OT: The Cat-Bird Feat

on January 7, 2012 in Other Tales


The owl that was Eloise wheeled high in the sky over campus. It was easy for one who knew her habits to spot her when she was being an owl, because she was often the only one out flying during the daytime.

It took extra effort on her part to steer the shape she bodied against its nature, but the advantages of an owl over diurnal raptors were considerable. A falcon’s eyesight was better over immense distances, but an owl’s was more acute. An owl’s hearing could rival an elfblood’s, could pinpoint the direction of a sound across any axis.

If she had been looking for signs of lost adventurers over a large area she might have gone with a hawk-form, but she was looking for something smaller in the limited environs of the eastern campus and its immediate surroundings.

The other reason she favored owls when sheer utility did not dictate another avian form was that, contrary to their use in iconography, owls weren’t really the big thinkers of the bird world. Compressing her human mind into an owl was more difficult than doing so with a falcon, to say nothing of a raven or crow.

Oh, they weren’t dunces. No predatory birds were. But a falcon could hunt its prey with cunning as well as stealth and speed. Owls simply used ruthless efficiency. They located their prey. They pinpointed its exact distance and direction. They swooped. Once an owl was locked on, what happened next was pure instinct. For an owl on the swoop, the world consisted of nothing but a line rapidly shrinking to a point.

It was easier to be an owl than a falcon or hawk if one simply let go and let nature take its course, but it was harder to be an owl and hold onto oneself. That suited Eloise just fine. She didn’t like forms that were too easy to inhabit.

For some druids, the goal was for the whole process of shapeshifting to feel completely natural… to be at as much ease in the skin of a wolf or a fish as they were in their own. This was usually an act of devotion, seen as a form of communion. It was also risky. If one felt too natural as a wolf, one might forget what it had been like to walk on two legs… and in fact, there had been druids who had sought to reach this state, considering it a form of grace extended from the pristine natural world to the various “fallen” races.

Eloise did not consider humanity to be fallen from nature or even apart from it, and her idea of a heaven did not involve sleeping in a tree or eating mice. So she kept her mind as intact as she could when she wore a wild shape, even though it required constant concentration. The feeling of unadulterated joy she got when she climbed high above the treeline and watched the horizon retreating farther and farther away could not be erased by a little bit of mental effort.

She had heard older druids try to describe the sublime joy they felt when they truly became, but the thing that had always stuck with her was how little they actually had to say about it. The stock line was that it was hard to explain in words, but Eloise suspected they didn’t even retain clear memories of the time they spent shaped. By giving themselves over to their animal forms so completely, they became like the untrained weres who essentially had one mind when they walked on two feet and another when they didn’t.

No thanks, Eloise-as-the-owl thought to herself. I’ll keep my mind and my feathers, thank you.

She spotted a flash of movement along the edge of one of the sidewalks. She adjusted the angle of her wings to fly parallel at a distance and turned her head to fix an immense eye on it. There was a mouse, a white mouse, that was scrambling in the grass along the edge of the sidewalk… her owl-eyes didn’t see colors the same way as her human ones did, but she could tell that it had a uniform light coat unlike the mice of the fields and forests. She also couldn’t imagine a wild mouse trying to get up onto the sidewalk like that, or failing so badly at it as this one was.

If it wanted to get across the path, it would climb up easily and run straight across towards whatever its goal was. This mouse was following the course of the sidewalk and occasionally trying to pull itself up using just its forelegs. It didn’t seem like it wanted to cross the walk so much as be on it. Its hindlegs weren’t hurt, but it didn’t seem to occur to it that climbing was a full-body exercise… or that its forelimbs differed from arms.

Positive identification, she thought.

She’d had a couple different ideas about what would come after that. It might have been possible for her to land nearby and then resume her human form, but there were students hurrying up and down the path the mouse-body was trying to scramble onto. If it succeeded, it might be crushed before Eloise could get to it.

That would be bad.

She banked away from the sight of the tiny scurrying figure in order to gain both altitude and distance, then put herself on a slow approach, her wings billowing out to get as much purchase on the air as possible in order to get her glide as close to a slow fall as possible. She almost paused in mid-air, and in that moment she checked the distance to the tiny white body using both eyes. She judged the wind. She adjusted her wings and went into the swoop.

