Chapter 14: The Horns of History

on May 13, 2011 in Volume 2: Sophomore Effort

In Which Mackenzie Misses The Obvious

Because enduring a conversation about dragons apparently wasn’t enough, the first question was about another race with a taste for sentient flesh that I’d had too many close encounters with over the course of my academic career to date.

“So… that thing of separate halves,” a student asked. “How does that apply to someone like a mermaid?”

“You mean, is their top half legally human and their bottom half legally fish?” Hart said, to scattered bits of laughter. “They’re not actually talking about that kind of halves.”

“No,” the guy said. “They can change forms, from, you know, mermaid to something more human-looking.”

“I know merfolk can split their tails into legs, but that’s not quite as drastic as a werewolf, or a half-dragon,” Hart said. “I don’t see that the decree would apply. She’d still clearly be a mermaid, in either form.”

“I have a friend who dated a mermaid for part of last year,” he said, “and he said that she could… make her scales go away, and then she looked pretty much like a human. So, legally, would she be a human?”

“Okay. I did not actually know that,” Hart said. “But the specific thing about Separate Halves… you have to remember that it was originally applied to werewolves. And Thylean bear-skin adepts, but I swear I’m trying not to steer the conversation around to them. A werewolf does not adopt the appearance of a human. A werewolf in its… his.. werewolves in their human form are human. That’s the point of the decree. There are these dwarves who can turn their hands into axes and hammers and picks and things…”

“Bonesmiths, I believe you mean,” Hall supplied.

“Yes. Dwarven bonesmiths,” Hart said. “The law doesn’t need a Decree of Separate Halves to treat a bonesmith as a dwarf, whether he’s got a hand for a hand or an axe for a hand. I don’t know what actually goes on with a mermaid’s physical form when she goes from having a tail to having legs, but I suspect it’s got more in common with a bonesmith than a werewolf.”

“Just so,” Hall said. “Indeed, there are rumors that the bodies of merfolk are more protean than most land-dwellers would imagine. It is well-known that many tribes of shore-dwelling merfolk, colloquially known as ‘sirens’, can transfigure their upper limbs into wings… why should not their cousins in the deep be able to assume a flipper-like configuration? And yet the sirens remain just as human… which is to say, not at all… when they show traits of mammals, reptiles, and birds.”

“Good question, though,” Hart said to the guy who’d asked. “We’re dealing with a big topic and so a lot of concepts we only passed over with a glance, but this is a long period so there’s no reason we can’t stop and amplify something if it wasn’t clear.”

“I have a question for Professor… uh… Hall, I think?” a girl said. She was looking at him, but a little uncertainly… I supposed that if I didn’t have prior experience with one of them, I might have found it hard to keep track of which was which after the brief introduction at the beginning of the class.

Hall looked at Hart.

“I believe that in the interest of fostering discussion and lessening confusion, we can do away with a degree of formality,” he said. “I have no objection to being addressed by my given name, by anyone who feels comfortable doing so.”

“If you can stand to be called ‘Fenwick’, I guess I don’t mind being Aaron,” Hart said.

“Okay, Professor Fenwick, then,” the girl said. “How exactly did dragons change during the Fall? You said they became mortal, but what did that actually entail in terms of their abilities?”

“Oh, yes,” Fenwick said. “Well, just as what seems to be a relatively simple idea like ‘shapeshifting’ can actually cover a variety of concepts, so, too, does one like ‘mortality’. Dragons have always been prone to aging and to death, though there’s little in the way of proof that great and greater dragons will ever die of old age. When one speaks of ‘mortals’ in relation to dragons, one is usually referring to the so-called created kinds, the order of creation that humans and elves and dwarves belongs to… the sorts of beings sometimes erroneously and prejudicially referred to as ‘humanoids’.

“During the Fall, every intelligent dragon within the sphere of the world was transformed into the form of a so-called humanoid, and the less intelligent dragons became a variety of hunting beasts. It is from the latter category that the world’s population of chimerae descended, as they followed their new instincts and mated with natural beasts of their newly assumed kind.”

“As far as their abilities are concerned,” Hart said… and to me, he was still Hart, “the intelligent dragons didn’t lose any of their accumulated knowledge or magical power. They couldn’t fly by flapping the wings they’d lost, or breathe plumes of fire or lightning. To what extent they retained their less physical abilities is hard to judge. They weren’t in any hurry to advertise the extent of their power loss.”

“There are stories about the trapped dragons displaying draconic-level feats of strength,” Fenwick said. “But this could easily have been magic or trickery… as Aaron suggested, the de-scaled wyrms had a powerful motivation to keep up the appearance of power and strength traditionally associated with them.”

“Or it could just be stories,” Hart added.

“True enough,” Fenwick said. “Does anyone have another question?”

There was no immediate response. A few people looked at each other. I imagined there were questions on the tips of people’s tongues, but we weren’t quite into the flow of things yet. Despite my discomfort with the topics at hand, I did have a desire to know more… it just wasn’t coalescing into specific questions. I wanted to know more about such things as the Pelorians and their brief empire, and their absorption into the armies of the old empire.

“Well, if no one else has an immediate question coming to mind,” Fenwick said, “then I’d like to further the discussion by expanding on another point I found interesting, the Decree of Separate Halves. I’d be surprised if this decree… it’s a Metric one, I gather from the time frame, but it’s part of our common law, I suppose?” Hart nodded, and Fenwick continued. “Yes, well. As a sidenote, I’d be very surprised if this Decree has ever been applied to a full-blooded dragon who assumed a human form through whatever means. Do you know anything about that, Aaron?”

“To my knowledge, it hasn’t,” Hart said. “Though I’ve never looked into it. Anyway, your half-dragon has two natural forms that aren’t just different races, they’re different kinds of creatures. Orders?” He looked at Fenwick for confirmation, who nodded. “I don’t think that last part matters. If there were such a thing as a were-elf, who was human most of the time and elf some of the time, Separate Halves would still apply. The key is that they’re different kinds of creatures, or beings, or people. Like the werewolf, the half-dragon really is human and really is dragon. Does that make sense?”

Around the room there were some scattered nods.

“I guess what I would like to know,” one guy asked, “is how does the law decide if it applies?”

“Well, that’s really a question for lawyers,” Hart said. “I assume they look at past precedents, and if the question arises for a new type of creature someone has to make a determination of what’s actually going on. In all honesty, it doesn’t get invoked very often. It’s more important for purposes of the historical context of how we came to our current understanding of equality under the law. Nowadays… well, last year, there was an unfortunate incident on campus involving a young lady from a kingdom in the Khazarus who was killed on campus. It was put down to a monster attack, eventually, but it was initially being investigated as a murder.”

I wondered at Hart’s choice of words, when he said that Leda’s death was “put down to” a monster attack… in his history classes, he’d displayed a tendency to acerbically repeat the official line on some of the more controversial aspects of the Imperium’s history while making it clear to most of the class what he thought of it.

I doubted he knew or suspected the exact truth, but it didn’t seem beyond reason that he might not trust the official outcome of the investigation.

“Now, this young lady… like many people from that part of the world… was a shapeshifter,” Hart continued. “She could move between the forms of a swan and a human. Would she have been covered by the Decree of Separate Halves? Probably. But the question of whether or not she ‘counts’ as human never came up, because under the current law a swan-person is supposed to be the same as a human-person.”

“Um, Aaron… I have a question that’s not really directly related to half-dragons,” a girl said. “But it does relate to something you said.”

“Go for it,” Hart said. “Like Professor Hall said, let’s keep things ‘organic’.”

“Okay,” she said. “Well, the thing is… I was wondering where werewolves come from?”

“If you mean, were they created in a similar way to half-dragons, I think we can probably say no,” Hart said, to more laughter. “But other than that, I really don’t know. Fenwick?”

“There are stories, of course,” Fenwick said. “Old stories, and not very pleasant ones. Persons afflicted with lycanthropy are recognized as persons these days, and are not punished for their condition, but simply held responsible for the consequences of failing to control it… but once upon a time, they were seen as a thing of nightmares. Those stories that spoke of a specific origin for them inevitably put it down to a curse or hex. But I believe that the truth is contained in a story that’s not about werewolves in particular.

“In the beginning, the goblins say, there were the Old Ones… sleeping titans, gods of chaos and primal power. And one of the old gods, a figure identified as The Claw That Corrupts, also known as the Father of Beasts and Mother of Madness, is said in some tales to have shaped beasts into the forms of mortals, or to have created a plague that would infect mortals with the forms of beasts. The story varies with the telling… and with the translation… but either way we read it, it seems clear that goblinkind attribute the creation of werewolves and similar creatures to their dark god.”

“All earlier kidding aside,” Hart said, “I think we do have to take these theological stories with a grain of salt. They seem less likely to be contemporary accounts that were handed down and more likely to be retrospectively trying to put together pieces from before any race has any credible knowledge.”

“True, perhaps,” Fenwick said. “We find more conflicts… or competition, if you will… among the various accounts of creation and origin told by varying peoples. In some cases we may be able to approach the truth by looking at the commonalities between them. In other cases we’re left with irreconcilable conflicts. The interesting thing here, though, is that there are no conflicting accounts. No other story takes credit or assigns blame for lycanthropy and related plagues.”

“That’s not definitive,” Hart said.

“But it’s suggestive,” Fenwick said. “Now, I should stress that the story involving The Claw That Corrupts refers only to true werecreatures who are distinct from those who can take on the shape of animals in other ways… such as Professor Hart’s beloved berserkers, or members of certain druidic sects. Sadly it is not at all uncommon for a human who happens to take the form of a wolf to be mistaken for a werewolf. True werebeasts can pass their condition on through a bite, have some degree of a lack of control over their shapeshifting, and assume the form of ‘dire’ creatures rather than natural ones.”

“On the subject of shapeshifting…” another student said. “I wonder about half-dragon shapeshifting. How does it work?”

“Well, now,” Professor Fenwick said, “I believe that Professor Hart has touched on an important truth when he said that a half-dragon truly is both dragon and person. A half-dragon has two natural forms. Whichever form one is born in, the other form will want to assert itself. Even those whose draconic parents have no natural shapeshifting talent may spontaneously shapeshift as they mature. As for the actual mechanism? It’s best to think of it as one life, one mind, occupying two different bodies.”

“So, does the other body exist in some kind of extraplanar space when it’s not being used?” the student asked.

“Oh, heavens, no,” the loremaster said. “Nothing like that. Nor can a half-dragon survive the death of ‘one’ body. The two bodies are one, in the manner of the dualistic or trinitarian gods that were in greater favor some millennia ago, or in the Universal conception of the relationship between Khersis Dei the god and Lord Khersis the man. Definitely two separate bodies. Definitely one unified one. It’s a difficult idea to grasp from within the framework that we exist in, I admit.”

Yeah, that idea seemed to take some getting around for a lot of the students. I dealt with it by accepting that I didn’t understand it, but I’d had some practice… my grandmother had been a staunch member of the Universal Temple of Khersis.

“So… would a half-dragon born to a dragon mother be born in dragon form?” was the next question.

“If the mother resumes her dragon form and lays an egg, then yes,” Fenwick said. “That has been known to happen. If she carried the pregnancy to term in the form of a human or elf, the offspring would be the same as a half-dragon born to a human or elven mother and a dragon father. The stories are not quite unanimous on this point, but it seems that some half-dragons who are ‘born dragons’ may be accepted by their kin as full dragons, though of a lesser caliber than their parents. At the very least they seem to have the option of ‘passing’ for a dragon.”

