Chapter 148: Grace’s GoldAlexandraErin on May 3, 2013 in Volume 2 Book 5: Nasty Disturbing Uncomfortable Things, Volume 2: Sophomore Effort
In Which Grace Has An Embarrassment of Riches
The sky was darker than I’d expected it to be when we got outside… the long summer days during the long summer months had slightly warped my perception of time. It was nowhere near full dark, though, and the rules didn’t actually prohibit students from being out after dark, they just made it clear that we were responsible for our own safety.
Monster attacks on campus were common enough to be a problem but not so common that you couldn’t walk across campus without getting attacked. They were like horse riding accidents: they happened, so there was safety equipment and rules and things, but the fact that riding a horse could result in a fatal accident didn’t make riding a horse fatal, or stop people from doing it.
In any case, I thought it was more important to get Nicki and Grace out and fed. If it would be darker on the way back, but I was pretty sure we’d be okay. Nicki was only human, but Grace and I would see her back to her dorm… I didn’t know how well Grace could handle herself compared to the typical elf, but I was pretty sure she’d be able to get back to Treehome without a problem. If she didn’t feel comfortable doing that, she did have a place to stay… though I made a plan to go wake them up in the morning if Grace slept over again.
“Are the food places even still open now?” Nicki asked as we headed towards the union.
“I’m not one hundred percent sure about the dining halls, but the food court definitely is,” I said.
“They take the meal plan, right?” Nicki asked.
“Yep,” I said.
“Oh, shit, shit, shit!” Grace said.
“What?” Nicki asked, alarmed.
“I’m not on the meal plan, and I didn’t think to grab my coin purse before I left.”
“I think we can probably cover you,” I said. I’d give Nicki the opportunity to pay for her girlfriend, but I was betting she didn’t have money, either, since she’d mentioned the plan. I liked the thought that I could splurge to pay for both of their meals if I had to… I’d had people hold such favors out to me with strings attached before, and being able to do it just out of genuine niceness felt as good as receiving such an actual friendly gesture did.
I’d been way more free with my money lately, but this would be a one-time thing. It wouldn’t be taking food out of my mouth, because I had a pre-paid meal plan and I didn’t technically need to eat.
“No, no… Nicol… Nicki paid for the pizzas,” Grace said. She reached down and took off one of her boots, then upended it over her hand. Three shiny gold coins fell out. “Is this enough for a burger?”
“May I see those?” I asked, trying to keep my voice and face neutral. They seemed a little too… shimmery. If they were real, they’d be enough to buy everything on the menu and then some… but I thought it would be more tactful to quietly determine their authenticity that than it would be to voice the qualifier.
They were of elven stamp, but the minting of a coin didn’t matter… banks and businesses pressed their own coins all the time. They had to, since government only issued gold and platinum ones. The value was in the metal, so it was just the material and the size that mattered.
“Dude… you carry three gold pieces in your shoe?” Nicki said.
“Six… well, three in each, and only because they’re impossible to steal that way. It’s my emergency money,” Grace said. “This isn’t exactly an emergency, but I could replace them as soon as I get back. Also, please don’t call me ‘dude’… a lot of women go for the androgynous look to try to catch the boys’ eyes, but I like looking feminine.”
“Sorry, it’s more of an exclamation than anything at this point,” Nicki said. “There’s nothing unfeminine about you.”
The coins had a glamour on the gold more lustrous and adding an unnatural amount of detail to the picture of the elven face in profile on the obverse, but it was real gold underneath that, and a little measuring spell was enough to confirm that they were standard weight, though the glamour had them looking thinner, too.
“Well, you might want to cancel the shininess,” I said. “If it doesn’t look weird to the cashier, it will probably set off a ward when they drop it in the register. There’s no crime against passing a gold coin off as a prettier gold coin, but it’s safer all around.”
“Oh, I don’t know how to do that,” Grace said.
Dispelling a glamour was so easy it barely counted as doing anything, but I passed one of the coins to Nicki to do it so she could show off in her area of expertise and handed the other two back to Grace.
“What if I need the other two?” she asked.
“You won’t,” I said. “And be ready to get a lot of change.”
The spate of bad weather had kept the usual early evening festival-like atmosphere from forming on the pent and the plaza, but there were enough people still out that we’d gathered a few curious glances as they passed on their way to or from the student union, as curious people stopped to see why there was an elf standing on one foot holding her boot. The glances turned to bug-eyed stares at the sight of the three glittering gold coins. The only time the average college student dealt with gold was when it was time to pay tuition, and that was usually done by bank draft.
While Nicki scowled over the coin and unwound the enchantment, Grace slipped her boot back on with so much ease that I wondered how it stayed on in the first place. It unaccountably reminded me of sex with Steff, who liked it raw and rough… but somehow could slip in places more easily than Ian, who took a more moderate stance on things like lubrication and foreplay. Elves really were better at many things.
It was a weird thing to think about when watching your friend’s girlfriend putting on footwear, so of course I couldn’t stop.
“There you go, m’lady,” Nicki said, handing the de-glammed coin back to Grace.
“Oh,” Grace said, sounding a little disappointed. “Is that what gold normally looks like? Oh, but I liked that you called me your lady! You should definitely do that some more. Especially if you meet my sister. She’d be so impressed with me… I think. Though, I probably shouldn’t take you back to my place, because I don’t really have a place of my own, and everybody I live with would kind of be entitled to have sex with you and I don’t know how you’d feel about that.”