The part of her mind that couldn’t help but be owl was locked. The body she wore would respond automatically. Her talons were like a springloaded trap and she’d already thrown the trigger.

This is going to suck, Eloise thought to herself.

Less than a second before impact, she forced a piercing shriek out of her throat… hard going, because it wasn’t even halfway close to the right time. An owl on the swoop is silent. She wanted to startle the student, though, she wanted his mind to panic and his body to freeze because she needed him to be perfectly still for this to work. She wrenched her mind up out of the owl and sideways, thinking green eyes and four legs, padded paws, sinuous spine.

The untransformed students who had caught a glimpse of the diving owl and frozen in place rather than scattering away from its path caught a confused glimpse of brown skin in a maelstrom of feathers before a tabby cat materialized out of it, snatched a tiny white mouse up in its jaws, somersaulted across the sidewalk, and landed in the grass on the other side of it, a very stunned but unharmed mouse in its mouth.

Yep. That sucked, Eloise thought. She picked herself back up and began to trot along the sidewalk towards the high sorcery building.

Holy shit, you can talk? the mouse-student thought back.

Not with this mouth and not with you in it, Eloise thought, focusing more strongly on the mouse. I can beast-speak, and you’ve got enough of a beast-brain at the moment to hear me, at least when we’re in such close contact. If you spent a couple of days polymorphed I could have a conversation with you from across the room, but you wouldn’t be able to tell me much more than what’s big and scary and what smells like food, or where all the lady mice are at.

I wasn’t trying to steal the sword. I just wanted to see how hard it would be to remove it from its stand. I figured that either I would fail completely and not trigger anything or succeed so well that I didn’t set off any of the safeguards.

I’m not here to arrest you, I’m just here to rescue your ass and get you to someone who can reverse the transformation. I’m guessing there’s an inquest in your future, though. You had an accomplicefriend?

A what?

That thing where you start to say one thing and then change it to another doesn’t really work so well here. Two students were hit when the ward went off, and it’s your bad luck that you managed to dispel the tracer spells before that happened. So which one are you?

I’m Seth.

What happened to Lacey Beaumont, then? You get separated?

Sort of. A cat got her. That wasn’t you, was it?

Nope. Tough luck for Lacey, Eloise thought.

Hey! Seth thought.

Sorry, kid… there isn’t a filter on this.

Will you be able to find her body? Her dad has a load of insurance on her.

Rich kids, Eloise thought. Always think their money makes them invincible.

Close enough! She’s died twice already.

Three times, you mean.

Fuck you! Are you going to help bring her back or not?

You got a real way with words. It’s probably way too late. When’d she buy it?

Almost right away. Right after we got out of the Em, just outside the tree line.

So this morning. You know, if you would have stayed put you would have been fine. Busted, but fine.

We didn’t know how long it would last… I thought it might wear off if we got far enough away. How long does it last?

Seth, if this had been a lesser polymorph she would have sprung back to her own body as soon as she died, Eloise told him. And apart from being dead and probably having a broken spine and some punctured organs, she’d be fine. Resurrection-ready, even. But your professor wasn’t messing around. A perfect polymorph means the mouse body is your real body until another spell of the same magnitude changes you back. And that means there is no policy or spell or prayer in the world that can do a thing for her in the shape she’d be in by now, if we could even hope to find her.

Shit.

Eventually.

That’s my girlfriend you’re thinking about!

No, it’s cat shit. I feel bad for her, but there are limits to how bad I can feel, she said. You two were committing what would be a serious crime…

We weren’t going to take the damned thing!

I know, Eloise thought. And I believe you, because you ain’t got the skills to lie to me through this. You did it as a lark, thinking it would be taken as a lark, because you’re white and human and have money and you’ve always gotten away with everything before.

I’ve never done anything bad, really.

Of course not. But you’ve probably done shit that would have got someone else turned into a quiver or thrown in prison for a few years. Your joyride is other people’s grand theft conveyance. You’ve probably sassed back to a guard. If I did that, it’d be interfering with an officer of the law or making terroristic threats or something. Your hijinks are other people’s crimes, Seth, and now your girlfriend is dead because of one and you know what the first thing that anybody’s going to say to you if they haul you before a tribune for it?

