OT: Tales of AU – Warrior Women

on June 24, 2013 in Other Tales, Tales of AU

In Which Kegan Gets Her Foot In The Door

The floor lounge is parked in a wide spot in the hall just a few doors down from me. It’s got a big glass front that I guess is there to make it feel less cramped, since the view of the hallway from inside isn’t all that inspiring. The lounge isn’t tiny, but it’s obviously not meant to accommodate everybody at once.

The decor and furnishings pretty much scream economy apartment, though the TV box in the corner at least has some character.

It’s one of those kitschy old models that looks like somebody cut a hole in the front of a treasure chest, though that’s really more of a side effect of adding the kind of ornamentation that wouldn’t be out of place on a lavish old theater to what is essentially just a wooden box. Looking at it, I can’t help thinking that it probably even had curtains, once upon a time. That would make it a genuine antique.

There’s probably an interesting story behind how it ended up being here in the most neglected dorm on campus, though that neglect probably has a lot to do with it. If it were anywhere else, then it probably would have been replaced with a bigger, sleeker model in the course of things… or somebody would have noticed its value by now.

There’s a sturdy-looking table jutting out from one of the walls a bit behind the TV area, big enough for four people. Three of the chairs are occupied. The girls sitting at it give off a serious warrior-woman vibe.

One of them looks like a living sculpture cast out of cold-wrought iron. She probably gets mistaken for a golem, but people don’t tend to make intelligent or self-aware golems out of metal. It’s not impossible, just not ideal. Also, the blonde hair growing out of her metal scalp would be an unusual touch. Sitting beside her is an insect woman… well, I infer that she’s a woman, or something similar, based on the assumption that this is her dorm… of a vaguely ant-like build. Across from them, sitting partly across two chairs, is a half-ogre dressed in blue jeans and a shirt that look like they were carefully tailored for her size and shape. The way they manage to convey a sense of femininity and almost girlishness is pretty impressive.

I get a strong warrior vibe off the group, though admittedly most of that comes from the iron girl… I can’t see the half-ogre’s face and I can’t read the other one’s face or body language at all. The iron girl’s lean but muscular build speaks of both strength and agility, and there’s something about the way she sits that just radiates easy confidence and power.

None of them said hi when I walked in. I’m not allergic to introducing myself or anything, just better at dealing with people one-on-one, so checking out the TV gives me something to do other than standing there awkwardly.

“If you can get that thing to work, I’d be surprised,” one of them says… I’ve guessed it’s the ironclad from the way her voice sounded, and turn around to confirm it.

“No, it’s real,” I say. “It’s a real lair piece, but it’s not like magic items go bad. Or at least, they usually don’t… did you try it?”

“No… daytime TV isn’t my thing,” she said. “I wasn’t sure it wasn’t a prop, to be honest.”

It isn’t mine, either, but I will the TV on just to check/demonstrate.

“Yeah, it’s the real deal,” I say.

“Cool, good to know. I’m Raquel,” she says. “This is Clicky and Brianna.”

The half-ogre half-turns and says, “Hi!” The insectoid… who I’m just guessing is Clicky, because Raquel didn’t indicate which was which… covers her mouth area with one of her hands and says, “Hello,” in a warbly, surprisingly musical voice.

“Clicky?” I say.

“My real name is difficult to pronounce and easier to translate,” she sings, still covering her mouth. “Excuse me, I mean difficult to translate and harder to pronounce. And the acrobatics needed to speak your language are too embarrassing to be seen, though luckily I seem to have been gifted with an excess of arms.”

“I’m Kegan,” I say.

“Interesting sword, Kegan,” Raquel says. Since she can only see the hilt sticking out above my shoulder, she either has a really good eye or is just making conversation. “Are you in the martial program?”

“No, armoury,” I say. “I like weapons.”

“You wear yours well,” Clicky says. “Can you use it?”

“I like to think I can, when I need to,” I say. “Though I haven’t needed to often.”

“How about for fun?” Raquel asks.

“I enjoy the occasional bout to keep my skills up.”

“How about skirmish?” she asks.

“I’m not on the team.”

“I know,” she says. “Because we’re part of the Harlowe squad. You ever consider trying out?”

“You couldn’t afford my point cost,” I say.