“So is that where lesser dragons come from?” another student asked.

“That seems unlikely,” Fenwick said. “Dragons of lesser ranks have always been more common than those of greater ranks, and one of the traits that distinguishes the greater ones is that shapeshifting abilities are more common among them. But the ranks of common dragons have certainly been bolstered by mixing with mortals… any non-great dragon who can assume a mortal form without powerful and difficult magic likely has a parent or ancestor of that mortal race.”

“If dragons don’t approve of hybrids, why do some of them mate with mortals in the first place?”

“Well,” Fenwick said, “while we don’t have anything like a census, it seems that more half-dragons were born during the era of the Fall than any time before or since… from that, we can infer that the intelligent dragons were also prey to their new bodies’ instincts.”

“But what about the ones born before and after? Why would there be any?”

“Well, there’s a danger in thinking of dragons as a monolith,” Fenwick said. He chuckled. “Though the resemblance can be uncanny, depending on the type of dragon and the angle from which it is viewed in repose… no, in all seriousness, to understand how this can be you must only think of any activity that your own society can be said to disapprove of, and then count all the examples of that activity you have witnessed, heard about, or performed in your own lifetime.”

“How exactly do we get the views of dragon society about that kind of thing?” another student asked.

“That’s an excellent question,” Fenwick said. “The thing is, ‘dragon society’ is perhaps something of a contradiction in terms. Even the most sociable dragon is a fairly solitary creature. Dragons covet the approval of other dragons, but they don’t tend to seek it… that is to say, dragons do as they please, but when they do something they think would garner the envy of their peers they crow about it. Thus, the culture of dragon consists largely of boasts… the written form of High Draconic, from which our own alphabet descends, was invented solely to disseminate news of grandiose claims and great feats farther and faster.”

“On the subject of grandiose claims, I think you might be overstepping a bit,” Hart said. “Dragons are some of the best record-keepers in the world. They’re basically nature’s accountants.”

“If you use a somewhat expansive definition of ‘nature’, perhaps,” Fenwick said.

“Okay, whatever,” Hart said. “My point is that records taken from dragon hoards… and, in some cases, copied by scribes who paid an exorbitant price for the privilege… give us accounts of things like the geography, weather, and population of their dragon hunting territories in minute detail. They don’t always mark time on a scale that’s convenient for building a timeline, and sometimes there are large gaps where the dragon might have been sleeping or absent, but dragons use their script for their own convenience often enough that it seems questionable that they invented language just to trade boasts.”

“Ah,” Fenwick said, “but before your well-heeled scribes took an interest, how often did these dragons share their records? Dragons do not, as a rule, think of posterity. They can plan for the long term… for extremely long terms… but in general, their viewpoint is on the here and now. The treasures they store aren’t being stored for future use, they’re being stored for the present and every present that follows. Likewise, the records are for the dragon’s own benefit. The practice of record-keeping may have arisen in isolation, that I’ll grant, but a shared language?”

“They could have brought it with them,” Hart said.

“From across the void?” Fenwick said. “It’s possible, assuming that dragons weren’t native to our sphere, but we’re still stuck with the same basic problem: why would a shared language have arisen if it wasn’t being used to communicate? Unless draconic nature was once fundamentally different, it seems likely to me that their script was created for boasting, not for bookkeeping.”

It seemed that Hart couldn’t find anything to fault in that logic.

“You see,” Fenwick said, with a hint of triumph twinkling in his eye, “we keepers of lore do not ‘uncritically’ pile up stories. It takes a degree of discernment to untangle the disparate threads of many knotty traditions and weave them together into a useful tapestry of knowledge.”

“Point to lore,” Hart said. He looked around the circle for a distraction, but no one was volunteering a question. His gaze fell on a girl. “You look like you’ve had something on your mind for a while now.”

“Um, yeah,” she said. “When we were talking about all the people with dragon blood born during the Fall. The ones who didn’t shapeshift… which I guess was all of them, during the Fall… but what distinguishes them, if they don’t show draconic appearances?”

“Well in some cases… particularly during the Fall… the draconic parent was known,” Fenwick said. “In later cases it was often only rumored, or inferred when those traits that will not be suppressed began to manifest themselves.”

“Here’s where we get into the area of history vs. lore again,” Hart said. “There’s not a lot of actual evidence for a lot of the so-called ‘dragonblooded heroes’. In the earlier Age of Heroes… also known as the Classical Age of Heroes… we saw this with figures who performed great feats and achieved far-reaching fame being acclaimed as descendants of various gods. The thing is that in most cases nobody had any idea about this lofty parentage when those heroes were alive. Is it possible that some heroic figures had divine blood that it took centuries for sharp-eyed storytellers to recognize? Sure. But I think in most cases, claiming divine blood or dragon blood is like claiming distant kinship to a king or emperor… it’s hard to prove anything either way, so it’s an easy way of puffing up one’s hereditary credentials.”

There was a possibility I hadn’t considered, regarding the question of Puddy’s ancestry… it was possible that she herself wasn’t making up the claim about having dragon blood but that it was still a lie all the same. Puddy’s family, the La Belles, seemed to be a Family with a capital F, the sort of people who didn’t just have ancestors but a lineage. But it also seemed they’d only risen to prominence a few centuries ago… might they not have concocted an illustrious and powerful ancestor further back to help cement their position?

The only problem with this theory was that they didn’t seem keen to advertise the mixing that had gone on inside their family. From Puddy’s account, they were still hushing up a dwarven ancestress even though having a small measure of dwarf blood had become slightly fashionable with the elevation of Magisterion XIII.

Still…

“Professor Hart?” I said.

“Yes?” he said.

“Given the Decree of Separate Halves, and the fact that dragon blood doesn’t really ‘mix’ with human blood the way elven and dwarven blood do… well, I don’t know if this is actually a history question, but I was wondering if it seems possible that a human family that would be loathe to admit to non-human blood might ‘puff itself up’ with dragon blood, as you put it,” I said. “Since it wouldn’t be seen to diminish their humanity.”

From the slim smile hiding within his bushy beard, I kind of suspected that he knew exactly what I was getting at. I didn’t know if he’d ever had a run-in with Puddy, but he’d butted heads with at least one of her innumerable cousins.

“Yes, it’s possible,” he said. “I won’t name names, but at least one of the first families of Prax is almost as infamous for its dubious claim of a dragon ancestor as they are for hushing up their dwarven blood.”

Well, that was one mystery solved, more or less. As Hart himself would say, it wasn’t definitive… but it did give something of an explanation.

I’d done my best to stop caring about Puddy over the course of the last year. Switching dorms meant that we were no longer living on top of each other, no longer moving in the same sphere. Still, it was hard to ignore an anomaly and there was much that was anomalous about Puddy Banks-La Belle.

There was a little voice in the back of my head that said that the rumored dragon blood might be more than a rumor, if Hall was right and dragon blood carried the potential for heroic feats. That would explain how Puddy was able to display such incredible strength intermittently… I’d assumed it had something to do with the chain of faerie gifts that seemed responsible for the La Belles’ elevation to the position of a “first family of Prax”, but there was no way to know for sure.

“So, if dragon blood doesn’t exactly mix,” I said, directing my attention to Fenwick, “then as it gets ‘bred out’ over the generations… would the recipients basically have lower potential for displays of the same levels of strength and power of their ‘purer’ ancestors?”

“In essence, yes,” Fenwick said. “The whole thing seems to get unpredictable over successive generations, but one way to look at it is that someone seven generations removed from a full-blooded dragon does not have one one-hundred-and-twenty-eighth of a dragon inside himself, but has a one in one-hundred-and-twenty-eight chance of manifesting some aspect of full dragonhood. That’s an oversimplification, obviously, but it conveys the general idea.”

“Still,” Hart added, “there’s are many other ways to come by the ‘greatness’ that gets chalked up to something like dragon blood. Durkon’s Hammer applies.”

“I believe applying Durkon’s Hammer would leave one to conclude that someone who displays strength or will or magical puissance equal to a dragon is most likely, in some measure, a dragon,” Fenwick said.

“Here’s the thing,” Hart said. “This whole idea of heroic traits coming from ‘hidden’ dragon blood comes in part from the notion that not all dragons are natural shapeshifters, right? But the other part is that dragon side is too strong to be denied.”

“Yes, hence the manifestation in great feats,” Fenwick said.

“But why in so many individuals is it just in great feats?” Hart said. “In every case where there is provable ancestry from dragons, it manifest physically. The most striking example is the Pelorians. Here we have part-humans, part-dragons who look for all the world like humanoid dragons. When the proportion of dragon blood is smaller, we get humans with dragon eyes, or with scaly-textured skins, or with claws or wings or horns.”

“Well, such accessories could be one way that the dragon blood shows itself,” Fenwick said. “That doesn’t mean that it’s the only one.”

“No, but I’m not aware of a documented case with a provable lineage to a dragon that doesn’t carry such markers,” Hart said.

“As you might say: that’s not definitive,” Fenwick said.

Even though Fenwick Hall had showed Hart up a bit on the matter of the draconic script, I was inclined to believe that Hart was on more solid footing here. Given the inherent power of dragons, it was natural that important and powerful people might claim a connection to them, or would have such a connection ascribed to them by those who came after… but given that power, it was hard to imagine it would be content to lie dormant and wait until a burst of epic heroism was needed. It seemed more likely that the blood would show itself somehow.

I kind of distracted for a while with the thought of Puddy and her obnoxious relatives all giving themselves away with scales or horns or something, and so I missed when the discussion first turned to a topic I’d been curious about. When my attention came back to the class, I noticed that Hart had stepped outside the circle and dragged a portable whiteboard over towards the edge of it. He was scrawling a very rough map on it.

“Okay,” he said, drawing a wavy mostly vertical line. “This is the east coast of Magisteria and the Westering Lands. Then across the ocean we have the Mother Isles… the Mother Isle itself, home of the Mother City, here kind of center-ish. Their empire became very spread out in the centuries after the Fall, but before that and increasingly today it was mostly concentrated in the islands and the areas of the mainland nearest to them to the east.”

He sketched that coast line even more vaguely than he had the Magisterian one.

“There’s a bunch of stuff in between, of course, but I’m not showing it. The first Pelorians, on the other hand, were born here… ish,” he said, sketching a bunch of little pointy peaks to the east of the coast. “About nine hundred miles inland, in the land-locked region of Pelorus, also called the Giant’s Fist because it’s where the great mountain chains get all bunched up. This whole area was rife with dragons of different colors, so it had always been contested territory.”

He sketched a bunch of dragons flying around the mountain, though they might as well have been a swarm of bats… or Ms and Ws.

“When the Fall came,” he continued, “all of a sudden they had other things on their mind… or at least, they had less ability to fight over huge swaths of land. So for seven hundred years, in this one region, there was something like a dragon society. And while there was a lot of mating among the trapped dragons themselves, some of them bred with actual mortals, and some of them bred with the offspring from those liaisons. So by the time the Fall ended, there was a whole population of thousands of people with more dragon blood than human.

“The ones who were mostly descended from greater dragons basically became dragons… a little more mortal in their sympathies, maybe, but basically dragons. But common dragons have always been more common than great ones, so a lot of them didn’t have any ability to shapeshift… and that draconic blood outed itself in a big way. Technically, anybody who’s from the Pelorus might be called a Pelorian… but no one actually identified as Pelorian before the Fall. It was contested territory in more ways than one, since it borders on practically everything that was considered important in continental life. The Fall created the first society that identified itself as ‘Pelorus-ian’, and today draconic humanoids are called Pelorians, even if their ancestors came from somewhere else entirely.