What?

“Oh, hasn’t he suffered enough? He has such a bright future, why throw it away because of one mistake?”

Bitch, you think I don’t feel bad?

You think this is about your feelings?

I could sue you.

What for, the negligent infliction of the fucking truth? I could swallow you now and say I never found you, but I know the difference between what’s right and what I can get away with.

It’s just that she didn’t want to be there. She told me I shouldn’t mess around with the sword, but she came along with me I guess to try to keep me out of trouble. It’s my fault.

Yeah, well, if you believe in justice, remember that when you’re in front of the trib.


Tales of MU is now on Patreon! Help keep the story going!

Or if you particularly enjoyed this chapter, leave a tip!


Characters: ,





71 Responses to “OT: The Cat-Bird Feat”

  1. Month says:

    Heh. Serves him right. But why couldn’t he be dead, and the girl alive? Morons luck I think.

    Current score: 0
    • Anne says:

      Yup!

      Current score: 0
    • Ducky says:

      It makes me think of times when a drunk driver kills a car full of kids and survives himself.

      Current score: 0
      • tjhairball says:

        THAT actually has to do with biology rather than luck – drunk people have more relaxed muscles. Sober people tense up on realizing they’re in a collision, which actually reduces their chance of survival.

        Of course, drunk drivers are more likely to get in accidents; so if you really want to be safe, you’re a drunk passenger with some sober person driving. That way you’re both less likely to get in an accident and more likely to survive when it happens.

        Current score: 0
        • Oni says:

          And if you want to be really technical, if you’re in a 4-door car you’re better off being a drunk driver than a drunk passenger of a drunk driver, because the back seat of a 4-door is less structurally sound than the front (and that’s without getting into the issue of airbags; I’m just talking crumple zones here).

          Current score: 0
          • Zukira Phaera says:

            Plus your gas tank is under the back seat. Kaboom

            Current score: 0
  2. Anne says:

    Excellent!

    Current score: 0
  3. FMan0801 says:

    I think she needs to parade and display her catch before her teacher as a cat does with a mouse it has caught.

    Also…
    Ook.

    Current score: 0
  4. Miz*G says:

    Is it bad that I’m happy Lacey got eaten? I only wish Seth had, too. That’s what you get for being unsympathetic jerks willing to let someone die for the sake of your grade…

    Current score: 0
    • addiejd says:

      Yeah, but if Seth had been eaten too there would be no story.

      Current score: 0
    • Brenda says:

      I’m glad you said that, because I had forgotten who Seth and Lacey even were…

      Current score: 1
    • Erm says:

      I dunno. Back in the Labyrinth arc I was wishing something like this would happen, but even then it was Justin who wanted to kill Mack, Seth who didn’t care if she died, and Lacey who was being the (spineless) voice of reason.

      And now that it did happen, I find it hard to feel good about it (even if Seth had been eaten instead of Lacey). These were entitled jerks who might have been reformed by a good scare, not serial killers like Iona.

      Current score: 0
      • nemka says:

        The problem being that most entitled jerks never actually get reformed, even if it’s physically possible for them to be. If a person has made it all the way to general college age and still thinks it’s alright to steal valueable items as a prank, or leave someone to die just because it’s easier than helping, or kill someone who has done nothing to hurt them just because that someone is there in a position to be killed (Justin, and to a point Seth who was ambivilently fine with it), those people are most likely already past help.

        Current score: 0
      • Lyssa says:

        If it’s any comfort, this could count toward that “scare” for Seth, at least.

        But considering that Lacey had already died a couple times, I doubt that much would frighten them into reformation.

        Current score: 0
        • Tigger says:

          Ah, but before she could always be “fixed”. Not so much this time. Death might actually have a bit of a sting once he realizes that it can’t always be undone.

          Current score: 0
  5. Zathras IX says:

    A reenactment
    Of “Owl and the Pussycat”
    This is surely not

    Current score: 0
  6. Iason says:

    Really enjoyed this one. Great work making Seth entirely unlikeable. I also enjoy the humoristic and direct way of dealing with privilege which sadly is not only an issue in MU.