Her eyes just about bug out of her skull, and Brianna laughs.

“That good?” the half-ogre says.

“Good doesn’t even enter into it,” I say. I deactivate the TV. “Nice talking to you.”

“See you around,” Raquel says as I leave the lounge.

I’m not one hundred percent sure about the impression I made on the skirmish squad, though I think it might have gone well.

I’ve been hoping to run into Alea again… no real solid reason for that, at least not yet. She’s just the first person I’ve met and while I don’t have a lot to go on, she seemed cool enough that I feel bad about breaking the conversation off to go talk to my mother. With nothing else happening and nothing else to do that doesn’t require leaving the dorm, I decide to be bold and go to her room.

There’s a moment of hesitation as I process the fact that if she’s in there, she knows I’m out and about and has decided not to come out, as she did the first time. That’s true, but it doesn’t mean anything. Not wanting to put herself forward isn’t the same thing as not wanting company. Maybe like me, she’s better at one on one. Maybe… well, maybe a lot of things. The only way to know for sure is to try.

I knock lightly on the door.

“Enter,” her voice says. I shiver as I realize that the words are sounding right inside my ear. I’ve always heard that there’s magic in the voice of an elf, but this is my first direct experience of it.

I go to turn the doorknob and have to keep myself from snapping the bolt… it’s locked.

“It’s locked,” I say. This might or might not be obvious to her… I don’t know what the hardware is like where she’s from, or how long she’s been on the surface.

“Oh, my apologies!” she says, and this time her voice comes from behind the door, though it still cuts through the wood a bit more clearly than you’d expect. “I didn’t realize it had a lock.” There’s a moment of fumbling on the other side of the knob, and then it turns and the door opens. “Though upon reflection, I should have realized this because I had to unlock it to get in… it’s just such a strange idea that it did not stick with me. I’m sorry.”

She bows her apologies.

“It’s okay,” I say. “They don’t have locks in the underworld?”

“We do,” she says. “I don’t. I would have shared a room like this with fifteen other students, and our door would have been a curtain. What is the protocol on other people in my room?”

“Well, they’re all doubles, so you should have a roommate,” I said. “But just one.”

“I meant, are you able to come in?”

“That’s pretty much up to you,” I said. “I mean, I can come in if you want me to.”

“Would you like to come in?” she asks.

“Sure,” I say. She steps back and I step in.

She closes the door, and then pushes the knob in and twists it.

“This is locked?” she says.

“That’s locked.”

“If I don’t do this, the door will stay closed but it may be opened from either side?” she asks.

“Yes, exactly,” I say.

“Is it necessary to lock the door when I’m inside the room?”

“I don’t know,” I say. “I guess it depends on if anyone else in the dorm is an asshole… I think it might be as much a privacy thing as a security thing.”

“A privacy thing,” she repeats, as if the idea is strange.

“Just to let you know, I’m new to all this… dorm life, I mean… too,” I say. “I might have a better frame of reference for things, but take any advice I say with a grain of salt.”

“Salt?” she repeats.

“Assume I’m well-meaning and generally honest, but don’t assign any particular authority to me,” I say.

“Oh,” she says. “Is this terribly different from your prior schooling?”

“Very,” I say. “Some people go to like boarding schools and college prep schools, but mostly, schooling in the Imperium is… you go to a place for a few hours five days a week and then you go home. They treat you like a kid for thirteen years and then dump you here. It’s kind of a steep learning curve.”

“And there are… seven… days in a week?” she says.

“Yeah,” I say. “I guess I don’t have to tell you about steep learning curves.”

“It’s hard to remember because it feels so arbitrary,” she says. “Why seven?”

“I think that part was originally dwarven,” I say. “I mean, that’s just a guess. They put a lot of significance in sevens.”

“And there are no classes for the next two days?”

“None,” I say. “It’s the weekend.”

“Why does the school year start on the weekend?”

“I guess to give us a chance to settle in before we’re expected to do anything,” I say.

“I would ask what they expect us to do in the meantime, but I suppose you’ve just answered that question,” she says.

“The weekend’s kind of… your own time,” I say. “I mean, the theory is that it’s a break, but the weeks are structured so that a lot of time you’ll have stuff you need to get done and no other time to do it.”

