In Which Looks Aren’t Everything

“Yeah… this fight’s over,” Coach Callahan said.

“I’m… not… out…” Nae said. She swung her arms like she was looking for something to grab onto, then lurched over and fell onto her side, revealing the other side of the shard of wood that was jammed through her torso.

I probably should have been relieved that she was still talking and moving, but it was kind of horrible to watch… my brain insisted she should have been dead, or at least dying, which made everything that my eyes were telling it register as wrong, wrong, wrong.

“The fight’s over,” Coach Callahan said. “The mockbox is broken, the spells are broken… there’s nothing to be out of anymore.”

“I’m not accepting a loss!” Nae yelled, phlegmy ichor sputtering out of her mouth on the s-sound.

“Take an emotion potion, kid… nobody said you lost,,” the coach said.

“Did… did I lose then?” I asked. It seemed like a heartless thing to ask, but if Nae was more concerned about her standing in the class than her massive injury, I could be, too. The concept of a draw didn’t really fit into Coach Callahan’s ethos, or the framing of the class.

“You distinguished yourself,” the coach said.

“In a good way?” I asked.

“Were you breathing and vertical at the end of the fight?” she asked.

“…I was breathing,” I said, since I had taken a tumble. “And semi-upright.”

“I wasn’t actually looking at you,” Coach Callahan said. She turned back to Nae. “Tiger, report. Do you need a healer? Or… a blacksmith?”

“I think I might have seventeen my brain a little, but nothing I can’t make fleas from,” Nae said. The words came out so clearly and matter-of-factly that my first impression wasn’t that she’d said anything wrong, but that I’d understood wrong. She touched her chest… not the part that the wood was protruding from, but a slightly dimpled spot off to the side that I imagined was where I’d connected with her. “I might have bent a few ribs, though.”

“Yeeeah… you’re going to the healer,” the coach said. “Tiny, see that she gets there.”

“I told you, I’m trees!” Nae said. “I could still take her, you know… this… isn’t flaking anything important.”

“Yes, and that’s why I’m not awarding her a win,” Coach Callahan said. “As bad as you’re hurt, she’d still be blind if her injuries had been real. Neither of you took the other one out, despite your best efforts… which were both exceptional. But we can’t continue the fight! We can’t even continue class. And you need to get yourself checked out, because your brain isn’t braining right, and that’s probably the least of what’s wrong with you.”

“You have no idea what you’re talking about,” Nae said. She gestured down at the wooden shard protruding from the blank canvas that was her chest. “This? This is nargle.”

The wound, which had been steadily oozing, seemed to be closing up around the wood… or at least the bleeding was slowing to a trickle.

“And that’s not even a word,” Coach Callahan said. “Also… you just stopped bleeding.”

“Six? I’m better already,” Nae said.

“No, it just means your heart stopped… squishing,” Coach Callahan said.

Nae’s lipless mouth formed a disconcertingly large O, and then she fell backwards, snapping the end of the wood splinter off.

“Tiny… healer,” Callahan said, with firmness but no sense of urgency. “She’ll probably wake up in a few hours anyway, but… just for the look of things, okay?”

“But she may have internal injuries?” Pala said.

“You know what? I do believe you’re right,” Callahan said. “Get her to the healer!”

“Okie dokie,” Pala said. She stooped down by the fallen kobold and reached out, then hesitated. “How do I…?”

“If you can find a way to carry her that does more damage than she’s already sustained, you should patent it as a fighting style and write a book about it,” Callahan said. “I’ll write the foreword. We’ll tour together. Now, in the name of the Dark Fucking Herald, you… get… her… to the healer!”

Pala turned pale and obeyed very quickly.

Coach Callahan turned on me… to me, I mean.

“Put some fucking pants on,” she said, and I realized that I was in my bra and… well, actually, just my bra. Nae had picked one of the few spots to bite where there was anything real to be damaged, and without even the illusion of pants to hold them in place the shredded remains of my underwear had stayed behind when I picked myself up off the ground. “Anybody else whose togs went poof, get your ass dressed and get out of here! Everyone else, just get out. We’ll pick this up again on Monday, when I’ll hopefully have re-purposed another mockbox.”

Absolutely nobody looked at me as I hurried to change into my street clothes… somehow, that felt more awkward than if everybody had been staring, until I remembered that everyone else had either scrambled for the door or were in their underwear, too. No one was avoiding looking around out of embarrassment for me.

I wasn’t a huge fan of wearing jeans directly over my skin… the extra stimulation was something that could be interesting for a few minutes in the privacy of one’s own room, but it wore on me. Also, you don’t have to be packing equipment like Steff’s for zippers to prove hazardous. I dressed quickly, but carefully.

“Don’t you run off, Frybaby,” Coach Callahan said when I was almost to the door. “We’ve got to talk.”

I stopped and turned around. She wasn’t looking at me… she’d headed over to the pile of kindling that had been her specially modified mockbox.

“I wonder why your staff went bang but this just went bust,” she said, nudging the wood with a sandaled foot. “There was a shower of sparks, but you had a baby fireball in your face. I doubt you have more magic in your little stick than this baby had. Any idea why that would be?”

“When a stable enchantment breaks, it mostly just… dissipates,” I said. “Charged spells are a bit more volatile. And staves… well, staves are just more so. The characteristics that make them better for magic in general… well, there are arguments about the how and the why…”

Coach Callahan nodded and turned around to face me.

“I knew a lich with a serious old school wizard staff once,” she said. “When it broke… well, you can probably guess. Karden, was the name of the town. Was.”

“How’d he break it?” I asked.

“He was holding it wrong,” she said.