“Now, the Giant’s Fist was important to all the more easterly continental powers, and those in the Nigh-East and the Khazarus,” Hart continued. “But to the emperor on the throne in the Mother City, it might as well have been the ass-end of nowhere. It was only because the Pelorians began expanding west after the fall at the same time that the human empire was making serious inroads east, that they came into contact. If there hadn’t been hundreds of miles of land and then a bit of ocean between the two seats of power, we’d all be speaking Pelorian Draconic right now. The empire couldn’t field a force that could match the Pelorian foot soldiers, and they couldn’t defend any of the cities they held against aerial strikes powered by dragons.

“What we see in the Pelorian/Mother Isles conflict is an example of conquest through diplomacy. The old empire never stood and fought, after their initial engagements. They just made it very costly for the Pelorians to expand to the west. They torched cities, they blighted fields, they destroyed and trapped bridges and warded mountain passes. At the same time they made overtures to the ruling council in Pelorus. The Pelorians had power and they amassed wealth, but they didn’t have what we might call ‘the good life’. Remember, before the Fall, the ancestors of the Pelorians had been dragons squabbling over mountain fastnesses and people living in terror of the dragons. The Mother City had spent those same ages perfecting what we call the ‘Metropolitan way of life’… a way of life that was appealing to the powers-that-be in Pelorus. The fact that several Fallen dragons had sought protection by attaching themselves to the human empire helped, as they were able to speak glowingly about the comforts and conveniences of civilization found in the isles.

“Eventually, the two powers came to an accord. The Pelorian elite was welcomed into the Isles as if they were returning heroes rather than enemies. The Pelorian and human armies merged together and resumed conquering the space between them, from down here to the shore of the Ardan to the south,” he said, drawing the elongated arched coastline of that sea, “and to the north right up to the traditional boundaries of the Thyleans, who we aren’t talking about today, but who proved conquest-resistant.”

“Very rousingly told,” Fenwick said.

“Oh, sorry,” Hart said. “I guess I slipped into lecture mode.”

“It’s alright,” Fenwick said. “Early days, still… but I believe we should be wrapping this up.”

“Oh, right,” Hart said. “We still need to pick out a topic for Thursday.”

“Excellent,” Fenwick said. “Also, it’s a little late, but next time let’s get things started by having everyone introduce themselves. That might help foster discussion, as well as allowing us to take a proper roll. I know at least one student I expected is missing.”

“Not a bad idea,” Hart said. “So, class… what grabs your interest? It can spring from something we discussed here… or something we didn’t discuss, like, say, Thylean explorers.”


Boom! You know the drill by now… throw out requests/ideas for next class. After I pick it and before Thursday’s class I’ll make a separate discussion post for questions.


Help keep me 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: , ,
Corrections Submitted By: , Thank you! Credit goes to the first person to report a typo or error.





215 Responses to “Chapter 14: The Horns of History”

  1. Havartna says:

    An uncomfortable-for-Mack discussion surrounding the origin and influence of demons might be fun.

    Current score: 0

    • fka_luddite says:

      There doesn’t seem to be a decent hook to bring that in just yet, but certainly a good future topic.

      Current score: 0

      • Luke Licens says:

        “Other notorious breeds of half-kin and their effects on history” could connect those dots pretty easily. Plus we could get more details on demi-gods, too.

        Current score: 0

    • Morten says:

      “If the Fall of Dragons was reversed then how about the banishment of demons? And why aren’t half-demons important when half-dragons are very important?”

      Current score: 0

  2. Tovan says:

    I’m partial to learning more about the history of the mother isles and there importance in MU mythology.

    Current score: 0

  3. Dj Gilcrease says:

    I would like to hear more about the empire of Yokano and the Sunward Islands, the last chapter seemed to imply that the emperor was a dragon. So I would like to know a little more about their caste structure, the lore and currently accepted history

    Current score: 0

  4. Burnsidhe says:

    So, legally speaking… Mackenzie isn’t a half-demon. She’s both a human and a demon.
    That’s… awkward.

    Current score: 0

    • Riotllama says:

      No. Like Stef isn’t both an elf and a human. The law of separate halves seems to apply to beings that have shapeshifting ability.

      Current score: 0

      • Burnsidhe says:

        He also mentions “different orders”. A dragon is a “different order” than a human. A demon certainly seems to be a “different order” than a human.
        Even if it is mostly applied to shapeshifters, laws don’t only apply to the thing that specifically inspired them.

        Thinking about it a bit, this is probably a good thing for Mack. It means that, legally speaking, she cannot be treated solely as a demon, but rather as a human. It gives her some legal protections that would otherwise not be available.

        Current score: 0

        • Brenda says:

          I would think that if this law applied to Mackenzie and gave her protections, then she would be familiar with it. She’s mentioned “human blood, human soul” often enough, including when talking/thinking about her legal rights.

          Current score: 0

        • Leaving aside some of the assumptions you’ve made, it would never go that far as a legal question, because the more recent doctrine of “human blood, human soul” means that she has the same legal standing as a human anyway. That’s better than being legally a demon plus some other stuff.

          Current score: 0

          • Burnsidhe says:

            This is true.

            Current score: 0

          • erianaiel says:

            And the technicalities of the law separate halves apply in either case.
            Even without a =shape=shifting going on there is still the other shifting, that of behaviour. As long as Mackenzie -behaves- like a human she is (legally) considered to -be- a human. As soon as she shifts to do something demonic she is considere to -be- a demon (and promptly destroyed).

            I am not really all that familiar with how laws are created but that may well have been the logic that was used to convince those who did not agree with the ‘human soul’ part of the new doctrine.

            Current score: 0

  5. Riotllama says:

    I know where the Khazars lived, but I give up on the Ardan as… the African coast of the Mediterranean?
    Thylean settlements in Newfoundland! I mean Terra Nova.

    Current score: 0

    • cnic says:

      Since Ardan is to the south and the Arden Forest is similar in name to Ardan, I’d say its France. I would had guessed Romania because of the Ardan River but it doesn’t have a northern coast (south to the coast implies to me just reaching a north shore, although it could mean going through the country and reaching its south shore).

      Current score: 0

      • Kevin says:

        I figured Merovia was France.

        Current score: 0

        • Arakano says:

          Roughly based on France, yes. Similarly-named French dynasty, references to Merovian colonies that reminded me of French colonies in America… etc.

          I wonder what the Pelorians are based on, if anything. Only thing coming to mind was the Sikh being incorporated as elite soldiers of the British Raj after being the greatest threat to it at first… but that would be VERY loosely based-on. ;)

          Current score: 0

  6. Kiraya says:

    Mmm, I love the history/worldbuilding chapters so much.

    I like Hart, so I think I’m going to side with him and put in a vote for the Thyleans.

    Current score: 0

  7. Ducky says:

    Now I’d love to hear about the Thyleans.

    Current score: 0

    • cnic says:

      I agree. Fenwick had the advantage of having a popular subject, but Aaron’s was still very good. I’m glad we have the option to hear his topic after all.

      Current score: 0

  8. ISeeYou says:

    I’ll go with Thylean Explorers. We haven’t heard anything about the Thyleans that I can recall, so that would be interesting.

    And Ardan Coast as in the Coast of Arda from Nation States ala Jennifer Government?

    Current score: 0

    • Heard of it but never read it. I assume that he pinched the name from the same source I did.

      Current score: 0

    • erianaiel says:

      hmm. this Ardan coast is a tough question.
      One would expect a mountain range called the Giant’s Fist and being where all the mountain ranges bunch up to be the equivalent of the himalayas, but those are a bit more than 700 miles from the equivalent of the mother isles (that would point at the Alps, with the Pelorians being the Swiss ;))

      The only great rivers worth mentioning between those two are the Rhine (but I have never head anything that might explain it references to Arda) or the Danube (same thing). There is an Arda in Italy (but that is on the wrong side of the Alps to apply) and one in Thrace (Bulgary) but that is not much of a river to use as a landmark either.

      Of course on rereading the writing does not say it actually is the coast of a river, but only to ‘the coast of the Ardan’. That would indeed mean that it could mean the equivalent of the mediternean (the middle sea) (it still would be the wrong side of ‘lands between them’ as the Thylean lands are clearly refering to Norway and the Alps are between the Mediteranean and that).

      Still, my best guess would be that the Ardan refers to the Mediterenean Sea and that the name is derived from Tolkien’s Arda (middle earth). The phrase ‘the lands between them’ would have to be read figuratively rather than literally.

      Current score: 0

      • Still, my best guess would be that the Ardan refers to the Mediterenean Sea and that the name is derived from Tolkien’s Arda (middle earth).

        Got it. Though you missed that the story explicitly labels the Ardan as a sea. The other mistake you’re making in the rest is trying to relate everything to earth exactly. I realize I may be encouraging that by making a sea that stands in for the Mediterranean, but the play on “middle-earth” was too tempting to pass up. The Pelorus is not the Alps. It’s a mountainous region seven hundred some miles inland from the east coast of a continent in another world.

        Current score: 0

  9. Triof says:

    How about the split between light and dark (and grey if Mur-Si’s around) elves?

    Current score: 0

    • Zergonapal says:

      Interesting, but I rather suspect this is a subject that is moot and full of speculation as I’ve a feeling light elves would be reluctant to the point of homicide talking about it.
      But hey throw it out there, ultimately AE has the power of veto anyway..

      Current score: 0

    • fka_luddite says:

      Again, an interesting topic but not referenced from this session.

      Current score: 0

  10. Zathras IX says:

    After the Fall, Dragons
    Experienced the Winter
    Of their discontent

    Current score: 0

    • fka_luddite says:

      But I doubt any of them were known as York.

      Current score: 0

      • Arakano says:

        Nor was it ever turned glorious summer, was it? Well, maybe in a way…

        Current score: 0

  11. Zukira Phaera says:

    Ardan for some reason strikes me as “Amazon”

    Current score: 0

  12. DaManRando says:

    So the Pelorian’s sound, from your description of them to be the MUniverse equivalent of Dragonborn from D&D, yes?

    That being asked anyone who could stand up to the Mama Isles sounds interesting, put me down for the Thylean Explorers

    Current score: 0

    • Ding! Got it in one. The name’s even a reference… “Pelorus” is one of the five Spartoi of Greek myth, who were sometimes known as “the dragon-born”. Their origin (springing from the teeth of a slain dragon) is recalled in one of the mythical origins of Dragonborn in D&D (springing from the blood of a dragon god).

      Current score: 0

    • Kevin says:

      I always thought it was referring more to something akin to the Draconians of DragonLance. Though Dragonborn makes morfe sense looking at it, it just throws me that a rather mediocre optional supplement race has become so popular.

      Current score: 0

      • They’re a core race in the good edition they appeared in.

        Current score: 0

        • Sapphite says:

          [Edit] They’re a “good” core race in the second edition they appear in.[/Edit]

          Draconian parallel would be pretty interesting, but less unified than the Pelorians, and also quite evil.

          +1 for Thyleans, though I’ll admit it would be interesting to see Hart constantly try to raise the topic for a few sessions (or a semester).