“An interesting approach,” she says. “It seems it would be more honest and more efficient to give us enough time within the span where tasks are assigned in order to complete them.”

“I think most people prefer the flexibility of managing their own time,” I say. “Or the illusion of freedom.”

“You have met some of our neighbors,” she says. It’s not a question.

“Yeah,” I say. “I can’t say we’re best friends, but they seemed nice enough.”

“Did they seem as lost as I feel?” As she says this, it’s like some sort of dam bursts behind her face. Her body relaxes, but her face… which has been a mask of perfect calm before… sags into an expression of fatigue and misery.

“I… I don’t know how lost you feel,” I say. “I have a feeling that you won’t stand out the most of everyone on this floor, and you might not have the biggest adjustments to make to fit in… and I don’t want to diminish what you’re feeling, but honestly, pretty much everyone here’s going to feel lost at first. Just having the ability to look confident will put you on higher ground.”

“…higher is better, right?”

“In this context, yes,” I say.

“So many things to get used to,” she says.

“I’m getting used to them, too,” I say. “Maybe it will be easier if we figure them out together?”

“Maybe,” she says. “I think that would be slightly preferable to the alternative, at least.”

“Careful, you’re going to give me a big head,” I say.

“What means this ‘give head’, surface dweller?”

“Now you’re just messing with me,” I say, when I manage to stop laughing. “…right?”

“Of course I am,” she says. “I don’t know how language learning progresses up here, but where I come from, students invariably manage to learn the dirty things first.”

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47 Responses to “OT: Tales of AU – Warrior Women”

  1. brandon says:

    As is true with most cultures the dirty stuff is the most entertaining to learn

    Current score: 1
  2. Zergonapal says:

    Heh, when a warrior says he is fluent in seven languages he usually means that he knows all the swear words and fuck, eat, sleep if he is a learned man.

    Current score: 1
    • Daez says:

      Then again, sometimes when a warrior says he knows seven languages, he knows all seven more fluently than you know your mother tongue.

      I happen to know one like that. Bugger’s been military his whole adult life but has two degrees and does in fact know 7 languages as well as I know English, lol!

      Current score: 1
  3. 'Nym-o-maniac says:

    Ooh, I like Alea. The twist on the Skirmish squad is interesting – makes me really wonder what the Two counterpart will be like. My guess is that she’ll be a willfully disobedient style golem who always intentionally subverted her master’s orders before getting her freedom somehow.

    Current score: 1
    • JuiceGoose says:

      ironflesh not stoneskin. still not golem

      Current score: 1
      • 'Nym-o-maniac says:

        … yeah? I know that Raquel is Rocky. I mean that we will at some point get to see a Two counterpart, and I wonder what she will be like.

        Current score: 1
  4. Dani says:

    I figured that innate abilities cost skirmish-squad points (a half-ogre being more expensive than a dwarf, and a storm giant being unaffordable), and I guessed that exotic items might cost points.

    It seems from the conversation (“that good?”) that skills also cost points – e.g., a good swordswoman costs more points than an inept one – but that doesn’t seem right. That, other things being equal, the better-skilled team wins seems to be most of the point of a sport. If ‘better-skilled’ gets a handicap, then the game goes to the coach who is best at gaming the scoring system.

    (Come to think of it, though, why would the school be happy to get a half-ogre student for its team – they hoped – if there is a sufficient point penalty?)

    Current score: 0
    • Burnsidhe says:

      There’s more to Skirmish games than points. It’s like a basketball team or a football team; Star players might cost ‘points’ but they bring in money, both in prizes and in ticket sales.

      Current score: 0
      • Alex says:

        Also, Half-Ogres are known to have a high accidental kill rate, making them very intimidating.

        Current score: 0
    • JuiceGoose says:

      they tend to injure for reals instead of using their phantasmal weapons to do it(and in typical mu fashion seem to get a pass on the deaths because of their nature, which is ridiculously understanding of a human society typically depicted as racist) so you’re not just thinking in game rules benefits there. and “good a stabbing” may cost points to make the focus “good at strategy/teamwork/general-ing/soldiers” which is a different skillset. maybe its about knowing how to effectively use what you have than who has the most, which explains the points system. both sides have X points to spend, so the teams should be more or less balanced anyway. So think of skill as like upgrading for higher level units more than finding somebody good at basketball

      Current score: 0
      • PrometheanSky says:

        I don’t think it’s a matter of tolerance and understanding. There are so many different ways to die in the MUniverse that society seems to have adopted a “shit happens” attitude towards accidental death.