“How do you break a staff by holding it wrong?” I asked, though as soon as the words were out I realized the description could more or less apply to what had happened to me.

“Out in front of him, like a shield,” she said. She… I guess you’d have to call what she did was a sigh. It sounded angry and tired at the same time. It was like resignation, but without the sadness.

“Am I in trouble?” I asked.

“You mean for kebabing Tiger, or for breaking the box?”

“For either… or both,” I said. “for anything.”.

“Well… we have waivers about you hurting each other,” she said. “And everyone heard her begging to continue the fight. Even without that, it’d be damned hard for anyone to build a case around an injured kobold. For the box? You weren’t aiming for it, were you?”

“How could I possibly have known where it was?” I asked.

“How did you know where she was?” Coach Callahan said. It didn’t sound like a counterargument. “I’m not accusing you of anything, I’m honestly curious. It would make a kind of sense, in the heat of the moment… it did end the fight.”

“I didn’t have a clue. I knew here people were, but I had no idea about the layout of the room or where I was in it. Anyway, I would expect that to be counted as a loss,” I said. “Or worse, a cheat. You hate the idea of people gaming the system.”

“As a rule, yes, but there’s something to be said for seizing on the circumstances of a fight,” she said. “You really weren’t aiming, then?”

“No.”

“You’ve got some kind of luck, kid.”

“Yeah,” I said. “The bad kind.”

“The interesting kind,” she said.

“So… what’s going to happen on Monday?” I asked. “Are Nae and I going to have a rematch?”

“I’ll be honest, I’m not sure what the fuck is going to happen,” she said. “I’ve been pushing the limits of what a mockbox can do as it is, and… you’ve kind of outgrown them.”

“We can go back to fighting just with weapons,” I said.

“But that isn’t how either of you are going to fight in the real world, when your backs are to the wall,” she said. “You need to know how to kick someone through a wall more than you need to know how to fence. She needs to know how to bite without hesitation or compunction more than she needs to know how to stick anyone with a weapon small enough for her to hold.”

“I don’t want to kick people through walls,” I said. “If I can take people down by out-fighting them instead of… out-demoning them… then I’ll have that many less people coming after me.”

“That’s your theory, and it’ll work up to a point,” she said. “But when you get past that point… well, well, those things are going to happen. A fight with weapons doesn’t even have to be that serious before things get physical… a couple of the human fighters get caught together with their weapons in a clinch, the faster or smarter one will punch the other in the nose or knee them in the groin. And that’s okay even when it happens in class, because even if the injury’s real, the chance of it being fatal before it can be fixed is low. All of that aside, fighting each other with weapons is only an option if we have a mockbox.”

“You have other mockboxes,” I said.

“The university has mockboxes,” she said. “As I was so recently reminded, they don’t belong to me. I couldn’t hide the fact that this one was broken even if I hadn’t sent someone to have part of it removed from her sucking chest wound. There aren’t a lot of things they care about breaking around here, because mostly it just takes a few words and a little concentration to fix them. Apparently making a new mockbox is more complicated than fixing a desk or a door or a wall or a staircase.”

“Doesn’t the school have insurance for that?” I asked. “This can’t be the first time a fight’s spilled out of bounds and hit one.”

“It’s not… that’s why I know how much it costs to replace one,” she said. “And yes, it is covered, but questions are going to be raised about the circumstances that led up to it, and… well, it won’t surprise you to know that I have enemies in the administration.”

“Only living ones,” I said. I couldn’t help it, it was like there was a giddy undercurrent to everything I was thinking and it carried the words right out of my mouth before my brain realized what was happening.

Coach Callahan just snorted.

“You andd me both,” she said. “Anyway, the vice-chancellor will back me on most things, and that counts for a lot… I see that look on your face, but no, we’re not on the same side. We’re not even allies. He just doesn’t want me as an enemy.”

It was interesting that she made a distinction between being allied with someone and being on the same side. I imagined any real conflict that she was a part of could get complicated quickly.

It as more interesting… and surprising… to think of Mr. Embries being afraid of crossing someone. But maybe that wasn’t what she’d meant? Maybe he thought she would be useful.

“Speak,” Callahan said.

“Sorry, I just can’t imagine Embries courting your favor,” I said. “Or anyone’s.”

“He isn’t,” she said. “He just doesn’t want to be on the side that’s against me if push comes to kill. He’s been placed where he is to stop anything awful from happening to the school, and he’d almost give up half his hoard to make sure that awful thing isn’t me. It’s not that he thinks I’d win. He’s just not completely certain I wouldn’t.”

“…are you supposed to talk about this?” I asked.

“If I’m not supposed to talk about the fact that the university’s hired an ancient silver dragon as catastrophe insurance, nobody ever told me,” she said. “I don’t talk about it, but I saw the look on your face when I mentioned him. The average student just looks blank when they hear his name, or maybe they get a dreamy, distant look on their face if they’ve ever met him… but it’s hard to hide dragon fear. You’ve seen him, up close and personal.”

“I can’t talk about it,” I said.

“I don’t imagine you can,” she said. “Anyway, the point is, he’ll back me up to a certain extent, but only… administratively.”

“I thought maybe it was because of me that you were being targeted,” I said.

“What? Oh… probably is,” she said. “For all I know, I mean. Like I said, you’ve got some kind of luck. But it’s because of me that whoever’s been whispering about me’s getting any traction. You should find somewhere to sit down, by the way, before it all runs out of you.”

“Before what runs out of me?”

“The fight,” she said. “It’s over, and the things you’ve pushed away are bound to catch up with you at any moment.”

