harm. []

    This line ends without a closing quotation mark, and with a pair of brackets. Did you mean to stick in another sentence?

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    • zeel says:

      Ya, looks like the quote was supposed to have another line.

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    • Whoops, that’s a versioning problem from SkyDrive. I’d left that there (that’s my placeholder character) while I mulled whether she should elaborate or not. Fixed now.

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  5. Elf says:

    Laurel Anne Blaise doesn’t get a *tag?

    Current score: 0
    • zeel says:

      I would guess that only character names that are inconsistent get *tags. Alea is in the previous AU chapter, and has a normal tag. I would guess the * denotes renamed characters, not AU characters.

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    • …she’s supposed to, but apparently there’s a limitation in the tagging system. Punctuation is stripped out of tags for the text that the system actually uses, so “*Laurel Anne Blaise” reads the same as “Laurel Anne Blaise” and it apparently just applies the original tag.

      I’m going to have to change the method of tagging alternate universe characters.

      Current score: 0
      • zeel says:

        Ah technical difficulties, aren’t they just fun and fantastic?

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  6. WsntHere says:

    Hmmm… I hate when that happens, but I guess I just HAVE to be wrong every twenty five years or so.

    So, did Dee send Alea to broaden her horizons, or is the underground elven society structured differently? Will Barley be a totally outgoing, friendly person, while Amaranth is so wrapped up in the pain and death stuff that she rarely sees daylight?

    Kegan doesn’t have McKenzies problems, so what happens to the whole four way dynamic the latter has with a woman, man and halfway, which is identical to what Dee has going on down below.

    Tune in next week!! Same bat time, same bat Channel!!!!! Doodoodoodoodoodoodoo…MUUUUUUU!!!

    Current score: 0
    • Anne says:

      I was just wondering when Kegan would meet the nymphs as well… Will they still be Barley and Amaranth? Or will they have slightly shifted names?
      What about the mermaids?
      And Sooni?
      All sorts of places to go or people to meet!

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      • zeel says:

        I am guessing that almost everything from MU will be paralleled in AU. Thus I would guess that Sooni and friends are their, with much different attitudes. And that the nymphs will be a big deal, but in a much different way.

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      • tomclark says:

        Sooni, of course, is going to be a beautiful, well-adjusted neko princess whose mom is still alive. 😀

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        • Zukira Phaera says:

          Sooni will love Mechknights and think Science Princess is for babies.

          Suzi will be articulate and Kai will be an air head.

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    • 'Nym-o-maniac says:

      Alea’s shaved head is interesting – it indicates that she’s left a house recently, doesn’t it? Not sure if she’d still have to do that to go abroad…

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  7. Dani says:

    Does she call herself Wyne because she drinks wine? Why not call herself Puddy because she eats pudding pops?

    Current score: 0
    • zeel says:

      Well, Puddy’s real name is ‘Ceridwyn’, my guess is that Wyne has the same (or very similar) name (like most of her family) ‘Wyne’ is probably short for whatever it may be.

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    • Computer Mad Scientist says:

      Same reason this Laurel named her daughter Kegan instead of Mackenzie, presumably.

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  8. zeel says:

    A thought: We have met four characters, two have the same name, and two have different names.

    We know that AUniverse is not that much different from MUniverse. Perhaps most things are in fact the same, and differing names denote those things that are not consistent. Kegan and Wyne are much different than Mackenzie and Puddy, but Laurel Anne seems to be the same person (more mature, but that is to be expected); and Harlowe Hall is essentially the same place.

    I would look out for the name changes, as I am guessing that anything with a new name is going to be substantially different than MU, but those with the same name will be almost identical.

    Current score: 0
  9. Brandon says:

    I have to wonder how kegan and coach calahan would interact. Kegan seems to be. more fighter oriented rather than mack’s mage base. It would be interesting to see the dynamic that kegan and the coach might have. Another thing to think about kegan might not have the same course load as mack and therefore might not meet the ian of this universe

    Current score: 0
  10. Burnsidhe says:

    I don’t think Alea is Dee. I recall the reason Dee was sent to Magisterius was to separate her from her lover; In this world, maybe the lover was kicked out instead.

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    • Luke Licens says:

      Alea is Dee’s (former?) lover from down under. The real question is ‘how did she end up at AU after being (presumedly) disgraced and cast out of her house?’

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      • Krey says:

        My best guess is that Dee sent her along in her stead to give her a decent life rather than living in disgrace, and the House allowed it since it conveniently swept the problem under the rug.

        Current score: 0
  11. Fiona says:

    This is very sad. This is the way it should have been for Mackenzie, a mom you can take for granted.

    Current score: 0
  12. Zathras IX says:

    My “Madame” always
    Has instructions as to
    The fun to be had

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    • tomclark says:

      Laurel Anne is dead,
      Mack thinks, but we know she lives.
      Here, does Martha live?

      Current score: 0
  13. Readaholic says:

    I”m guessing that “Aurelius University” is named after the golden greater dragon that is open about his presence in the province.

    Current score: 1
  14. N'ville says:

    Oh boy oh boy. Erm. in this society of equality, I shall re-phrase that Oh boy oh girl, or even oh girl oh boy. erm, excuse me for that sad humour.

    The real point being that Ms Erin you are really messing with every ones head by coming up with an alternative universe, and cunningly so, I bet you are laughing your head off, well done me dear.

    Now where is me whisky, pipe and slippers, I just turned 65 and retired, so I now have to behave like a dear old chap who has many years of experience and humour. Like hell I will, bring on the fun.

    Oh by the way, I recently finished the Terry Pratchet and Steven Baxter corroboration called Long earth, in which they came up with the ideas of alternative universes, however in their rendition, no humans exist in the alternative worlds. Shame really, a lot more to explore in that scenario.

    Current score: 0
  15. pedestrian says:

    I was just thinking {Warning! Verbosity Ahead!}

    Callahan….tadadaha!!!!

    Does the AU Coach also want to kill a student and specifically demon girl?

    Did Callahan do something differently in her early timeline that caused or influenced the divergence between MU and AU?

    Puddy did not want to be stuck in the Phratry with her kinfolk, so why did Wyne choose to live separate at Harlowe Hall?

    The comment by Wyne about a geas placed on her by an older adolescent family member, not only helps explain Wyne but also fills in what we did not understand about Puddy’s life.

    Current score: 0
    • JS says:

      Yeah! I looked up geases to get a handle on the meaning and I read that observing a geas placed on you can confer power onto you! So that could also go somewhat into explaining Puddy’s super strength.

      Current score: 0
  16. 'Nym-o-maniac says:

    … reading this back over, I just noticed… Kegan is taller than Mackenzie by about two inches. I wonder if it’s because her human side was also fed as a kid, or what.

    Current score: 0
  17. Sher says:

    I would love to read all abut AU and what happens to Kegan, but I’m really starting to like Mack.

    Current score: 0