    Current score: 0
    • JS says:

      It is not difficult to make an entirely unlikeable character. The skill is in making believably unlikeable characters, something AE does pretty much without fail.

      Current score: 0
      • Ace says:

        *cough*Jamie*cough*Iason*cough*Missy**cough*Puddy*cough*Keri*

        Man, I must have a really bad cold.

        Current score: 1
  7. Aenea says:

    So that’s one annoying Delver down three to go. I like the idea of rez insurance. “AllFaith Insurance, your in the Gods’ Hands with AllFaith.”

    Current score: 0
    • Eris Harmony says:

      People like that already have enough belief in their own immortality, but now we have proof that even death doesn’t cure entitlement.

      Current score: 1
  8. zeel says:

    Holy shit, that’s pretty fucked up. They turned them into mice?

    Guess they deserved it though. Interesting how he really doesn’t seem all that upset. What an ass.

    A very good story.

    Current score: 0
  9. Burnsidhe says:

    Truly self-absorbed people rarely think about the consequences of their actions.

    If the tribune doesn’t slap him down hard, he’s just going to be another casualty of the adventuring program, sooner or later.

    Current score: 0
    • Zukira Phaera says:

      Serve him right to be a casualty. Maybe a more fitting end than anything the trib could throw at him short of slapping ‘grade a dragon food’ on his forehead and trotting him off to Embries’ office.

      Current score: 0
  10. Zukira Phaera says:

    Is it bad that I was wishing she flubbed the transformation and skewered him?

    Current score: 0
  11. cnic says:

    This story was more didactic than I am used to from a MU Tale, being more comparable to one of the author’s short stories. Not that I have any problem with didacticism (I am a Mercedes Lackey fan) or the view point, but the strength of the message gave a different more aggressive feel to the story. Its a bit like expecting a brownie and getting fudge, not bad but a bit of a surprise.

    Current score: 0
  12. blink says:

    “you don’t got the skills to lie to me” – not sure if this is a mistake or intentional but none of her other dialogue is written in dialect like that so it sounds weird 🙁

    Current score: 0
    • erianaiel says:

      It isn’t a dialect but the exact truth.
      The boy is turned into a mouse, and barely is capable of holding on to himself. He thinks, and ‘speaks’ as a mouse, and has not enough human skill left to try to lie to Eloise.

      Current score: 0
      • cnic says:

        They weren’t commenting about him, they were commenting on Eloise saying “you don’t got” instead of “you don’t have”. I wrote that off as reduced mental ability as an owl.

        Current score: 0
        • Yes, because lapsing into a dialect other than what the reader perceives as standard is a sign of animal intelligence.

          Current score: 0
          • zeel says:

            Her other dialogue was not in that dialect, so it seems off. If she always talked that way the same assumption would not (I hope) have been made.

            My interpretation was that she did it for emphasis, I know many people who adopt a dialect to intentionally force the listener to re-parse the the sentence, which will make it sink in better.

            Current score: 0
            • Lyssa says:

              She was also talking about how deception is harder when thinking, in that sentence. Could be that she usually has a dialect to her speech patterns but masks it to fit in. Or it could be emphasis. Or it could be AE error.

              It read easily, to me, though.

              Current score: 0
            • Well, this might sound crazy and impossible but since you’re reading about a fantasy world, please stretch your imagination to envision a situation where somebody who speaks with a dialect that gets associated with “reduced mental ability” cultivates the habit of speaking with a more broadly accepted dialect, but in moments of agitation, stress, or heightened emotion may lapse into her original dialect.

              Current score: 0
            • Lyssa says:

              I’m actually kind of surprised that I was right.

              Current score: 0
          • cnic says:

            Blink thought it was a dialect. I thought it was just poor grammar.

            Current score: 0
      • Silvertongue says:

        I think blink was more referring to the fact the typical phrasing would be “you don’t have the skills to lie to me” rather than “don’t got”.

        Current score: 0
    • I’ve edited to “ain’t got” to reduce any shred of ambiguity that it’s dialect.