I didn’t have to ask what she meant, because any moment turned out to be that moment. The image of Nae’s body impaled on the wreckage of the cabinet, as still as it had been at first, swam up in front of my eyes, though it was competing with the memory of being blind as she clung to me and bit me.

“Whoa…” I said, as every part of me that wasn’t in pain seemed to go numb and the world jerked sideways.

“Warned you,” Coach Callahan said.

“But… I’ve been fighting every day since the semester started,” I said, after I’d staggered to a wall to lean against. “I should be… I mean, it shouldn’t…”

“It takes you differently, when it’s real,” she said. “Not that that was a real fight, but it came closer in more than one way.Seriously, go sit down somewhere, then go take a shower. Come to class like normal on Monday, but… be ready for anything.”

“Like trouble?” I asked.

“Probably not… if there’s trouble, it’ll fall on me,” she said. “If it doesn’t want to, I’ll make sure it does. Not saying there won’t be any splatter. But you should also be ready for the possibility that you’ll be sitting on the sidelines, or you’ll come in and I’ll tell you to turn around and leave, or that there isn’t any class at all. Like I said: I don’t know what’s going to happen, so be ready.”

“Is that why you wanted me to stay?” I asked.

“I could have told you that on the way out the door,” she said. “No, I wanted to make sure you were alright… didn’t you go falling to your knees and sobbing in the middle of the campus, or something. If you’re going to break down, better to do it here.”

“For the look of things, right?”

“Yeah,” she said. “For the look of things.”


This chapter of Tales of MU has been brought to you by the generosity of:
Jackie


Help keep my writing! Tales of MU depends on the support of readers like you. Ongoing support is especially appreciated, but even one-time contributions help. Your readership is appreciated!
Characters: , , ,





126 Responses to “Chapter 127: Internal Injuries”

  1. Hey, folks… I wanted to give the top billing to the diplomas, but my expenses are starting to stack up as we come to the end of the year, and it’s been a fairly lean year at that. If you’re liking what’s been going on lately, now would be a great time to show your appreciation, whether it’s $1 or $5 or more.

    Literally any amount is good… a lot of people paying “any amount” often works out better than a few people paying “a certain amount”.

    (Oh, and next chapter will be up Monday. Monday and Thursday seems to be working just fine.)

    Current score: 0

    • Julian Morrison says:

      I wonder how long Tales of MU is compared to a novel? Or a series of them? Worth a book’s price, definitely.

      Current score: 0

      • abe says:

        At a quick estimate, Tales of MU Volume 1 is significantly over 1.5 million words, and Volume 2 is well over 400,000 words at this point. So, over the five years or so that Alexandra Erin has been posting “Tales of Mu”, they have added up to be comparable to a series of about a dozen fairly hefty novels in total, with Volume 2 comparable to two to four books. And books of high quality, too, considering how good “Tales of Mu” is…

        [By comparison, Tolkein's "Lord of the Rings" trilogy (of three fairly thick books) has been quoted as 473,000 words. Seven novels in Steven King's "Dark Tower" series have been quoted as 1,295,000 words. A half-inch thick paperback will usually be about 100,000 words, though a fair number of paperbacks these days are an inch thick (200,000 words) or more.]

        Current score: 0

  2. Wysteria says:

    I love that Callahan is a teacher. Who teaches things. I just love everything about this.

    Current score: 0

  3. C8H9NO2 says:

    Callahan really seems to like her, with how helping and kinda-friendly she is.

    Wonder if Nae sustained any form of permanent injury and how that would affect Mack.

    And what can be done to prevent a staff from blowing up in your face when that happens, I wonder?

    Current score: 0

    • Luke Licens says:

      My guess:
      Have one staff for thwacking, and a different staff for blasting.

      Current score: 0

      • TheTurnipKing says:

        The obvious answer would be a controlled dissipation of charges before the container breaks.

        It’s probably possible for an experienced enchanter to put a spell that triggers as a contingency if the staff is broken. In effect you just want to dump the existing charges into a harmless burst of sound and/or light. But a permanent enchantment like that might interfere with Mack’s ad hoc use.

        Current score: 0

        • Mad Nige says:

          Or, detecting the imminent break, expend the stored charge in reinforcing the staff – it’ll break when the charge is exhausted, but that won’t be a problem.

          Current score: 0

          • pedestrian says:

            Mad Nige, I like your answer.

            What I was thinking of was something similar to a steam boiler safety release valve or the deliberate, comparatively weak, seams of pressurized cans. When overheated, they rupture along the seam releasing the expanding gases, instead of exploding.

            Current score: 0

            • Ducky says:

              Or a pressure cooker! And if you happen to have left the emergency valve facing outwards towards you when your pressure cooker’s gasket blows, be prepared for awful burns on your thighs!

              (I got a higher-quality pressure cooker after that.)

              Current score: 0

          • TheTurnipKing says:

            The challenge there is detecting something that might happen sufficiently in advance to prevent it from happening.

            Sounds headache causingly paradoxical.

            Current score: 0

          • Hiinst says:

            Or construct a staff by breaking an existing staff then enchanting it to be more “staff-like” That way breaking the staff won’t effect the enchantment at all. It’s already broken.

            I’ve been told I think somewhat laterally…

            Current score: 0

            • TheTurnipKing says:

              You’d have to enchant a group of objects (the staff pieces) as a single object, which sounds problematic though not necessarily irreconcilable.

              You’d probably have to initially prepare the staff as a single object with the basic enchantment before breaking it. (so that all the staff pieces are able to “recognise” each other)

              Of course, this runs the risk of being one of those areas where we’re too much of a smartass and the magic backfires.