“I… also don’t know how I’d feel about that,” Nicki said. “I’m not entirely against… um… you know, stuff, in general, but I don’t like the sound of the word ‘entitled’.”
“It’s just a different culture,” Grace said. “Oh, and they’ll still be having sex with me. I should mention that. I should have mentioned that earlier. It’s probably weird to you, but it’s more of a service thing than a recreation thing, at least for me. Like, it’s my position. I do like it, but I like sex with you better!”
“I kind of had a general idea of that, from things you’ve said?” Nicki said. “But thanks for telling me.”
“I’d also like to talk about an arrangement where I can have sex with whoever I want but you only have sex with me or people I want you to, but I think we should get to know each other more first,” Grace said. “Though I don’t know who else I’d be having sex with, other than the people I have to? But it’s still… it’s kind of an important part of a relationship, to me? But that’s long-term stuff!”
“I… uh… we could talk about that,” Nicki said. “Some time.”
I couldn’t tell if Nicki’s embarrassment was because she was into the idea or because she wasn’t, but I found myself in the awkward position of having second-hand embarrassment and second-hand turn-on. It was time for a subject change, though maybe not a total one. Grace was simultaneously reminding me that she was mostly harmless and that the middling elves in general could be a thorny bunch to get tangled up with.
“What’s life in the elven dorm like, really?” I asked. I still wanted to quiz Jamie, but Grace was here and she was a primary source. If she wasn’t exactly an unbiased one, neither was Jamie. “I almost got dragged there, once upon a time.”
“Well, it’s not really a dorm, per se?” Grace said. “I know it’s classed as an external residence hall, but it’s more of a… compound? The buildings are all grown, mostly from heartwood trees. Some of them are communal, but some are staked out by… well, I guess they’d be something like fraternities or sororities. We call them circles or courts. My sister has her own. I’m sort of the new pledge.”
“Does it have a name?” Nicki asked.
“Glory’s court, I guess?” she said. “She’s in charge, but she’s kind of a… benevolent dictator, is the phrase she uses.”
“I think most dictators say that about themselves,” I said, though I said it a little quietly, seeing as the phrase had actually originated as one of the emperor’s titles.
“Well, I feel like I’m still getting to know her, but I think she’s pretty benevolent,” Grace said.
“How can you… oh, elf,” Nicki said. “I know she’s like almost one whole human older than you are, but I can’t wrap my head around what that means.”
“We’re lucky. A lot of elves don’t meet their siblings except like socially, when they’re both all grown up,” Grace said. “Or one is just another older relative to the other. I like the mortal model better. I think my sister does, too. But then, we’re both kind of… thanatophiles?”
“Death-lovers?” I said.
“It means we love people who die,” Grace said. “Oh, now I sound like Semele. Or Steff. Oh, sorry! She’s your friend.”
“It’s okay,” I said. “You mean, you have an affinity for ‘mortal’ cultures.”
“Yeah, that!” she said. “We class people as dying or undying… obviously, a lot of undying races can still be killed, us included, but… not dying of natural causes is a big deal in elven culture. But I think the whole thing is kind of overblown anyway? When we’re not constantly at war with each other, it just leads to a lot of dysfunction, and most of us end up opting out in the end, anyway, so what’s the big deal?”
We’d come to the union by that point.
“Oh, let me get the door!” Nicki said, running ahead and pulling it open with so much enthusiasm that she almost tripped on the way and would have fallen over from yanking the door handle if the door itself hadn’t held her up. “After you, my lady.”
“Oh, I really like you,” Grace said. “You almost hurt yourself helping me! I mean, it would be bad if you did, but I like that enthusiasm!”
We’d barely got upstairs when Grace said, “…are those prices right?” She was looking in the direction of the food court. I could see the menu boards in the sense that I could have pointed to them and said, “Those are the menus up there,” but I couldn’t begin to read them.
“I assume so,” I said.
“…they’re in copper,” she said.
“Yeah,” I said. “I told you to expect a lot of change.”
“…so I could get two burgers,” she said. “I mean, I know that I could get more than two. I mean, I know that now, but what I mean is that I don’t have to stop at one, which is good because I’m starving, and it’s been years since I got a chance to eat as much food as I wanted. That’s why the pizza was so great… I only had to share with one person.”
“What do you normally have to eat?” Nicki asked.
“My sister’s friends’ assholes, mostly,” she said. “Oh, they don’t starve me or anything… but when there’s a formal sit-down meal, I serve the others and then eat when they’re done. Even when we go to the Arch, they just pass me their plates when they’re finished. The food’s all good… before the Arch, I cooked a lot of it… but there’s a certain amount of ‘oh, we’d better eat this so Grace doesn’t get any’ and ‘oh, this is too good for Grace’.”
“Sounds like your sister isn’t very nice to you,” Nicki said.
“It’s… middling stuff,” Grace said. “If she treated me better, the others would treat me worse. They’re not particularly mean, it’s just that I’m the… newbie? Anyway, it suits me better to be on the bottom than it would to try to get to the top. I’m not sure I have it in me to be anywhere but the bottom. Glory’s court is one of the nicer ones, but they can still be…”
“Elf-nice?” Nicki supplied.
“Yeah,” she said. “See why I like humans?”
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LizKayl – Hope your move to the DC area goes as smoothly as possible! I’ll be here reading.