        Not to get political, but… For the rich and powerful (aka, the types of people that tend to run things in any universe), death is generally reversible, so what do they care about things like pushing for safety regulations?

        Current score: 0
        • Burnsidhe says:

          Because it’s still a bad idea to forego safety. Even when the society accepts a degree of accidental deaths.

          Thus, mockboxes, to allow training without actual injury or fatalities. And for Skirmish matches; this isn’t *war*, it’s exhibition combat. Deaths are possible, but they should not be a common outcome.

          If nothing else, dead Skirmishers don’t draw in future crowds. Add to that, these are the sons and daughters of said rich and influential people. They’re not going to just ‘shrug off’ the costs, they’re going to try to make sure those costs aren’t incurred in the first place.

          Current score: 0
          • Ducky says:

            The dead skirmishers won’t draw crowds, but their deaths totally will. That’s why Roman theater actually killed slaves onstage – they had to compete with the constant death of the Coliseum.

            It is so hard to type without my pointer finger. (Stitches from a kitchen mishap.)

            Current score: 0
  5. Zathras IX says:

    The illusion of
    Freedom goes quite well with a
    Mask of perfect calm

    Current score: 0
  6. arsenic says:

    Oooh I like the idea of Kegan and Alea becoming friends! And AltBelinda is cute, in a half-ogreish way.

    Current score: 0
  7. pedestrian says:

    I’m guessing Raquel is an upgraded version of TWO?

    I remember being told many years ago by a veteran Merchant Marine that the quickest way to pickup a new language is to bivouac in a brothel for a couple of weeks. Though, unfortunately, I never had the experience to confirm this advice.

    I do remember reading in a least two or three different works, that learning a couple of hundred words in the local lingo, is adequate to get by anywhere in the world.

    Current score: 0
    • RancorClaw says:

      Actually, Raquel should be the analogue of Rocky, the human with the permanent stoneskin spell on her. But this time, it seems to be an ironskin spell, instead.

      Current score: 0
    • Andrew says:

      Raquel is Rocky. Transmuted to living metal rather than living stone.

      Current score: 0
    • Abeo says:

      I think Raquel is still Raquel AKA “Rocky”. Just metal skin instead of rock, and with hair.

      Current score: 0
  8. Morten says:

    So Rocky has the same name and the same personality. So does Alea – I would have thought she was less tolerant of demons than Dee is.
    Magisterius either had a different name or his revolution failed.
    I’m confused by Brianna’s “That good?” comment. Unless she was thinking of the sword. Or she’s one of those people who thinks that high point cost = good.

    Still missing the nymphs, Two, Leah, the twins, and the Yokai. And Mariel. Oh, and the mermaid.

    Current score: 0
    • Burnsidhe says:

      The naming of a university is a political thing. If the Gold dragon in the area insisted on it, then the university would be named after him.

      Current score: 0
    • Lunaroki says:

      It’s Leda, not Leah. Leah is my sister’s name, so I really would have noticed if there was a character with that name in MU. Of course since we haven’t yet met altLeda it’s possible her name will turn out to be Leah. Also the mermaid is Feejee. At least the MU version is.

      The “That good?” comment was about a high point cost implying that Kegan is such an awesome warrior that it would cost the team a lot of points to “buy” her a spot on the team. Kegan’s response was her coy way of hinting that her high buy cost would be for some other reason.

      Current score: 0
  9. pedestrian says:

    Abeo, you may be right, I had forgotten about Rocky. In the AU, I wonder what potion her idiot parents consumed to result in an “ironclad” child? Sorry, I just couldn’t resist.

    Current score: 0
    • JuiceGoose says:

      they didn’t consume it, they used it(smeared on genitalia)

      Current score: 0
  10. Anvildude says:

    Improper use of a “Rod of Lordly Might”?