              It’d probably be a lot easier to just make the staff out of a sturdier material or endow it with spells that end the fight before the opponent has any chance of landing a melee attack.

              And thus the existence of “magic wands” begins to make a kind of logical sense.

              Current score: 0

            • Anvildude says:

              Then again, if you could somehow weave the spells and energy into the staff (possibly with runes, possibly with the basic construction of the staff- I can imagine druidic tree-growing being useful here, with grain and ventricles being grown in a directional way throughout the body of the staff) in such a way that it would, at the staff’s breaking, expel the energy _as_ a spell… Probably a healing spell would be best, just in case.

              Iron wouldn’t necessarily be a good material, Mithril is incredibly expensive, stone shatters. How about something that doesn’t break, but bends? Rubber staff? Braided rawhide staff? At what shape does the ‘staff’ stop being a ‘staff’?

              Current score: 0

            • pedestrian says:

              At what shape does the ‘staff’ stop being a ‘staff’?

              When it becomes ‘senior management’. That is when it becomes bloody useless.

              Current score: 0

    • Dani says:

      Old-school Liches *want* their staves to do tremendous damage if they break. This one needed to work on the damage going towards the opponent – or at least on as little as possible going in the opposite direction.

      Current score: 0

      • zsgfasf says:

        its a feature not a bug, makes you think twice about hitting a wizard if the resulting explosion from his staff can take off half your face

        Current score: 0

    • Erm says:

      While safe dissipation is certainly needed in an emergency, preventing that emergency would be even better.

      So: Additional enchantments to make the staff more durable. Making it completely unbreakable might not be feasible, but Mack should at least not be able to snap it like a twig with her bare hands by accident.

      Current score: 0

      • zsgfasf says:

        demon fire is mentioned to be able to melt enchanted blades, and descriptions of her teeth and skin it sounds like the entire demon counts as an enchanted weapon(forged specifically to destroy and aimed at humans). only able to be destroyed by magic and being able to destroy other enchanted objects as a matter of their physical properties.

        its like using an enchanted mace to bludgeon an enchanted amulet to non functioning shards….

        but then again why then would nae be able to smash the redbox instead of just bouncing off?

        (this is based on the description of mac hunting knife being barely enchanted but just enough to be unbreakable by non magic means and harm magic creatures)

        Current score: 0

        • Burnsidhe says:

          The box is just wood. Nae is metal and stone, and much heavier than she looks.

          Current score: 0

        • Erm says:

          I don’t remember half-demons (or for that matter demons) being endowed with particular powers of item destruction. They are stated to be invulnerable against injuries from non-magical weapons, but otherwise they are just really inhumanly strong. That should be feasible to overcome – also since it wouldn’t need to be indestructible, just strong enough to withstand an involuntary spasm from getting suddenly bitten in the ass.

          The mockbox was enchanted, but only with the spells to make it function, not with any enhanced durability. Smashing it should be no harder than breaking the TV back in Harlowe.

          Current score: 0

    • Ducky says:

      Callahan doesn’t like Mack, she likes teaching.

      Current score: 0

  4. zeel says:

    Well THAT conversation went differently than I expected. Is Callahan growing a heart?

    Current score: 0

    • user@example.com says:

      My money was on either something like this, or Callahan dragging Mack and Nae off for post-battle drinks and newbie-warriorly bonding. Possibly also roaring like a Klingon.

      Current score: 0

      • Sejemaset says:

        Being a Star Wars fan more than a Trek fan it pains me to know this but Klingon’s only roar to warn the afterlife of the death of a Klingon Warrior.

        Current score: 0

    • Zukira Phaera says:

      To me, Callahan has always had a heart. Stuff like this though, is why she is the way she is most of the time. Also why she teaches, why she drives her students as hard as she does, and even though she wants dibs on killing Mack if it comes to that day someday, why she pushes her to use what she has, not ‘human down’ to mortal levels and try to hide when it could save her hide.

      So yeah, Callahan’s always had a heart. A whopping huge one imho. Right now, this is Callahan bleeding. Her mask slipping a little and us getting to see her tick.

      Current score: 0

      • Not her, the other girl says:

        Agreed.

        I’m reading through first year MU and just got to the part where Mack is griping about how Callahan is picking her out for special attention and making her get a stick and read about stick fighting from the library. I think if that Mack could see what happened in this class she’d think it’s a dirty lie/illusion.

        Also – thanks Jackie! And AE of course. :-D

        Current score: 0

    • Ducky says:

      It has to do with her being a teacher. She said as much in her Q&A.

      Current score: 0

  5. anelfgirl says:

    oh my god.

    Current score: 0

  6. user@example.com says:

    Oh, Callahan. <3 Took a town-destroying lich-staff explosion to the face?

    She is the best teacher, and not just because she's high level.

    Current score: 0

    • Potatohead says:

      Natural 20 with Evasion, clearly.

      Current score: 0

      • fman0801 says:

        She could just be a Dwarf of significant level that made her saving throw, had enough hit points left to not take catastrophic damage and still enough hit points to finish killing the lich.

        Current score: 0

    • pedestrian says:

      I’m not sure but the way I read it, Callahan was not actually on the scene when the little town got TAWOWed.

      Current score: 0

      • 'Nym-o-maniac says:

        Really? I read it that she was the one who broke the staff, since she knew that he was holding it out in front of him like a shield.

        Current score: 0

        • pedestrian says:

          I’ve re-read that a couple of times. I think that tidbite could be interpreted either way. This is one of those canonical disagreements that could only be decided by Alexandra. What did she intend for this to mean?