          Current score: 0

  13. HiEv says:

    I’d kind of like to hear about the origins of the Nameless Emperor and why he’s “Nameless”. (And I bet there are some interesting guesses/claims/hypotheses about what his name is/was too.)

    Current score: 0

    • Jennifer says:

      Read “Her Imperial Majesty” for the answer to this one – Magesterian refers to him by name:

      “The Unnameable Emporors regnal name is, in fact *Khulrakh*, but one can’t call him that because a linguistic shift has rendered that name divine.”

      Current score: 1

  14. Tierhon says:

    I’m wondering what became of Mack’s local history day project from last year, and if anything interesting came from it. Also if lore provides a perspective that her research didn’t find.

    Current score: 0

    • Lunaroki says:

      Hmm… Tierhon makes a good point about that project. Similarly there was a wish assignment I recall that it would have been nice to find out the results of. Would be nice to have some of the dangling minor plot points like that wrapped up at some point.

      I think I’d like to hear more about the Thyleans now too. There’s loads of fun subjects that could be gone into, and I hope we get into a number of them, but for now I’d love to hear more about the Thyleans and what Hart has to say about them from the viewpoint of history.

      Also, Typo Report

      I kind of distracted for a while

      Seems like there’s a word missing in there, like “was” or “got” or maybe “became”. Some form of verb is definitely needed there.

      Current score: 0

      • Brenda says:

        Those would be fun bonus stories.

        Current score: 0

      • erianaiel says:

        *grins*

        To distract is a verb in its own right so ‘I distracted’ could be made to mean what was written here.

        Current score: 0

        • Rethic says:

          Yes, but she isn’t distracting someone else she is being/becoming/ect distracted. In this sentence distracted is a past participle needing a verb to preceed it.

          Current score: 0

  15. cnic says:

    Am I the only one that now pictures three green goblins oohing, “The Claw…”?

    Current score: 0

  16. Gordon says:

    I kind of want to hear more about Hart talked about in Volume One when he spoke about the breakdown between the empire and colonists and their encounters with the goblins.

    Or more interesting stories about attempted colonization and the stories they spawned.

    Current score: 0

    • cnic says:

      Your mention of volume one makes me think of Mack pressing her pet project. Maybe Fenwick has some juicy stories.

      Current score: 0

  17. Lesath says:

    Yeah, Thyleans. Poor Hart.

    Current score: 0

  18. Evalissa says:

    The conquest-resistant Thyleans peak my interests

    Current score: 0

    • Zergonapal says:

      Yes I think it would be a natural progression to talk about the Thyleans/Empire/Pelorian conflict, but can Hart start from that point or will he be starting from an earlier point in Thylean history and work towards that point?

      Current score: 0

  19. Cat says:

    I’m a bit curious about inheritance of draconic blood. Is dragon blood a dominant or recessive gene/trait? If you use Mendelian inheritance, could two half-dragons have a 25% chance of producing a full human?

    Current score: 0

    • Kevin says:

      Genetics sounds a bit too scientific for a world where science essentially does not function.

      Current score: 0

    • Burnsidhe says:

      The sense I get is that it’s a Platonic trait, in the sense that two half-dragons would produce another half-dragon, not a quarter dragon, a full human, or a full dragon.

      And a half-dragon mating with a full human would produce a quarter dragon.

      In short: Dragons and Demons and Celestials do not follow the rules of genetic inheritance as we know it.

      Current score: 0

    • arsenic says:

      For someone with both dragon and human blood, they have a 100% chance of essentially inheriting a “switch” that can flip from dragon to human and vice versa, like a light switch. So I guess you could think of the heritability of “switch” as being like a dominant version of hybrid vigor?

      Current score: 0

  20. Zathras IX says:

    Re the Ardan:

    The Ardennes (from the Dutch Ardennen) is a region of extensive forests, rolling hills and ridges formed within the Givetian (Devonian) Ardennes mountain range, primarily in Belgium and Luxembourg, but stretching into France and geologically into the Eifel. The Eifel range in Germany adjoins the Ardennes and is part of the same geological formation, although they are conventionally regarded as being two distinct areas.

    The strategic position of the Ardennes has made it a battleground for European powers for centuries. The region repeatedly changed hands during the early modern period, with parts or all of the Belgian Ardennes being incorporated into France, Germany, the Spanish Netherlands, the Austrian Netherlands and the United Kingdom of the Netherlands at various times. In the 20th Century, the Ardennes was widely thought unsuitable for large-scale military operations, due to its difficult terrain and narrow lines of communications. But, in both World War I and World War II, Germany successfully gambled on making a rapid passage through the Ardennes to attack a relatively lightly defended part of France. The Ardennes was the site of three major battles during the world wars: the Battle of the Ardennes in World War I, and the Battle of France and Battle of the Bulge in World War II. Many of the towns of the region were badly damaged during the two world wars.

    Current score: 0

    • Valiant effort, but no.

      So far everybody trying for this has consistently overlooked one key word.

      Current score: 0

      • Amelia says:

        Diamond? or fiery? Or passionate?

        All from ardent.

        ETA I’m assuming the Ardan itsef is a sea by the way, I could be horribly off.

        Current score: 0

  21. Peter says:

    I love the chapters where Mack is doing things.
    These chapters, I just skip over.

    If I had the feeling that it would strongly connect to the story in some way later, that there’d be some crucial point that comes out of it, I’d be interested, but it’s more like getting tidbits of slivers of backstory, with very little confidence that it will made to tie into the storyline. A recitation of this particular world’s history.

    And they last so long. Two and a half updates. Sigh. The entire class written out, where as in the fighting class, and the enchantment class, we don’t get every word spoken by the teachers. If this is really Mack’s journal, I’d love to get an explanation of her phenomenal memory

    Current score: 0

    • Brenda says:

      I think you’re in a minority here…

      Current score: 0

    • If this is really Mack’s journal

      What do you mean “if”? I don’t know how I can make it any more clear, canonically, that it’s not.

      If I had the feeling that it would strongly connect to the story in some way later, that there’d be some crucial point that comes out of it, I’d be interested, but it’s more like getting tidbits of slivers of backstory, with very little confidence that it will made to tie into the storyline

      This, ladies and gentlemen, is what we call an “informed opinion”: “I don’t read these chapters, but I assume they have nothing to do with anything.”

      Current score: 0

      • Peter says:

        I thought that the story was a continuation of the Journal Mack started when she was in therapy. Ok, it’s not, is this some other writing she’s doing when she’s relating the story? Is this a window into Mack’s head as she talks to herself? She’s talking in past tense, which makes me think that we’re sometime in the future, and she’s recalling the experiences.

        -And I meant to write “skim”, not “skip” , I do actually read all of what you write, just some of it much, much faster than other parts. and nope, I don’t “assume they have nothing to do with anything”

        -thanks for responding to my comments, I appreciate that you don’t edit them out.

        Current score: 0

        • I thought that the story was a continuation of the Journal Mack started when she was in therapy.

          *sigh* Everybody read the set-up, nobody paid attention to the punchline. At the end of the first volume wind-up, she said she stopped journaling and she confirmed to Steff at the start of this volume that she hasn’t taken it back up.

          Current score: 0

          • fka_luddite says:

            Also she noted that the “Journal” was short (I think it was “about 17 pages”).

            Current score: 0

          • Brenda says:

            Okay, I missed that part. Dang it!

            Current score: 0

          • Peter says:

            I think too much about logic. Mack is telling this in first person, using past tense, so my first question is always in these situations, “who is she telling this to?” In the first volume, we hear it’s her journal, (to some extent, but obviously not all, if she managed to squeeze it into 17 pages). When I hear her remember a lecture verbatim, it seems less real than when she summarizes highlights.

            I like first person, but it always seems to me that there should be a reason [i]why[/i] we know what’s going on inside her head.

            Current score: 0

            • You know, there’s a line between “I don’t like to read this sort of chapter” and “You shouldn’t write this sort of chapter”, and when you start talking about how illogical or unbelievable the chapters you don’t want to read are, you’re inching across that line.

              Please forgive if I’m not bowled over by the logic that apparently lets you accept quietly and without question any time that Mackenzie relates verbatim any number of conversations or events that take place outside of class but that compels you to speak up when she apparently recalls something that you’re not particularly interested in reading.

              In the first volume, we hear it’s her journal

              What? No, you didn’t. You heard nothing of the kind.

              You heard she kept a journal, for a little while, that filled 17 pages. 17 pages wouldn’t cover what happened in the 22 chapters that made up book 1, much less the 490+ chapters that made up the whole volume. There’d be five or six thousand pages if the story up to that point were bound and printed in a book. How do you squeeze that into 17 pages?

              She never said this was her journal, and in the very same story where she mentioned the journal she said, definitively, that she didn’t keep it up, which is as close to saying “By the way, this thing you’re reading? Not my journal!” as we could get without throwing out the 4th wall entirely.

              In fact, that’s the only reason I introduced a journal in the first place. It would have been really random for her to just throw out the fact that she doesn’t keep a journal, so I had her start one and then stop.

              I like first person, but it always seems to me that there should be a reason [i]why[/i] we know what’s going on inside her head.

              …and yet, stories that use a framing device like a journal but also has the sort of intimate narrative I’m telling here end up with all kinds of logical holes like the ones you’re talking about, which is why early on I rejected the idea of a framing device like a journal. I addressed the fact that she doesn’t keep a journal twice.

              Once in the story arc that somehow gave you the idea this is her journal, and when I realized that people were ignoring the fact that she said she wrote 17 pages and gave up, I repeated the fact that she’d given up journaling again in the first chapter of this volume… that wasn’t new information, or a contradiction of volume one. It was just repeating and confirming a line that some people apparently ignored or thought was a weird joke. Mackenzie doesn’t keep a journal. Story says this. Twice. She’s an unreliable narrator, yes, and she sometimes does things without realizing it but I swear to you she’s not absent-mindedly scribbling a six thousand page manuscript in the margin of her notebook while thinking about boobies.

              You’re reading what’s in her head because that’s the story. Would you be wondering where the words come from if it were third person? In a third person narrative you’re getting the words you would be hearing if a narrator were watching the events unfold, sometimes hearing people’s thoughts and knowing things that no one could see happening… but you don’t sit there going, “I think too much about logic. Someone is telling this story. Who are they? Where are they? Why can no one see them?” Even when the narrator is a character they usually end up knowing and relating things they couldn’t possibly know or see.

              Similarly, here you’re getting the story as Mackenzie would tell it. It’s the same as if there were a disembodied narrator, except the narrator is Mackenzie.

              Doesn’t mean that within the world of the story, she is telling anyone or anything the story. It’s just how the story is framed in prose.

              It’s unusual to actually consciously formulate a 1st person storytelling as purely hypothetical like this, but I find it more logical than the usual approach. Any criticism that you can apply to this notion applies equally well not just to most 1st person narratives, but to most 3rd person ones.

              Current score: 0

            • zeel says:

              “yes, and she sometimes does things without realizing it but I swear to you she’s not absent-mindedly scribbling a six thousand page manuscript in the margin of her notebook while thinking about boobies.”

              Funniest thing Iv’e heard all week.

              While I do have a tendency to ask “who the heck is this story being told to”? at least in my own mind, It makes little sense to actually assume it is being told to ANYONE. Thus there is no need for a logical reconciliation. There are famous works that make NO SENSE WHATSOEVER and they are still considered masterpieces. This is an amazingly well written, incredible story, and if it was written exactly according to any one persons (aside from the writers) perfect standards, it probably wouldn’t be half as good.