    Current score: 0
  11. Readaholic says:

    regarding Raquel’s parentage; potion of ironskin.

    Current score: 0
  12. PrometheanSky says:

    Given the Kegan was concerned about accidentally breaking the lock, that seems to indicate that she is VERY used to using her demon strength on a regular basis. This says all manner of other things about her past, though I couldn’t imagine what specifically.

    Current score: 0
    • pedestrian says:

      Yes, I agree that Kegan seems a lot more experienced and socially integrated then Mackenzie was.

      I await with baited breath for Kegan and Callahan to confront.

      Did I hook you? Sorry for that line. Well, not two sorry. I’m fishing for a compliment….

      Current score: 0
      • Ducky says:

        I doubt it will be much of a confrontation, but more of a “meeting of the minds.”

        Current score: 0
  13. Rafinius says:

    Somehow the conversation with the skrimishers seems to cut of rather weirdly in my opinion.

    Current score: 0
    • Pangaea says:

      Not in mine!

      I fucking love this AU. More elegant and eloquent comments after coffee . . . maybe.

      Current score: 0
  14. Anne says:

    I love this chapter. Seeing Kegan interact so much more confidently than Mack is just more than mirror images….

    Current score: 0
  15. Some Guy says:

    I can’t really go for these alternate reality universes. A year from now, I won’t really be able to remember which detail was in which story, a real universe or the alternate one. I’d rather not get confused about whether what I remember is canon or not.

    Current score: 0
  16. pedestrian says:

    Some Guy, don’t sweat it. Use what you know of MU as a scale to measure the AU storyline against. Have fun sorting it out like mixing two puzzles.

    Another way to consider it is, what most people think they know about the history of their own society, is actually not knowledge but belief. Popular history, as dictated by by hollywood to be profitably comfortable, is a stripped down simplistic shadow of real history.

    It does not matter if complex reality is inconsistent with what people want to believe. Society will always choose the easier version to memorize.

    A good example is astronomical photography. All most people would consider are the pretty colors and shapes but they determinedly ignore the meaning of those colors and shapes.

    Current score: 0
  17. fragzilla says:

    I’m loving these. its like getting professional MU fanfic.

    Current score: 0
  18. Zerk says:

    I cannot express how good it feels to have an “everything is beautiful and nothing hurts” version of the story. I wait with baited breath for things to go horribly wrong, as my writerly instincts suggest that you cannot give Frodo the Force with donating Sauron a death star, but a big part of me wishes Kegan could just go to classes and provide tons of backstory and magic exposition; gain immediate mutual respect with alter!Khallahan and have the latter flick away the somehow-occurring hospital blessing upon visiting; etc. sweet victorious well-adjustedness *blissful sigh*

    Current score: 1
    • Rafinius says:

      We don’t even know what is up with Kegans demonic side.

      Current score: 0
    • Burnsidhe says:

      I’m surprised you think that. Just because Kegan is more socialized, outgoing, and well-adjusted does not mean that she has no issues. And there’s still plenty of room for drama.

      It’s just different drama.

      Current score: 0
  19. Reader says:

    Is it terrible that I actually find this version of the story, mack and most others involved much more interesting and relatable? Enjoying it a lot.

    Current score: 0
  20. pedestrian says:

    I checked back in the early stories with Alea and it sounds to me that she was a definitive lesbian. Now making friends with Kegan perhaps a loving relationship will result?

    My impression, from the hints being sprinkled into the AU storyline, is that Kegan is much more in tune with her innate abilities and has deliberately chosen to be upfront about her demonic heritage and the extra capabilities that gifts her.

    The question remaining how self-disciplined is Kegan? How knowledgeable of the self-limitations she must impose upon herself to survive in her society.

    Since in this storyline, Kegan’s mother Laurel Anne stayed home to raise her. Then I would assume that Laurel Anne did not receive the same Subtle Arts training and Intelligence Analysis experience as her MU counterpart?

    Current score: 0
  21. pedestrian says:

    Kegan Blaise
    Has the Brass
    To Protect
    Her Ass

    Current score: 0
  22. Seajewel says:

    No characters tagged here. Loving the AU stories 😀

    Current score: 0
  23. Lara says:

    This AU stuff is so freaking interesting!

    Current score: 0