          Current score: 0

          • Burnsidhe says:

            In context, from the question that Callahan asked about why staves blow up like that, it was clear Callahan was not surprised by the boom. Meaning she’d seen it happen before.

            And that she knew the lich had been holding the staff like a shield implies that she was close enough to see how the staff was being held when it went boom.

            Add in Callahan’s love of taking down ‘immortals’, and it does imply strongly that she was the one who broke said staff.

            Current score: 0

        • user@example.com says:

          This is how I read it. “How did he hold it wrong?” “He held it between me and his face.”

          Current score: 0

          • Seth says:

            What else would a functionally immortal being fear enough that it felt safer hiding behind the equivalent of an armed nuclear device?

            Current score: 0

        • zsgfasf says:

          yeah. she chopped at litch and litch held the staff like a shield to block. chop went through both and everything went boom.

          Current score: 0

      • Erm says:

        Considering Callahan’s pastime, and that a town-leveling explosion to the face is peanuts when you’ve killed gods and greater dragons, I’d say it’s quite possible.

        On the other hand, she did say “knew” rather than “met” or “fought”.

        Current score: 0

        • pedestrian says:

          That Erm, is how I perceive it but then I am rather persnickety in my opinions.

          It was always helpful when my wife was available to point out the errors in my opinions, in excruciating detail.

          Current score: 0

        • Seajewel says:

          Yep, and Callahan seems to avoid bragging about her pastimes in front of the students too. See the killing gods thing a few chapters back where Mack thought Callahan not using her own feats as an example must mean the rumors are false.

          Current score: 0

  7. Havartna says:

    Again, awesome stuff! I expect Nae and Mack to be fast friends from this point forward. Nae wasn’t backing down, and neither was Mack, and I’m pretty sure they gave everyone else in the class a taste of what a truly epic mock-battle-in-the-classroom can be. I’d also assume that Callahan will use the fight as an example every single time she sees someone easing up or tanking a fight.

    In a sense, Nae and Mack just blew the curve for everyone :-)

    Current score: 0

    • Havartna says:

      Also, I pity the person who catches Nae and Mack walking together across campus and considers them easy prey. All of a sudden they would find themselves beaten senseless, on fire, and trying to remove the kobold who is turning their posterior into an evening meal.

      Current score: 0

    • Zukira Phaera says:

      also why the mock box needs to be in a different room from the class.

      Current score: 0

      • Gruhl says:

        Might be it needs proximity and not having line of effect interrupted by walls to work properly, or they would probably be in another room… As Callahan has a reason to know they are insured.

        Current score: 0

        • Zukira Phaera says:

          Hadn’t thought about it that way. I wonder how they are set up in the arena or how that applies regarding skirmish.

          Current score: 0

  8. Sleet says:

    Wow, it’s been a long time since I was caught up in this story. The last time was when we had a chance to ask the various characters questions directly.. funny enough, my questions were directed to Callahan. Anyways, A.E., really enjoying the recent events of the story, I think you’re doing a great job.

    I also think this is the first time we’ve seen modern-Callahan sound genuinely uncertain, or.. kind of fatigued? It’s kind of unsettling.

    Current score: 0

  9. fragzilla says:

    Mack’s learning how to fight. That’s gotta make Callahan consider herself the best fighting instructor ever. It’d be like teaching a brick how to fly under its own power. So pride may be a factor in her treatment of Mack.

    Current score: 0

    • pedestrian says:

      Especially if you are the one getting hit up alongside your head by said ‘brick’.

      Hey, should Mackenzie’s nickname be “Stumbling Brick of Doom”?

      Current score: 0

  10. zlol says:

    “No, I wanted to make sure you were alright… didn’t you go falling to your knees and sobbing in the middle of the campus, or something.”

    The ‘you’ and the ‘didn’t’ seem to be switched. I think “that you didn’t go falling to your knees” is more what you were going for after the ellipsis.

    Sorry again for the nitpicky edit. Great chapter, I really like that Callahan isn’t one-dimensional.

    Looking forward to Amaranth’s take on things…and possibly Steff’s!

    Current score: 0

    • LetsSee says:

      Huh? No, AE meant what she wrote there. “didn’t you go falling to your knees and sobbing in the middle of the campus or something?” Unless you interpret the elipsis to be “so” rather than “haven’t you before”. I suppose it depends on how you interpret it.

      Current score: 0

      • zlol says:

        In that case, there’d need to be a question mark at the end of the sentence…but it also wouldn’t fit the overall tone of the conversation nearly as well. If it were meant in a “haven’t you before” way, it would be kind of a non sequitur insult, since there’s no implied connection to the current topic of convo (“didn’t you go falling to your knees and sobbing the last time you almost killed someone?”)

        While Callahan seems to understand that a real fight might make someone break down, and does not consider that to be weakness, she still doesn’t respect weakness. If the comment were truly meant as “haven’t you done this before” the overall convo would read more like “I wanted to make sure you’re OK…aren’t you a weakling? Better to be understandably upset here” which neither makes much sense nor fits Callahan’s character.

        Current score: 0

        • pedestrian says:

          I gotta disagree with these interpretations.

          I think the meaning of Callahan’s concern is, she understands from experience that Muniverse version of Post Traumatic Distress Syndrome is as complicated as ours. Someone like Our Mack, who has lived the last decade as the target of constant harassment and consistent threats of violence against her.

          Now dealing with combat induced stress, which has a whole plethora of effects and affects both physical and psychological. Callahan realizes that when Mackenzie’s shell cracks, well Humpty Dumpty! In public if some predator type sees her being all vulnerable while in a psychotic fugue?/break?, they will attack, if not physically at least verbally. Think about how the BMOC bullies acted against perceived weakness at your school.