              Current score: 0

            • Peter says:

              I obviously can’t figure how to express my opinion clearly, it wasn’t my intent to push your buttons. I’ve been trying very hard to say “I can’t reconcile this in my head”, and not “It’s bad’. I’m sorry if I caused offence, I’ll stop commenting at all.

              Current score: 0

            • Lyssa says:

              Oh, don’t do that. Keep commenting. Just because you two have one disagreement doesn’t mean anything.

              Honestly, I find AE to be a very, very defensive person when she’s talking about her writing. She clearly did not read everything you wrote (her argument about how Mack couldn’t fit the first volume into 17 pages when you’d already addressed that confirms this). But…most authors don’t have people commenting on every single thing they write. There’s no way I could avoid getting defensive if someone were commenting on every page of my book-in-progress.

              So cut her some slack, and don’t pull completely away just because of one confrontation.

              Current score: 0

            • I don’t deny (and have many times admitted) that my buttons are big and easy to push, but I did in fact read everything that he wrote, including the thing about 17 pages. I just want to know how his supposed “too much logical thinking” led him to conclude that there’s any relationship between a 17 page handwritten document that the story said was started and abandoned, and a 5,000 page typed one (the 17 pages handwritten would likely be even fewer pages types) that is still ongoing, and he “addressed” jack and shit on that score.

              If he wants to elaborate on how his “logic” led him to conclude anything other than the idea that the journal can’t possibly be the story he’s reading, then he will have addressed it.

              Current score: 0

            • Lyssa says:

              Ah. I thought he’d addressed that bit when he said “obviously not all,” but I can see how that would be a vague way of putting it.

              I dunno. It was clear to me that this wasn’t her journal, but I guess I can see how some people might assume that she just picked it up again some time in the unknown future. But really, arguing about whether or not she did with the person who decided that she did not isn’t the best plan, and I can see how you’d get annoyed with it.

              Anyway, I look forward to tomorrow’s installment! :D

              Current score: 0

            • BMeph says:

              Psst. It’s science. Science isn’t magical. ;)

              Current score: 0

            • The place to reconcile things in your head is in your head, Peter.

              This? This place here? This is the place to tell other readers and the author what you think of the story. I’m not going to beg your indulgence for having mistaken your inner narrative for a comment on my story when it’s left as a comment on my story.

              Current score: 0

            • Peter says:

              I did say what I thought of the story. You’ve corrected others befor, gently, and with compassion. I’ve never asked you to beg anything, there was a part of the story I was confused about, and because there was something negative in my comment, you jumped on me. Really, if I had wrote “Wow, my favourite chapter ever, I love the world building, but I don’t get how this works, if it’s Mack’s journal, why is it word for word?”, -would you have been so intense about the whole thing? Or would you have been more tolerant?

              The jumping on me thing is not such a big deal, but you seem to keep reading more and more into something that was just my opinion on the chapter. You’ve stated your view of what I wrote as if it was the truth. You really thought I was begging your indulgence? When I write that I don’t get it, you really interpret that as me saying that I think that your logical development in the story is crap? You seem to have created a whole back story for me.

              It was a comment, and in case you don’t know, everything people write is part of their “inner narrative”. You know that, right?

              All the comments, it’s what’s going on in people’s heads written for you to read. You seem to think you have a right to insult me and sneer at me. Well, it’s your story, I guess you do.

              When you write:

              “Please forgive if I’m not bowled over by the logic that apparently lets you accept quietly and without question any time that Mackenzie relates verbatim any number of conversations or events that take place outside of class but that compels you to speak up when she apparently recalls something that you’re not particularly interested in reading.”

              I mean, frikin’ hell, why the vitriol? I create circus productions for a living, I get good feedback, bad feedback, -I just say “thank you”. After 25 years, I’ve learned that most of the comments are uninformed, I don’t let it bug me anymore, If I don’t want comments, I don’t go out after a show and say “Hi, what did you think of the show?”
              You’ve created a forum for people to comment, by these reactions, you’re making sure that you only get good comments. Sorry. I obviously retract my “I’m not going to comment, comment, (Hah!) – and I do, and have written very many positive things about your work.

              By all means, attack anyone who has a negative comment, or like me, had no clue what was going on. Sure, I screwed up on the journal concept, go ahead and use all your writing skill to crush me like the worm I am. It won’t destroy me, but anybody who’s say, 19, 20, and reading your work, and loves it, and takes the chance to say something negative at the wrong time, well, it will hurt them.

              Current score: 0

            • The fact that you are still here and that I’m sitting here getting increasingly ticked off by your continued bullshit tells you just how much I do not prevent negative comments. If I wanted to only receive positive comments I would have deleted your first negative comment, blocked your happy ass, and went on my way. And I would have had a fun and productive day writing instead of getting all worked up wondering how this guy who can apparently read and string together words managed to decide that my story told him Mackenzie keeps a journal.

              Current score: 0

            • Peter says:

              AlexandraErin says:
              May 17, 2011 at 1:12 am (v.2)

              -well, that was an interesting edit. Other people were confused as well. Read the comment where I realize that I was wrong.

              Current score: 0

            • Peter says:

              Trying to reply to: AlexandraErin says:
              May 17, 2011 at 1:12 am
              -the comments only go so deep before the reply option stops showing up, so I’m replying to you to myself. (?)

              “Your logic that says that because I have a comment box you can say whatever you want extends in both directions, don’t you think?

              Of course, if there’s an open comment box, I can write whatever I want, -what stays up is your decision. Of course it extends in both directions.

              “…I think a big part of what’s happened here stems from your idea that a comment box entitles you to something. ”

              Nope, – and this is what I hate about this exchange. I don’t think, not for a second that I’m “entitled” to anything. I’m [i]permitted[/i] to comment. You’ve done this several times, you’ve put motives and characterizations on me that don’t exist. I comment because I can, and you haven’t cut me off, and thank you for that.

              “Everything a person writes is part of their inner narrative, Peter, but not every part of your inner narrative needs to be written down and shared with me. ”

              uh, well, duh. But since your definition of what pisses you off is things that piss you off (which I think is a perfectly valid definition), there’s no way to judge what part of my “inner narrative”, (and again, your words for it, not mine), you will or won’t think is worth sharing.

              “How inadequate do you think I feel, having twice written that Mackenzie doesn’t have a journal and having someone tell me that logically the story is saying that she does?”

              No I didn’t say that. I don’t know what you’re doing unless you’re trying to show me what it’s like to have somebody not read your words, and put their own meaning into what you’ve said. It’s frustrating, but for me, the worst part is that you seem to get more pissed off, and you’re interpreting all my words from a viewpoint that I’m a jerk.

              And please read the “you seem to” part. I’m saying [i] this is what I see [/i] NOT “this is what you’re doing “.

              I’m saying “this is what your world seems to me” not “this is what your world is”

              I’m saying “these are questions I have” not “these are questions you must answer.

              I’m saying “this is my comment about your work” NOT “this is who I think you are”

              And nope, sarcasm and vitriol are not compassion. You might be restraining yourself, – I have no clue why.

              I’ve often been sneered at by people telling me that my art is “commercial”. Well, me and my commercial art were invited to Long Beach to be the featured entertainment at the 2011 TED Conference grand party. I met the artists behind War Horse, who liked my work. I got back to Vancouver, people still said I was commercial. Well, yeah, maybe, from some viewpoints, but I do realllly cool stuff.

              I read your blog post. I also read the link to Rosanne Barr, which I haven’t seen before, and which I loved.

              Current score: 0

            • Peter says:

              In case this seems confusing, I’m replying to a comment that was heavily edited.

              Current score: 0

            • Helge says:

              Alexandra, I don’t wish to prod a sore spot, but I think the OP was complaining that this info-dump was too long and too detailed. I’m thinking your treatment of what’s essentially a DnD world’s back story is often quite clever, but I can’t help but wonder if this stuff should be part of the main thread of the story.

              Sure, Mack’s going to class and learning stuff, but are we really going to be sitting through all of her classes in complete detail? Or is that only going to happen when what she learns will matter later? How will it affect her relationship to her friends, her father, and her grandmother? How will it matter to her own survival in the face of some known threats, as well as a few that are mostly guessed at? Isn’t that what the story is about?

              As readers, we pretty much have to trust you to tell your story (or go read something else). But you are inviting comments, so this comment is mostly, “I hope the slog through all that was worth it!” ^_^

              Current score: 0

            • Alexandra, I don’t wish to prod a sore spot

              And yet you keep going. Why? Why did this seem like a good idea? Reading this opening, I have to imagine that you have noticed something important, something that escaped my attention and so you’ve taken great risk upon yourself of alienating me or irritating me in order to bring it to my attention.

              Thank you. Thank you for your brave sacrifice.

              Now I will read on and see what important message you felt compelled to deliver to me.

              but I think the OP was complaining that this info-dump was too long and too detailed

              Um… yeah.

              I kind of already noticed that.

              Thanks all the same.

              Since you did me such a solid, I’ll do you one in return: if you keep seeing chapters that don’t seem to fit in a story that’s about x, it’s probably not actually a story about x that you’re reading.

              Current score: 0

            • Arakano says:

              I have learned to trust AE to be a good author and write a good story. Where there times when one chapter did not appeal to me quite as much as another one? Well, yes. But I also did not love every part of the Silmarillion or the LOTR equally, yet I still vigorously love and defend and re-read these books. And even if I COULD, retroactively, I think and hope I would never have bothered Tolkien with how his latest chapter was not ALL awesome as the others, and suggest stuff about it not borne out by the text (and btw, for all his politeness, Tolkien really went hard on people misrepresenting his work or going against his word when interpreting it, let me tell you!)

              I have to say, the way the volume-2 “restart” has gone has utterly confirmed my trust. If G.R.R. Martin is just close to that good in “catching up” pace when needed as AE, I shall rejoice in Dance of Dragons, let me tell you!
              Why am I writing this lengthy comment instead of going to bed as I should? I dunno. I think mostly to show that not only negative feedback could be long, repetitive and wordy? *blush*

              And yes, I compared AE to both Tolkien and Martin. Not for stylistic similarities or anything, but because those two are the only authors writing about fantasy worlds with magic that I enjoy as much as ToMU. ;)

              Current score: 0

            • Brenda says:

              You should check out Elizabeth Moon’s “The Deed of Paksenarrion.”

              Current score: 0

            • Burnsidhe says:

              This is not whatever kind of story you’re thinking of. It’s not a story that can be pigeonholed into one genre or style or another.

              This is not a fantasy novel. This is not a milieu story (though it’s close). This is not a drama. It’s not a comedy. This is not written in the style of a journal. It’s not written in the style of a newspaper.

              The single closest category that could *possibly* apply is a first person narrative present tense autobiography.

              This is the story of Mackenzie’s college life as she is living it. Why is this so hard for people to understand?

              Current score: 0

            • Thanks for posting that, because now I am greatly amused to think of it as being “milieu-ish”.

              Current score: 0

            • Burnsidhe says:

              Yay! :) My work here is done.

              Current score: 0

            • machinarabbit says:

              Honestly? I’ve always kinda assumed the story was being told to me. I’ve been a bit of a writer (journalism and table top rpg storyteller) for a long time, and this feels like someone telling their life story (or some approximation) to a biographer. That’s the way I see it anyway.