      Current score: 0
      • Cadnawes says:

        I figure, whenever someone in this story speaks with imperfect grammar, it’s because people DO. And sometimes, those of us who CAN speak with perfect grammar choose not to because imperfect works better, somehow. In this case, boy does that work. Her irritation with him just shines, there.

        Current score: 0
  13. Jennifer says:

    I have a suspicion that any DWARVES involved will not be saying “oh, just one mistake.” As Caron said once: “It’s a dangerous world… anybody who doesn’t understand that stealing from a dwarf means death is probably not long for it, anyway.”

    If they punish shoplifters with death? This kid is as gone as his girlfriend unless he has DAMN fine lawyers (though this is actually a possibility for a rich kid).

    Current score: 0
    • Erm says:

      Would the lawyers actually help? The last OT story about stealing from dwarves ended with the thief suffering a sudden, terminal outbreak of sixteen crossbow bolts in the back (ie. suicide), before the police could even arrest him.

      Current score: 1
      • Zergonapal says:

        Actually I think Dwarves are kinda ambivalent about it. Its a race see to see who can get to the thief first, the authorities or the crossbow bolts. If the authorities win then the thief is lucky if not, he is dead.
        As long as the thief is punished I think the dwarves involved are happy to see the thief placed in “protective custody”.

        Current score: 0
    • Burnsidhe says:

      They don’t always punish shoplifters with death. Slavery’s an option too.

      Current score: 0
    • Greenwood Goat says:

      Lawyers probably wouldn’t dissuade them. Gold might, though. If Seth’s family could grease the clan’s palms thickly enough, they might well be prepared to consider the matter settled.

      Current score: 0
  14. Kevin Brown says:

    Being poly-morphed into a mouse and then lectured to by a cat whose mouth your in is probably the best endowment of a life lesson that I have ever read.

    Current score: 0
    • zeel says:

      It would certainly be hard to forget, or at least expensive.

      Current score: 0
  15. darthbeandip says:

    Most of the comments so far are along the lines of “He deserved it”, which is true. But so many of our cultures stories are about vengeance, often dressed up as justice. I’d rather see Seth get off with a warning, but re-evaluate his life after this. It would be a rough road filled with harsh self examination, but I’d like to see Lacey’s death and Eloise’s blunt words lead to a redemption for Seth.

    Current score: 0
    • Tigger says:

      But would it be realistic? I will grant that it does happen from time to time, but more often than not the person just keeps going in the manner that they have been. While it would be “nice” to see Seth change his life, in all actuality he probably wouldn’t.

      Current score: 0
      • Cadnawes says:

        People do, if given that chance. Our justice system is punitive, though, and people rarely become any better once they enter it because it isn’t designed to LET them. Couldn’t tell you about how it compares to that of the MUniverse.

        Current score: 0
  16. Technical Vault says:

    If this story occured in a game I was in is the kind of thing which would provoke a major argument between myself and my GM. The thing that bothers me is that the faculty are indirectly the cause of someone “important”‘s death whether within their rights or not this grates on my academic brain. Professors only tend to survive a long time, if they avoid alienating potential donors. Getting them killed, especially if they weren’t the one touching the damn thing is a career ender, more importantly if the parents can’t spend the insurance on a resurrect they spend it on someone like Mercy. If you’ve been facilty for more than a month you know delving rich little students are going to go try and take it. Turning them into statues or at least sealing the room after you poly them seemed more appropriate. Having a spell do to it and using the Em as a backup would ensure it was enough of a surprise not to be overcome.

    Then again her being Cat poo doesn’t seem to be as much of a problem as it’s made out to be with the Vice Chancellor being who he is. It’ll save the school a lot of expensive paperwork if he just “wishes” her into a nice dead body and ensures nobody asks stupid questions about how that bit happened.

    Current score: 0
    • Jennifer says:

      This IS a school where delving is a serious major though – and it has been stated it’s not uncommon for delvers to die before graduation. And while it’s possible to make the campus significantly safer then it is now, the founders apparently thought meeting wandering monsters in random encounters built character.

      People don’t seem to take student death as we would in this world. Here a student dying causes scandel. In the MUniverse, it seems fairly run of the mill.