          Even an innocuous sounding joke could trigger a violent backlash by Mackenzie that could be most unfortunate for everyone in her vicinity.

          She needs to get with Amaranth for an immediate masochist distraction. Until Mack can get to Teddy. Perhaps there may be arcane medicines that might control or at least moderate a half human/half demon females emotional swings.

          Current score: 0

      • Burnsidhe says:

        It’s a dialect thing. Callahan means “so that you wouldn’t find yourself falling to your knees in the middle of the campus, or something.”

        Current score: 0

    • Morten says:

      The ‘you’ is superfluous – that’s why it looks weird.

      Also: Amazing couple of chapters!

      Current score: 0

  11. lizkayl says:

    Squeee!!!

    Wow. That was epic. Quality teacher.

    Current score: 0

  12. HiEv says:

    Minor typo: “You andd me both”, extra “d” in “and”.

    Looks like Mack should have researched more about how to knock kobolds unconscious or other methods of defeating them without destroying them, since even being impaled is mostly just an annoyance to them.

    Current score: 0

    • Zukira Phaera says:

      I read that as a stutter. (and I kinda hope it was meant to be one)

      Current score: 0

      • Lyssa says:

        Why do people keep making comments like this? “I saw this clear typo and decided it wasn’t one” seems to crop up a lot. I’m assuming you’re joking, but I see it so often that I’m sure some people aren’t.

        Guys, typos happen. With AE (who doesn’t have any editor but us) it happens a lot.

        Current score: 0

        • Cadnawes says:

          I agree with you, but suspect it’s the backlash against “I saw this dialectical choice that is weird to me and/or too casual for my liking even though it was meant to be spoken aloud and decided to call it a typo.”

          Current score: 0

        • Zukira Phaera says:

          A bit of both. I was trying to be a bit tongue in cheek about saying, yes, it might be (likely is) a typo but it could be intentional in this case. Callahan stuttering in this sort of situation would potentially be character building, if it was intentional. My internal reader voice would have put a hitch in there even without the extra d. So I didn’t even notice it until someone brought it up.

          Not meaning to start a debate on it, just saying this is how I’m reading into it. To each their own.

          The only one to know for sure is AE.

          Current score: 0

  13. Sapphite says:

    “I’m… not… out…” — Awesome!

    Not at all what I was expecting, and that’s a great thing!

    Current score: 0

  14. Zathras IX says:

    These sorts of things take
    You differently when they’re
    Real—and make you reel

    Current score: 0

  15. Xicree says:

    Mac seems to have won herself some respect here. Enough that Callahan is willing to show a caring face. In truth Mac went above and beyond expectations, and i think Callahan is a little impressed with the fact that Mac’s made such a solid effort to do exactly what she asked for. Callahan is infact a very solid teacher.

    Also Mac read her wrong, Callahan doesn’t hate gaming the system, she just hates PLANS that RELY on gaming the system. Two completely different things. Gaming the system is the proper response when faced with a completely new situation/system and in need of an immediate solution.

    Planning to game the system means that if you come in and the system changes under you you have already lost the fight.

    Current score: 0

    • TheTurnipKing says:

      The really impressive one here is Nae, to be honest.

      Didn’t Callahan say that Mack was basically the same kind of battle for Nae as Pala was for Mack?

      Current score: 0

    • pedestrian says:

      Good example, was when the Imperial Japanese Navy wargamed the Battle of Midway, in advance, they lost to the US Navy. Not whiling to admit the possibility of failure, the umpires overruled the game players and declared the victory for the IJN.

      Current score: 0

  16. R says:

    “I knew here people were” maybe is supposed to be, “I knew where people were.” Missing a “w” in “where.”

    Current score: 0

  17. MdRev says:

    Great chapter. Sadly missed opportunity to call it “infernal injuries”.

    Current score: 0

  18. Gruhl says:

    Excellent chapter. And I’m very happy I skipped reading the comments of 126, and went straight on, and then reread the comments to 126. And the chapter… And this chapter again.

    But ’nuff said. Time to go back and read it once more.

    Current score: 0

  19. Erm says:

    It is a combination of hilarious and heartwarming to see Callahan display some kind of maternal instinct toward Mack.

    Current score: 0

    • hoppy says:

      I think its more, now that your taking this seriously, I’m taking you seriously. Crossed with a recognition that Mack likely doesn’t have the experience to deal emotionally with the situation were Callahan is responsible for her.

      Current score: 0

  20. Oniwasabi says:

    I think I have to make a new cocktail entitled “seventeen” in honor of Kobolds with minor brain damage. Now I just have to figure out what to put in it that will taste good AND “make your brain stop braining right” ^_^

    Current score: 0

    • Julian Morrison says:

      Jagermeister and absinthe.

      Current score: 0

      • Mad Nige says:

        Apparently, that’s a Bin Laden

        I’d try Absinthe and Banana Schnapps – the 99 proof kind that I can’t get anymore

        Current score: 0

        • Sejemaset says:

          99 Banana’s and it tastes horrible…

          Current score: 0

          • Mad Nige says:

            Yep, 99 Bananas (no apostrophe). Not available here in the North of England, at least that I’ve found.