              Current score: 0

            • fka_luddite says:

              AE,
              To visit a lighter note (I hope), in answer to your query “How do you squeeze that into 17 pages?”
              Using a very, very efficient system of shorthand.

              Current score: 0

    • John says:

      I think Peter is a bit harsh here, but this is a lot of exposition all at once. Interactions between historical figures and populations is interesting, but it feels like an interesting lecture rather than an interesting story.

      Current score: 0

      • Dragonus45 says:

        True, but considering the solid world building is just about the biggest and best part of the series the exposition is more than welcome to me.

        Current score: 0

        • Peter says:

          I love the world building, but I love it far more when it’s not a two-and-a-half update lecture.
          I love stories that give us clues and hints, – this one does much of that, and I love it when it does. I don’t like the lecturing.
          I love books that drop me into a world, and I have to spend several chapters trying to understand the logic behind it all, and then when it clicks, it’s beautiful. Joan D. Vinge’s “Mother, and Child” is a wonderful example

          Current score: 0

          • Lyssa says:

            I agree. It’s more enjoyable when it’s woven through the story itself than when it’s handled in this format, but at the same time…Mack is very interested in history. It makes sense that she’d take a class like this, and since so many readers do like the format, it makes sense that it’d be done this way. Those of us who don’t like it so much probably enjoy the hell out of things that other bits of the readership loathe.

            Current score: 0

            • zeel says:

              I totally disagree. The only way this could have been better is if it was a magic related class, rather than history. but either way I can’t get enough.

              (more lectures please. . .)

              Current score: 0

          • It would have only been two updates (or one and a half, I’m not sure how you’re counting here) updates, but I got exhausted before I could finish what I had planned Monday/Tuesday’s update and the absolutely essential plot points contained in this chapter would have been left unsaid. I could have shoehorned them into the very beginning of the next chapter right before Mackenzie leaves this class, but then they’d be kind of bald and obvious. So I decided to find out what readers wanted to hear and use that for what some people will no doubt call “filler” or “padding”, but what others consider to be the main story and the reason they’re here, and what I (and hopefully some readers) feel is just another part of the story.

            The end result is that there are a few thousand more words of exposition on the general subject than there would have been and it spans another update, but the “extra” stuff is addressing points that readers specifically wanted to hear.

            Obviously it’s not making every reader happy, but pleasing every reader with every chapter has never been my goal.

            All of which is to say:

            1. No, I don’t plan on having any more three-chapter-lectures in the future.
            2. But I didn’t plan on having this one, and yet it happened, so… caveat read-or.
            3. I’m going to continue to expand on world-building through lectures and also by hints and clues, because I love doing that and I love the feeling of putting out the pieces of a puzzle so that they can fall together later and click for someone. It’s a wonderful thing. But I don’t see it as an either/or thing.

            Current score: 0

            • BMeph says:

              Ooh, my pedant senses are tingling…

              “Caveat lector”

              Aaaaaand, if you’re into Thomas Harris, you could even say,
              “Caveat Hannibal Lector!”
              :D

              Current score: 0

      • It’s the story of an interesting lecture. Given that the overall story is about a student going to school, I have to say that it beats the alternative, that being stories of dull lectures.

        Current score: 0

    • Lyssa says:

      I’m not very fond of them myself, since they are so drawn out and a bit dull to read, but I read them anyway for that exact reason. I assume that they have useful information that I’ll want to have known later on down the road. Besides that, the information itself is interesting, just not the delivery.

      Current score: 0

  22. Brenda says:

    I noticed a few typos.

    “Good question, though,” Hart said to the guy who’d asked…

    “I have a question for Professor… uh… Hall, I think?” she said. She was looking at him.

    (Either the student switched genders mid-lecture, or Hall is talking to another student, but there’s no indication it’s a different person except the pronoun change.)

    “In every case where there is provable ancestry from dragons, it manifest physically.

    (manifests?)

    I kind of distracted for a while with the thought of Puddy

    (“Something is not right…”
    - Miss Clavell)

    Current score: 0

    • Whoops. That is a different student. It made more sense before I moved things around… I pushed her question up closer to the “top” to get the teachers called by more distinct names earlier on in the story.

      Current score: 0

  23. bangle says:

    Thylean explorers please.

    Current score: 0

  24. Burnsidhe says:

    Giant’s Fist sounds like the Alps.. or the Caucasus. Which would make the Ardan the region bordering on the Black Sea, roughly.
    And one old name for the Caucasus is the Ardan from what my limited searching has discovered.

    Current score: 0

    • estelendur says:

      700 miles inland would make it the Alps rather than the Caucasus, I feel like. I’m here assuming that the Mother Isle is Great Britain. (I’m new to these here comments, but if it’s Earth geography…) Also in that case “hundreds of miles of land and then a bit of sea” != the other side of the Black Sea.

      Current score: 0

  25. Shade says:

    Ardan… Well, my first thought was Australia. Then I read the “hint” on twitter, and I thought “Jersey? No, that’s silly.”

    Current score: 0

  26. Leesai says:

    I vote for either the Thyleans, or Demons… perhaps something including Mack’s father, even though nobody but her realizes that the demon in question *is* her father?

    Current score: 0

  27. valentino says:

    i cant remember did we ever find out what race twyla was? if not i wonder if she is a dragonblood? i vote thylean exploration this time

    Current score: 0

    • Zukira Phaera says:

      had that spring to mind too while reading this chapter

      Current score: 0

    • cnic says:

      I was thinking the exact thing when I read it as well. I love how there are easter eggs like that in the story. Just like a got a nice laugh out of the linguistic fun of Catholic and Universal.

      Current score: 0

  28. Angnor says:

    I like Triof’s suggestion. The dark/light elf split.

    Great chapter!

    Current score: 0

  29. Vanessa says:

    Did no one catch the big hint that Twyla, the girl with horns might have dragon blood in her! There’s the horns, which we know don’t come from demons, and then she accidentally set a table on fire.
    I’m thinking someone’s coming into their draconic nature. I’m just wondering, if I’m right, how that would change her personality. In the last book she seemed a very big pushover. I am also wondering (again if I’m right about this), how Embries will take having another dragon in his territory, or if he already knew about Twyla and is planning something.

    Current score: 0

    • Amelia says:

      I actually thought some nasty piece of work had done the table burning to spite the presumed demon.
      I’ll have to re-read that now.
      Oh the things I must endure :)

      Current score: 0

    • Brenda says:

      Okay, I like this possibility!

      Current score: 0

    • BMeph says:

      Maybe she’s an Expy of the Star Wars character, and she’s becoming a Jedi? ;þ

      Current score: 0

  30. Jon says:

    Demons impact in lore and history.

    Current score: 0

  31. Saru-Sama says:

    Great Chapter Thanks. As for the Ardan, ….
    I’m assuming the Ardan is a sea especially since Hart drew it on the board.

    “shore of the Ardan to the south,” he said, drawing the elongated arched coastline of that sea,”

    I’ts got a long arched coastline to the south so I’m going to assume its in the same space as the Meditteranean in our Universe. As to the name Adran I really don’t have a clue. Anyway those are my assumptions/quesses.

    Also I vote for the Thylean Explorers/anything about the Thyleans as well

    Current score: 0

  32. Sylvan says:

    I’d like to hear more about the Chaos War(s?) and the Shift. What do the people of the MUniverse know about the Planes? Is the chaos war spilling over into this part o’ tha Prime something similar to the Blood War spilling out into the infinite planes in old school D&D?

    Current score: 0

    • Morten says:

      I think the Chaos Wars were more like a world war or a cold war with orcs (Africa?) and nations from the Shift on one side and the Mother Isles and the Magisterion Empire on the other side.
      But I’m not sure.

      Current score: 0

      • with orcs (Africa?)

        Whaaaaaaaat?

        No.

        Has Africa ever within the scope of modern history had the capability of making war on the “western” European world? Did a horde of Africans ever overrun England and Europe, looting and pillaging the settlements of white people? I missed that in my history class.

        Was Africa an aggressor in one of the World Wars? Were they America’s nemesis in the Cold War?

        If not, then where did you get this idea? Why do you feel the need to take a whole continent that has traditionally been populated with a single “race” (according to the most prevalent modern racial theory) of human beings and guess that the standard fantasy stock “savage brute minion” race is standing in for them?

        I realize that I have not been diligent in showing humans of color in any significant numbers, but there have been dark-skinned humans in the story. No one is standing in for them.

        Orcs are orcs. They’re in the MU world because they’re a “standard” post-Tolkien/D&D fantasy race. They’re not there to stand in for anyone or to say anything about anyone. They’re orcs.

        Edit: Well, actually, they did somewhat act as historical “stand ins” in one case… in the same way that the Mother Isles parallels the British Isles and old Rome, the orcs who were said to have invaded their territory in a previous class could be seen to parallel the Germanic “barbarian” tribes who repeatedly invaded the British Isles and Rome. Germans. You know, white people from the heart of Europe.

        They also played a similar role in Magisterion’s War, being the foreign mercenaries employed by the emperor of the Mother Isles to help put down the revolution. In the real world situation this paralleled, the people imported from Africa weren’t mercenaries being brought in to put down the rebellion, they were slaves being used by the very people who were rebelling for freedom.

        Who were the mercenaries in the real world? Hessians. Again, Germans.

        Not that orcs are Germanic warriors, any more than Dwarves are tiny Germanic craftsmen who live underground and keep secrets or Elves are immortal Greeks who live in the woods or the Imperial Republic is the United States and the Mother Isles really is the United Kingdom. The fact that there are references and parallels to the real world isn’t me winking out from the page to try to let everyone know that this is taking place in a carbon copy of the real world with the serial numbers filed off.

        Current score: 0

        • fka_luddite says:

          While it is pre-modern, I’ll point to the Moorish conquest of Iberia.

          Current score: 0

          • I almost mentioned the Moors in my post, but I left them out in the interest of brevity. That’s an example of people from Africa conquering a part of Europe, but it really doesn’t fit the “orc” model of a savage barbarian horde. No one who equates fantasy orcs with people from Africa or other people who have been stereotyped as sub-human primitive savages throughout history is doing so because they look at the Moors moving into Spain and bringing in their government and architecture and culture and so on.

            Edit To Add:

            Also, this isn’t to you specifically, but I’m not really looking to have a debate about whether or not Orclandia:Africa is a valid historical comparison or not. So proceed with extreme caution. How extreme? So extreme it appears to the unobservant eye that you are not proceeding at all. Now that Moors have been brought up and acknowledged as being an example of dark-skinned people from Africa who engaged in conquest in Europe, there is no possible way to defend this comparison (even “hypothetically” or “playing Devil’s Advocate”) that is not directly advocating a racist idea. Doing it “hypothetically” doesn’t change what you’re doing, and in this case “Devil’s Advocate” is an apt phrase because you’re making yourself a champion for a very evil and pernicious force in the world.

            I mean, look at this. Unexamined, unrepentant racial bias being promulgated under the guise of science. Black women have to deal with the fact that there is a man alleged by his diploma to be a scientist studying why they’re so “ugly” compared to other races. This is the world we live in, and in this world there is no “innocent” way to compare fantasy orcs to real-world Africans… heck, even using orcs in fantasy is fraught with peril due to their traditional depictions relying on “primitive” racial tropes and the racist undertones (and overtones, and tones) of Tolkien’s original writings and D&D.