      Current score: 0
      • Technical Vault says:

        That may be so but it still doesn’t mean Lacey’s parents or other members of the community will spare the professor or Seth if it’s within their power. Death + money has a funny way of making people irrational, especially of parents of a murdered child (or even non-parents á la Casey Anthony).

        Current score: 0
    • If a greater dragon could will that kind of physical transformation, then Leda’s death would have been a minor inconvenience.

      Current score: 0
      • Anthony says:

        Interesting! So when do we get the OT about the limits and rules of what a greater dragon can and can’t.do with the force of their will? 😀

        Current score: 0
        • It is based on willpower, so it would be difficult to put a hard limit on it. The less obvious physical effect there is, the easier it is. For instance, Aidan, Jr.’s powers are sufficient for him to build improbable block towers because it is his will that they don’t fall over, but he couldn’t cause a single block to hover in the air.

          Embries’s will can keep a body alive that has sustained grievous damage (and that image is now yours to cherish), but he couldn’t bring someone back to life or reconstitute their body. He could possibly have undone the perfect polymorph on the students, but he’d have to have the body to work with.

          Sufficiently-great dragons can give reality as it exists a good hard shove, but they can’t reject it and substitute their own. Remember, one of the cardinal rules of the MUniverse is that reality is subjective but it is not subject to anyone in particular.

          Current score: 0
          • Technical Vault says:

            Interesting, I like your answer. This is an area where part of what we can do in RL exceeds fantasy and magic. Organ regeneration is an area of research which I keep an interested eye on. It’s easy enough to grow a clone (we don’t do full human clones for ethical and technological reasons but we’re nearly there with full organs for transplant purposes). The thing is a clone is not the same as the original because we can’t get the mind back.

            Taking a wild stab in the dark. MU resurrect seems to be the opposite, brings the mind back to the body (or stops it leaving) and cures critical wounds enough to hold it together? MU does have golems though, we’ve not had much on their construction. What would be the consequence of “summoning” or trying to resurrect someone into a donor golem body? I’m guessing to avoid deus ex machina resurrect is limited to the original body.

            Current score: 0
            • Zergonapal says:

              Well its just a matter of repair isn’t it? Missing body parts? Rejuvenation! Dead brain cells from lack of oxygen? Cure Wounds! Missing soul? Necromancy! In our universe we can’t retrieve the spark that grants us life once it is gone and some are of the opinion that there is no spark and its just chemistry and electricity (Peter Hamiliton- Commonwealth Saga), but in the same vein I think magic would have a hard time curing cancer because it is not so much a disease as it is cells multiplying out of control.

              Current score: 0
            • Zukira Phaera says:

              Actually, magic might just be able to do that, it would be advanced magic, targeted, with the use of an anti-life type spell or potion that would maybe not cure but restrict or limit the value of uncontrolled growth. Think of it as an extrapolation on the ‘plan b’ options that Mack encountered when she went to the healing center.

              Current score: 0
          • Zukira Phaera says:

            Embries’s will being sufficient to stave off death due to injury is something I had figured on during the Mermaid Death by Dragon Demon Education Exercise.

            Oddly enough, the whole idea didn’t give me the nightmares it maybe should have despite how graphic detailed the mental video was.

            //oh no, am I related to Steph, or that other really morbid elf chick in the bard hall… eep.//

            Current score: 0
          • zeel says:

            Oh god… that’s what he did to Iona…

            Where is my brain bleach…

            Current score: 0
    • zeel says:

      I don’t think that any faculty were even indirectly responsible. The spells are that of the dwarfs. I am surprised they weren’t made into something worse, or killed outright. Making it less likely that they would die doesn’t seem like dwarf style.

      Current score: 0
      • zeel says:

        To correct my past self, she says “But your professor wasn’t messing around” so he probably did cast the spell. It is mentioned that the spells in place are the highest the school would allow, and the least the dwarves would accept.

        And we know how dwarves deal with theft. I imagine that, if not for the school’s rules, the wards would have killed them outright.

        Current score: 0
  17. JN says:

    In the area of misreading at first glance. Did anyone else wonder what “cat-bird feet” would look like?