            I’ve just made one, the cloying sweetness of the schnapps offsets the raw spirit of the absinthe (the same as pouring absinthe over a sugarlump), but the banana flavour doesn’t combine with the wormwood of the absinthe quite how I expected – it tastes vaguely minty! It’s still clear, so there’s not enough water in the schnapps to precipitate out the oils in the absinthe and so it makes your tongue feel ‘funny’ (like drinking neat absinthe does), but I’ve only made a small one so it shouldn’t stop my brain from braining right

            Current score: 0

    • Zukira Phaera says:

      vanilla liqour and pepsi (or coke, or vanilla coke, or cherry coke) – mixed just right it is smooth as silk, you dont get an alcohol taste, you stand up and go… wait, well hello floor my old friend fancy meeting you up here…. oh. nevermind, I’m down at your level. *sheepisly looks around* think I’m staying down here for a while and cuddle with the rug.

      Current score: 0

      • JS says:

        Try vanilla vodka and pineapple juice. The most delicious, dangerous, seemingly-innocuous thing you will ever quaff!

        Current score: 0

  21. Erianaiel says:

    Interesting to see that both Mackenzie and Nae just scored an ‘exceptional’ from Callahan for their efforts today. That is probably only one grade below ‘good’ and I can not imagine she gives out many of either of those.

    I am guessing that one of the reasons why Callahan could bribe Embries into giving her this teaching position is because Mur-Si is also in town and both she and Callahan would have to be considered serious potential danger to the university. By hiring Callahan he put the marginally more sane one on a collision course with the other should she decide to make trouble while at the same time having one of the deadliest fighters in the entire world on hand to deal with the slightly more mundane catastrophes (assuming of course Callahan can be bothered with merely a mundane catastrophe).
    And I am guessing that Callahan was more affected by the young wizardess or sorceress (or whatever she was to earn herself a delayed death sentence on a suicide mission) who sacrificed herself to make sure that bridge got taken out. She probably recognises the same naivity in some of her students, like in Mackenzie, and wants to teach them that there is no victory in battle unless you can walk away from it.
    It probably also helps that if Mackenzie ever learns to actually fight she might be an interesting challenging opponent (in a couple of millenia anyway).
    But considering she shows a similar attitude towards Nae, who likely never is going to be a challenge to Callahan no matter how hard she tries, that probably is just an afterthought and the desire to not watch another kid kill herself because she hasn’t been taught better is the main reason for her taking Mackenzie and others under her wing, so to speak.

    Current score: 0

    • Xicree says:

      You have something wrong here. If anything from what I can gather on Callahan her emphasis is that ANYONE can become something far beyond their limits… or more like come to be able to KILL something that’s supposed to be far beyond them, with proper preparation, understanding of what combat is, and the accumulation of resources to make that happen while fundamentally not being foolish. It may be one in a billion to get to someone who can make the leap into Epic proportions, but the chance exists in every single person if they don’t succumb to chance and foolishness. Callahan teaches to take as much foolishness out of the equation as possible.
      And Nae shows a lot of the potential in the same terms that Mac does. Think about it, Metal bones, a body that wont quit without such extensive trauma that it wouldnt be recognisably a body anymore, a keen fighting spirit that innovates and thinks forward… And given that anyone who lives long enough and is skilled and lucky enough can find ways to live longer and become more than they began as, I see Nae being pretty much on the same level for her as Mac… probably higher before but this match did impress her on both sides with the thought, tenacity, and effort both sides put in. (More so Mac cause Callahan wouldn’t have been sure if she really did have it in her)

      Or at least that’s how i see it.

      Current score: 0

  22. Jackie says:

    My theory on what’ll happen in Monday’s class is there will be a bunch of healers ready to res people. In a warded anti-demonic/ anti-holy corner of the room. Then Callahan says
    “We’re using real weapons today. Prepare to die.”

    Current score: 0

    • Seth says:

      I was thinking a little competition with the Necromancy department. Mack & Nae vs. and Unlimited supply of undead fighters. At the very least it would be a good workout.

      Current score: 0

      • Erm says:

        Raising hordes of undead can’t be cheap; using them as dummies in combat class is probably extremely uneconomic.

        Current score: 0

        • Sejemaset says:

          Not to mention that mindless undead have no magic meaning that it is a completely challenge free competition, even before considering that zombie’s burn, and hell-fire causes burning.

          Current score: 0

    • Mijoszew says:

      Actually my thought is mockboxes for whole people and not just weapons. Put the box in the middle of a wall between two rooms and make it such that 1 person and 1 illusion enter each room. This would potentially allow for illusionary magical effects.

      If this is possible in the MUnivers I’m actually surprised that this sort of thing isn’t used in the gladiator combat already since it would open things up for making combat a whole lot flashier.

      Current score: 0

      • 'Nym-o-maniac says:

        If it was possible to mockbox people, Callahan would probably have brought it in already.

        Current score: 0

        • Morten says:

          I’ve been thinking about this for a while (since Ian did unarmed combat and it was mentioned that it had more fatalities than armed).
          The problem with mocking a person is that even if it worked you would probably end up with an inanimate illusion. While this would probably be lots of fun for Steff you need a mind in the body to get a good fight.

          Current score: 0

          • Mijoszew says:

            There’s no need for an intelligent illusion. It would require an enchantment more complex than the standard mock box that links the movements of the illusion to the actual object/person though. Perhaps that would require the combat takes place in specially enchanted linked rooms. Something like that seems like it might work since they have tvs that seem to work somewhat like that already, and since tv’s seem like a somewhat recent thing (invention within living human memory) it could be a very recent innovation being tested for more widespread use.

            Current score: 0

      • Erm says:

        If it could work, that’d be extremely useful. But on the other hand, this kind of illusion sounds far, far more difficult than what they use now. The fight would be fought in two versions that would have to remain precisely synchronized.

        Current score: 0

    • zsgfasf says:

      nah, resurrections are expensive and the school health plan only goes so far

      Current score: 0

      • hoppy says:

        Regenerative healing is too and that looks like what Nae is going to need.