            Current score: 0

            • Havartna says:

              Indeed. Also, as non-precise as the term “Moor” is, one would be hard pressed to utilize the term “barbaric” in conjunction with it. If the medieval (and earlier) Moors were barbaric, what would that make the Europeans of the same time frame? If I recall my history correctly, the Moors were arguably more “civilized” than the comparable Europeans in many ways.

              It’s terribly depressing to think that we (as a species) are still hung up on something as inconsequential as the color of a person’s skin.

              Current score: 0

            • erianaiel says:

              The early muslim countries (centered around Bagdad no less) was probably the most enlightened and scientifically advanced region in the world at its time. They were very far removed from being barbaric, and that label would have been much easier applied to the majority of european cultures (or to the russian steppe nations that repeatedly invaded the middle east region (and made a few succesful forays into europe as well) until they pretty much cracked under the pressure).

              Current score: 0

            • Arakano says:

              Byzantium might have been the only rival to the Caliphate in terms of civilisation at the time, I guess. Though I confess openly that I am somewhat ignorant regarding other cultures less close to Europe, say, the Indian or Chinese ones at the time, or Ethiopeia, or the Sub-Saharan kingdoms… Native Americans, too, little idea what went on there 700something AD…

              Current score: 0

            • Morten says:

              I picked Africa because it is a separate continent and I associate it with steppes and savannahs while I associate South America with mountains and forests. Maybe also because of the prejudice there seems to be against orcs in your story.

              Dammit – now I violated your request not to reply. Delete and edit at will. Your site.

              Current score: 0

          • BMeph says:

            I’ll point out first, that the Moors, like Berbers, are Arabs, and thus not so much African as (south-western) Asian.

            Now, I’ll raise you a few more:

            Hannibal (not Lecter) – Phoenician. Also from the region now referred to in current PC bureaucratic-speak as “Southwest Asia”.

            Huns – Central Asia

            Turks – Central Asia

            Strange, I keep mentioning peoples from Asia, not Africa. “I must be mistaken.”

            (Full Disclosure: BMeph occasionally refers to himself as an “Argenti-American”.)

            Current score: 0

        • Arakano says:

          Jup, got the Orcs=roughly based on Germans notion. Then again, I AM German. :D
          I kinda liked the idea of the view of Orcs on lawyers, respecting them and all, considering how German culture in early modern times had a great respect for rule of law, but I figure that would be taking the equation too far. ;)

          Current score: 0

  33. brandon says:

    Has elvish culture affected things now

    Current score: 0

  34. Jazzman says:

    I’d really like to hear more about the Chaos Wars, plus I think it’d be awesome if some random fact allowed Mack to identify Callahan’s participation in it! :)

    Current score: 0

  35. Marx says:

    Idea/Suggestion for next topic: Dwarven Bonesmiths.

    Current score: 0

  36. Imrix says:

    I say give Hart his day and let him talk about the Thyleans.

    Current score: 0

  37. The Dark Master says:

    Could we maybe get a differentiation between the world building chapters and chapters with Mackenzie’s other activities? I really like the way these shenanigans between Aaron Hart (sigh) and Fenwick Hall, but this class almost feels like it could be a separate story onto itself. The two have very distinctive feels and I find its easier to read them when I know which sort of story I’m going to read.

    Current score: 0

    • If you didn’t know at the start of this chapter that you were going to get a bunch of world-building exposition, I don’t know what would have conveyed it.

      Current score: 0

  38. Schulze says:

    Man, could someone please make an actual map? It gets more and more confusing. :D

    Current score: 0

  39. Month says:

    Pelorus is, in Greek, Πελώριος. Meaning huge, giagantic, etc, etc. So when they say Giant’s Fist, as in the region, they say the same thing. So we can tell two things from that. Either the territory is huge, or that some inhabitants are of the… tall, boulderish kind.

    The third option, one that seems to fit better since the term Pelorians was used after the fall, is that the inhabitants there were truly powerful and not to be trifled with.

    Current score: 0

    • It was called Pelorus before the Fall. It’s just that nobody there identified as Pelorians before… they all had their individual tribes/nations as it was a border region. The story actually explains why it’s called the Giant’s Fist, in the same sentence where the name is introduced.

      Current score: 0

  40. Iason says:

    Nothing better than getting up, make a cup of tea and read an engaging chapter of MU. Thank you for that.

    I’m liking the fact that there isn’t an actual map to look at. The MU world seems all the more vast and full of potential for it.

    Current score: 0

  41. Iain, Majoring in Elemental and Divine studies says:

    I would be interested in how much the creation and world-mechanic myths of the various cultures are compared to find shared truths about the world. It would probably lend more to Professor Fenwick, but Hart could come in with records of when different peoples tried to make sense of the world.

    Did that make sense? It’s late over here in the Antipodes ;)

    Current score: 0

  42. Kallio says:

    The Ardan presumably corresponds (more-or-less) to our world’s Mediterranean Sea, a sea with an elongated, arched northern coast. Arda was the name of the Earth of Tolkien’s legendarium, including Middle-earth and other areas. Mediterranean translates literally to ‘of the middle the world’, that is, ‘Middle-earth.’ So it’s a Middle-earth pun, right?

    I’m a little confused, though, because it says “The Pelorian and human armies merged together and resumed conquering the space between them”, but the Mediterranean isn’t really between the Alps and the United Kingdom, it’s more sort of south and east of both. I mean, Pelorus is the Alps, right? Being a major mountain range 700-ish miles from the Isles and all, I’m assuming the Alps, but…

    Probably I just need to stop imagining ToMU-Earth as having geography exactly corresponding to Real-Earth, right?

    Current score: 0

    • Month says:

      The Alps are between Italy and France, or at least a part of them, so they are more of a barrier between, Italy and the Balkans, and central Europe (France, Germany).

      Current score: 0

    • erianaiel says:

      There obviously are some similarities, but there also are differences. E.g. The Empire seems to refer to the British Empire, but the location of ‘the Mother Isles’ does correspond with Great Brittain only in part. Especially in today’s chapter which places a bit of -ocean- between Pelorus and the Empire. This suggests it more resembles the mythical Albion than the actual Great Brittain as the former had some magical islands to the west of it (that were not the Americas).

      Then again, we have what is clearly a non-euclidian geography of the world (e.g. the maze, and the forest that the MU borders on covers only about a quarter of the four provinces it stradles but is rumoured to be at least as big from the inside from the inside as the entire continent). There is no reason that the same principle could not apply to other parts of the world. The Mother Isles could contain islands, even a continent, that can only be reached from inside the more tangible islands but that can not be mapped from the outside.

      Current score: 0

    • Probably I just need to stop imagining ToMU-Earth as having geography exactly corresponding to Real-Earth, right?

      Yes. I realize I’m slightly furthering that misconception by relating the Ardan to the Mediterranean, but Pelorus is not meant to stand in for the Alps. Geopolitically it would be similar to the Balkan Mountains or the Caucasus. I used a shorter distance because travel (and military expansion) is more perilous in the MU world, so relative distances mean more.

      And I feel like you (and some other geographical interpreters) kind of overlooking some key points of Hart’s description. He doesn’t say they conquered the space between them including the Ardan. He says they conquered the space between them, extending as far down to the north shore of the Ardan. If you took a mountain on the same longitude as the Alps and some islands in the general vicinity of Britain and you look at the space between them… yes, you could extend from that space down south to the north shore of the Mediterranean.

      Current score: 0

  43. Maahes0 says:

    I wish Mack had interjected in the conversation about dragon traits on Hart’s behalf. She could have pointed out that she has super strength, magic protected skin and could if she wanted to breath fire; and that she most definitely does not have dragon blood.

    As for topics, I like the Thyleans as well.

    Current score: 0

    • erianaiel says:

      I do think that Mackenzie is right not to draw attention to herself, especially not when it comes to her part demonic nature. There are at least three people at the university that rather would prefer to kill her (though only two of them do so because of her demonic parentage). Outside the university there is one person who offers an insane amount of money to enslave her, and some of the stories she heard would (or at the very least should) have warned her about how little that ‘human soul’ protection really means when it comes to her. I am refering to how casually the boys born out of a demon rampage were killed for being ‘inconvenient’ despite laws being in place that should protect their lives, not to mention that four girls born out of that rampage were summarily sold to a known slaver when the Khersian institution that was supposed to care for them needed money. Mackenzie’s own grandmother made it abundantly clear that she would have killed her if not for the fact that she was too ‘weak’ to murder her because she resembled her daughter. Her plan for Mackenzie was to lock her up in the same type of institution as that sold the four half demon girls to Mercy. For the rest of eternity, or until somebody came along who would offer enough for a half demon slave to make it worth their forging the enslavement documents.

      It also makes it abundently clear that Mackenzie will have to fight for her life sooner (rather than later) and that she better have an ironclad aliby (or a very secure place to hide while her lawyers sort out the situation before somebody from Law or some zealot decides to go for the summary ‘destruction of the obviously dangerous demonkind’

      Current score: 0

      • Barnowl says:

        Good point about the laws. I wonder if the laws are different in the place Mur-si’s half demons came from (it was overseas)?

        Current score: 0

    • fka_luddite says:

      [enter sarcasm mode]Yeah. That sounds just like Mack.[/enter sarcasm mode]

      Current score: 0

  44. Greg says:

    I think it would be really awesome to have a discussion on the history of magic and the mythology of science.

    Current score: 0

  45. Erm says:

    While there are a lot of interesting topics I hope will get covered in future chapters, for now I’d like to hear about the Thyleans since it sounds like Hart has an interesting lesson prepared.

    Current score: 0

  46. erianaiel says:

    Not a subject for -this- class, but something that Mackenzie needs to have an answer to soon: What reason could a demon have to pursue the birth of halfbreed children, daughters in particular.
    She can not trust the answers her father would give for obvious reason, and I think she should avoid the attention of Law at all costs as well (they do strike me as the type to ‘kill first and then make the witnesses disappear’).
    It is not something that history has likely anything to say about (they at best could produce and estimate how many tens of thousands people were executed for having real or imagined demon tainted blood). But perhaps lore has something useful for Mackenzie here.

    Current score: 0

  47. Jani says:

    I vote for demons in general, and their origins and conflict with humans in specific (with maybe a side order of half demon lore).

    Current score: 0

  48. Barnowl says:

    “In which Mackenzie misses the obvious”…OK, what do y’all think she’s missed? Is it Twyla, as Vanessa pointed out? Or something about Puddy?

    Current score: 0

    • Barnowl says:

      Could it be…maybe the LaBelle dragon ancestry is NOT bullshit after all? and maybe Puddy and Embries are related! ouch.

      Current score: 0

      • Burnsidhe says:

        No, she got that implication and muses about it a little, right before the discussion on geography.

        Current score: 0

      • Zukira Phaera says:

        she got the bit about Puddy, I’m more inclined to think she totally missed the link to Twyla.

        Current score: 0

  49. Glenn says:

    I’d like to know more about the history and lore of the Gods, particularly the mysterious God that Steff worships.

    Current score: 0

    • Thanks for saying so… more detail on Steff’s Arkhanos-worship is something I can work into the main story even if it doesn’t end up a class topic.

      Current score: 0

  50. kawaiidesulol says:

    Demons, specifically Mack Daddy’s retroactive influence. Or just demons, if we can’t go that far.

    Current score: 0

  51. Potatohead says:

    I’ll go with the bandwagon here and vote Thyleans.