    JN

    Current score: 0
  18. Hasufin says:

    I’m not sure I’d say “he deserved it”, but Lacey at least was rather directly warned that the protections on the sword could be lethal. If you’re told something is lethal, and you do it anyway, is there any basis for complaint when you do in fact, die?

    That being said, was this whole matter handled ex post facto, or did the professor grok that Lacey was planning to try to steal the sword? I’m going to guess the latter – if Mack noticed, then someone older and more experienced, and probably suitably paranoid for not wanting to experience whatever special hell dwarves have for someone who lets valuable artifacts get stolen, probably noticed too. If he did, were there changes made to the security?

    I wonder – is it possible to make a Greater Polymorph spell that imbues magic resistance as well? Basically, make it so that the target can’t be polymorphed back by just anyone? If *being killed* hasn’t given Seth et al a greater appreciation for the possible consequences of their hijinks, I don’t think anything else that they can get out of with money will, either. On the other hand, Clan Schwertgriff simply withholding the key to undoing the polymorph is a bit more serious – and would keep Seth with a rather different perspective – say, two meters closer to the ground – than he’s used to.

    Current score: 0
    • Burnsidhe says:

      The wards were there to prevent anyone from stealing the sword. They weren’t aimed at anyone in particular, or established after Lacey said something.

      Basically, as a *precondition* for loaning out the sword, the Dwarves demanded that it be kept safe from anyone who tried to steal it.

      Current score: 0
  19. Daremonai says:

    The spell wards on the sword were not lethal – the cat was. If you recall (or read back), the wards were progressive (ie initially non-lethal) and “as weak as the dwarves would accept” or some similar wording. If they’d really expected that nobody would try to steal the sword, there would only have been instantly lethal wards present, to keep the dwarves happy.

    Current score: 0
    • Hasufin says:

      Well, the dialogue of which I am thinking is thus:
      “Professor Stone, what would happen if the sword were stolen?” the pigtailed student was asking him as I eased myself into my seat and tried to look like I hadn’t just arrived.

      “You mean to the thieves?” the professor said. “I imagine they’d be awarded posthumous medals of achievement by one of the guilds.”

      Which I took to mean not necessarily “the very first thing to go off will be fatal” but rather “if you actually get to the point of removing the sword from the room you will be dead.”

      Which, in retrospect, sounds like kind of a red flag for delvers: “Hey, this is a really awesome feat! If you pull that off you’ll get mad props from a Dwarven guild!” Makes me wonder if that was the *intent*…

      There’s plenty of value in non-lethal protections. For one, it lets the casually curious know that you mean business – that the dire warnings of protections aren’t just for show, and are backed up by actual spellcasting. It avoids the PR disaster of “Little Suzy just wanted to see if the sword was sharp, and you killed a toddler”, and it saves you from having to replace staff after they trip and land on the display.

      It seems to me that our delvers suffered from being in that zone of “a little knowledge is a dangerous thing”; they knew *just enough* to feel like they could get the sword. They managed to disable to basic, “warning” spells. They were confident that, worst case, they’d get killed and could easily be resurrected like they had in the past. In short, they were arrogant rich kids who thought they were immortal.

      Current score: 0
      • anon says:

        as an aside the student who was questioning the professor was a Ms. Anderson I believe. The student who died was Lacey Beaumont.

        Current score: 0
  20. pedestrian says:

    I have to argue against the use of an owl during daylight. Around here the ravens get noisy when a hawk is in their family territory. When it is a large roosting/nesting area sometimes a small flock of ravens will go after the hawks.

    But when a raven catches an owl out in the open past false dawn it is a whole different scenario. The calls become a lot louder and much more frantic. And this is when you see why a large number of crows or ravens are called a murder. They will fly in from good distances just to join the lynch mob tormenting the trapped owl.

    The ravens know that in the dark of the night, on silent wings, the owls raid the sleeping birds in their rookery’s and nests.

    Current score: 0
  21. Eric M. says:

    This is why I favor the estate tax–to produce fewer jerks like Seth.

    Current score: 0
  22. laural says:

    This chapter really made me think of voodoo traditions, but I guess there isn’t an actual MUverse equivalent, is there? Since Argentis appear to be more Caribbean than African.

    Current score: 0