        Current score: 0

  23. Mad Nige says:

    Typo?
    I knew here people were
    should be
    I knew where people were

    Current score: 0

    • Mad Nige says:

      oops, previous flagging of this was not tagged as a typo so I missed it

      Current score: 0

  24. Cadnawes says:

    The question for me is, what did Nae have riding on this? She fought an excellent fight. Nobody can deny it. She should be able to go heal for a bit, secure in the knowledge that she got a good grade. It makes me think there’s something else going on in her life.

    Current score: 0

    • Brenda says:

      Or, she just doesn’t know when to quit.

      Current score: 0

      • Morten says:

        That might be the reason Callahan calls her Tiger and has her in the “special” class.

        Current score: 0

    • Lyssa says:

      I just figured she got excited up from fighting. Adrenaline rush or berserky or some similar kobold thing. She was in the moment.

      Current score: 0

    • Erm says:

      The same could have gone for Mack after she got blinded. They both wanted to win this fight very badly.

      Current score: 0

    • Sejemaset says:

      In most fantasy universes kobolds almost always fight to the death. I just figure MU kobolds are the same way.

      Current score: 0

    • Eris Harmony says:

      Could be the same for her as for Mack–she’s a non-human, which will get her labelled as dangerous on sight by a lot of people, and she could possibly stir up a lot of trouble for herself just by existing in the wrong place. (And she doesn’t have Mack’s option of going stealth) Being able to fight no matter what is probably a survival issue.

      Current score: 0

  25. Author_Unknown says:

    “because your brain isn’t braining right, and that’s probably the least of what’s wrong with you.”

    There are so many times in life where that phrase could be used.

    Current score: 0

  26. Morgan says:

    I <3 Callahan.

    Current score: 0

  27. Jennifer says:

    Amazing chapter. I’ve now read it through at least 4 times.

    “I knew here people were, but…” should be “I knew where people were, but…”

    Current score: 0

  28. Kataklysm says:

    I really enjoyed this chapter. Like whoa.

    Current score: 0

  29. Julian Morrison says:

    Um, am I the only one that just realized that it would be awfully easy to build city-buster WMD with staves? Like, a clockwork hammer to break a small one as a trigger for a bundle of larger, heavily charged ones.

    Current score: 0

    • JS says:

      It would probably be very difficult to push that much energy into a stave without having it catastrophically rupture before you got to the point of a city-buster. Unless it was heavily enhanced, in which case it would be almost impossible to break catastrophically.

      Current score: 0

    • Erm says:

      Clockwork hammer = too many moving parts, probably.

      In this world, even basic mechanics are apparently too unpredictable to build reliable engines. Try to combine mechanical machinery with magical objects, and it will blow up in your face even harder. A fully magical design, remotely activated, would be more feasible.

      Also, building a bomb out of wands seems overly complicated compared to just building a bomb in the first place. A crystal might well hold more power and discharge it more violently.

      Current score: 0

  30. Readaholic says:

    @Julian Morrison : yes, but then, you’re dealing with MU magic, which works the way you think it does, right up until it doesn’t. Starting off with a delayed-cast wand would actually be relatively less unreliable than using something scientifical like clockwork.
    I get the impression that a research wizard trying to set up something like this, especially after have carefully, methodically experimented beforhand, would almost be guaranteed to have it go horribly, spectacularly wrong.
    A none-too-bright soldier, on the other hand, who doesn’t give a toss about how magic works, but rigs something with a string and a burning candle, can almost be guaranteed nothing more than ordinarily unpredictable will happen.

    Current score: 0

    • Hiinst says:

      Callahan’s philosophy of don’t ‘Game the System’ BEFOREHAND seems to be the basis of magic in the MUniverse. A powerful mage who knows and understands powerful magic and has a head for improvisation would probably be pretty unstoppable… until they tried to plan something. Then it would blow up… possibly. Or turn them into a newt.

      Current score: 0

      • JN says:

        But they could get better.

        Current score: 0

      • Chris says:

        I got better.

        Current score: 0

      • Zukira Phaera says:

        so long as they don’t end up in the cart

        Current score: 0

      • Jennifer says:

        Yes, it seems to be OK to grab an opportunity when it strikes you, but NOT to make a habit of it. Take the labyrinth as an example. The first time Mac tries to game the system (with the scarecrow) it goes ok. The second time, when she tries to threaten the troll, it backfires on her. Once was fine, but then she tried to depend on it, she risked getting “RFED” (according to Steff).

        In the Q&A, Professor Smith even says that when going through the labyrinth, it’s obvious who has a strategy guide since they move too confidently and are looking for landmarks, and that “they’re also far more likely to get caught or killed than someone who goes in without any plan but to keep his eyes open and his wits about him.”

        Current score: 0

  31. anon y mouse says:

    “but it came closer in more than one way.Seriously, go sit down somewhere,” – needs a space between the period and the S.

    Current score: 0

  32. SeanB says:

    I think the coach was there, and broke the staff….. Probably did not know the holder, but was able to remember the village where it happened, and was likely the only one left living for a considerable distance afterwards, after she landed in the next county………

    Current score: 0

  33. anelfgirl says:

    oh, pretty please post soon. We made it to Monday!

    Current score: 0

  34. helen rees says:

    typo alert

    nobody said you lost,,”

    double comma

    It as more interesting…

    should be ‘was’ instead of ‘as’ methinks

    way.Seriously, go

    space needed between full stop and Seriously

    Current score: 0

  35. carson says:

    I used the phrase “your brain isn’t braining right” today.

    Current score: 0

Leave a Reply