    Curious, though – did you pick ‘Durkon’s Hammer’ out of a hat, or is it a reference to something?

    Current score: 0

    • Author_Unknown says:

      I believe that may be a reference to Order of the Stick webcomic.

      Current score: 0

      • Null Set says:

        And also Occam’s Razor, if that wasn’t clear.

        Current score: 0

      • There is, in fact, a single specific strip that inspired it.

        Current score: 0

        • Potatohead says:

          It was an OOTS reference then. Bravo!

          Current score: 0

        • 'Nym-o-maniac says:

          May I ask which strip in particular? I haven’t gone through the archives recently, so I can’t think of one off the top of my head.

          Current score: 0

          • The one where Durkon is fighting a (dire octopus? Kraken? I don’t remember.) tentacled beasty, and because the rules say that one tentacle is severed for x points of damage, his hammer slices one of them off.

            Current score: 0

  52. Author_Unknown says:

    Question for class: Professor Hart, you mentioned, in another class, that elves were discriminated against, specifically in terms of public offices. One of the reasons given was their immortality. Here we see another race that is immortal being enticed into those same offices. Which is the exception and which is the rule?

    If the prejudice against immortals taking public office is the general rule, what are other exceptions? Undead, aside from the obvious? Is it just beings that can look human?

    Current score: 0

    • BMeph says:

      The rule is “no immortals” and the exception is “…unless you’re so personally powerful that you could wipe out the nation if we pissed you off and dared you to do something about it, in which case, please feel free to join our hiring team.”

      Current score: 0

  53. Rachel says:

    Not sure if it’s in the scope of this class, but languages? Why is theirs called Pax? (I figure there’s a story there.) Is there a “dead” form of Draconian akin to Latin? I believe French is Merovian, but what about other languages?

    Current score: 0

  54. Zukira Phaera says:

    I’m still onboard for hearing more about the Thyleans.

    Current score: 0

  55. Ally says:

    The Latin you’re looking for is “caveat lector” – useful phrase, that :D

    I’m quite interested in hearing about the history of surface/deep elven relations…maybe if it’s put like that, there’ll be less blood shed if the truth is suggested. Naturally the surface elves have written the history as we know it, but Hall might have some interesting tidbits, and Hart seems to have little respect for official lines. Perhaps someone could point out that since both varieties (I seem to recall that there used to be more) are of the same order (playing off the dragonblood discussion), shouldn’t they be able to mix, and if the can they have, and if they can’t why?

    The Yokanese emperor sounds interesting too ;)

    I think of this random worldbuilding as casting a wide net – my DM talks about throwing a bunch of details and ideas at his players and seeing what they latch onto and that’s what becomes the story. That’s my explanation for these chapters, maybe that’s weird.

    Current score: 0

    • Zukira Phaera says:

      you’re right, there’s mention of there being many other types of elves in the past but that a particular strain became the standard for beauty. This came out back about the time that Mack was in Enwich doing research -not sure the specific chapter, and another mention came up about bronze elves. I’ll have to have a look, but I seem to recall a mention of hair color and skin tone on surface elves being part of the definition of elvish type.

      Current score: 0

      • Brenda says:

        I think in MoarMU there was a reference to “copper” elves.

        Current score: 0

        • BMeph says:

          I think the reference was in ToMU, sometime shortly after we meet Semele, likely in the OT where she’s interviewed.

          Mmm, elven redheads…

          Current score: 0

  56. Forum Solipsist says:

    History (verified “facts”) supplemented by Lore (anecdotal evidence) seems to me to be the more useful combination, thus I am inclined to follow Hart’s suggestion.
    That said, it would be in keeping (as far as I can tell) with Hart’s oblique way of being on Mack’s side for him to further people’s understanding of Half-Demons… Assuming he has some historical evidence that shows at least some in a positive light that is.

    Why would Embries care about a mostly human girl with a little bit of dragon blood in her. He could (literally) eat her for breakfast.

    Regarding spending chapters upon chapters for world building purposes: The famous bit of Tolkien’s writing (you know, that trilogy) is the product of world building, and would make very little sense at all if it was not couched in the vast history and mythology that he put together first. Sure you could read it as an adventure story, glossing over all of the bits relating to history, but you’d be missing so much of the point, and might as well just read a shorter book without all of the “Unnecessary” pages. These chapters are like a slightly interactive Silmarrilion.

    Current score: 0

    • erianaiel says:

      And Peter Jackson understood very well that the world building was an integral (and vital) part of telling the story. Which is why he spent oodles of money and experts on creating a visual world that contained ruins, buildings and everyday tools and clothes that made sense.
      Unlike e.g. Mr.Night who not only completely missed the story in ‘The Last Airbender’ but then also managed to botch the telling of it in his drive to turn it into Michael Bay style ‘action adventure with Moar Explosions! ™’ (and missing that target completely as well). Of course this kind of thing happens with most adaptations and you have to wonder if it is a cast of ineptitude from the writers (which I am inclined to believe of Mr.Night) or of excessive executive meddling (which by the way is unusually aptly named in this case since the meddling deftly executes the movie).

      Enough ranting though. The worldbuilding is highly important to this story (and in fact to most stories). It may be that some here are complaining not so much about the worldbuilding itself but of the infodump nature of it. Unfortunately the nature of serials does not lend itself well to interweaving the worldbuilding into the story (which was were Tolkien’s genius was in part if you ask me). If you were to try that in a format like ‘Tales of Mu’ you would end up with fragments of exposition here and there that would not be resolved for months and be seen more as teasers rather than as integral parts of the story. Several Misfile (a dayly webcomic) readers are complaining about that. The writer of that story structures his books for a conventional medium and publishes the pages one at a time. The scene changes and breaks that are perfectly fine when read in one go get to be a bit irritating when it seems that nothing ever gets resolved. Of course Tales of Mu can tell a lot more story in one chapter than a webcomic can in one page, but you can only split up story lines, not scenes within it (or at least you can get away with that very rarely) or risk losing your audience. And getting the background information across without reverting to ‘Mr. Exposition’ is very hard. In everyday life we take so many things for granted and there is so much slang involved that somebody who has not grown up with it stands no chance of understanding. Just the last few years has seen entirely new social interactions evolve centered around the likes of Facebook and Twitter but how do you explain any of that to your (grand)father? People in contemporary stories would use those things as a matter of course and would have no need to explain to each other what they are doing. In a fantasy story like Tales of Mu that is equally true. Magic -is- the norm but why would anybody bother to explain anything about the everyday aspects of it? Which leaves us readers at a disadvantage and requires the use of infodumps or expositions, and because it makes no sense splitting each of those subject over many chapters we end up with the occasional chapter that consists mostly of somebody telling things that would not really be new to the inhabitant of the fantasy world but which are vital to the storytelling because they allow the author to assume that readers understand ‘how things work’ in the rest of the story without needing to repeat extensive and exhaustive (and repetitive and infodump) explanations every time something new comes up.

      Current score: 0

      • Burnsidhe says:

        That’s why this kind of exposition takes the form it does; Since this is the tale of Mackenzie’s life at college, it naturally includes lectures, which are all kinds of exposition that you can reasonably expect to be there.
        I’m personally more annoyed at the people who think a few chapters on Mack’s history class are somehow less relevant than when Mack “Does Stuff.” Mack is doing stuff. She’s attending one of her classes.

        Current score: 0

      • Arakano says:

        Sorry to go offtopic, but I will NEVER stand for anyone claiming that Peter Jackson really “got” Tolkien – he did not. Not at all. There’s much good stuff in the movies, but a deep understanding and respect for Tolkien’s vision by PJ is not among them. Look how he depicts Gimli, Denethor and Elrond, for starters, and then ponder why there are elves at Helm’s Deep, when the retreating of the Elves is one of the main themes of LOTR! How he changed the magic from subtle to kung-fu-style. And the fact that with the Undead fighting at Pelennor fields, basically the whole point of any Rohirrim having fought and died in that battle is for NAUGHT, as they should have left it all to the Undead to solve instead…

        Sorry, rant over. :(

        Current score: 0

  57. Lansydyr says:

    Long time reader that just got back into the swing of things (Internet in Iraq is a horrible almost-oxymoron). Speaking of that, AE, would you mind if I copied all the chapters to a document to be able to put on my nook? Since internet is such an on-and-off situation out here, I would like to be able to read as much as possible and get caught back up with all of volume 1.

    Current score: 0

    • Feel free! I’m probably never going to put Tales of MU on a Creative Commons license… but to me, what you’re talking about is like ripping a CD you legally own to MP3 so you can put it on your MP3 player. Fairest of fair use applies.

      Actually, if you do that, would you mind sending me a copy of the document/documents? contactme -at- alexandraerin -dot- com It might save me some time and trouble down the road.

      And actually 2.0, now I’m wondering why I’m so sure I’ll never put up a creative commons license.

      Things to think about.

      Thanks for reading!

      Current score: 0

      • Lansydyr says:

        I’ve always operated under the “’tis better to beg forgiveness than ask permission” rule, lol. I’ve actually already started. Copying from Website -> OpenOffice -> PDF has *A LOT* of open lines that pads the document up to 5100 pages. It was so huge it made my nook run slow. I formatted the file to take out all the empty lines between paragraphs, but I’m going through the document adding breaks between chapters. For some reason, not all the italicized words translated either, so I’m going to be going slowly through the document when I can so I can try to keep the original spirit of the text as much as possible. I’m also cutting out all the bonus stories, which I might just make into a separate volume.

        I’ve been looking into programs that would convert to .epub or .mobi, but programs aren’t too easy to download out here when internet outages are common. So right now, I’m just going with a PDF since people with the Kindle have told me that they can read .pdf’s also. Fortunately, I have a lot more free time this deployment than I have had my other deployments, and now I have a fun task to take up some of my time!

        Current score: 0

        • *jaw drops*

          Have I ever told you you’re my hero?

          If you email me the docs (not your finished PDF but the document you generate it from) I will acknowledge you (I will acknowledge you so hard) in any thing I generate from it.

          Current score: 0

        • Morten says:

          You want Calibre. From the website:
          “calibre can convert from a huge number of formats to a huge number of formats. It supports all the major e-book formats. The full list of formats can be found here.

          The conversion engine has lots of powerful features. It can rescale all font sizes, ensuring the output e-book is readable no matter what font sizes the input document uses. It can automatically detect/create book structure, like chapters and Table of Contents. It can insert the book metadata into a “Book Jacket” at the start of the book.”

          Works on Win, Mac, and Linux.

          http://calibre-ebook.com/

          Current score: 0

          • Morten says:

            And you should consider replacing your OpenOffice with LibreOffice if ever you get some good net. Pretty much the same but more stable.

            Current score: 0

        • Arakano says:

          Sorry if this is in bad taste, but… who would have thought someone deployed in Iraq would become a hero to many for collecting and editing manuscript pages? ;)

          Current score: 0

  58. Potatohead says:

    Of course, that world-building is what made Tolkein’s books worth reading…the man was not a terribly excellent storyteller on his own merits. Here, we get to follow an (on average) better-written narrative, even if it’ll never be as famous, and some delicious tasty world-building on the side.

    Current score: 0

    • Thank you so much for saying that. I do happen to agree. Honestly, I think Tolkien wrote better in The Hobbit… where he had something like a natural, conversational voice… than he did in his more “serious” work. If my narrative is better written, it’s because I’m not afraid to let it flow.

      Though I must acknowledge that I owe a serious creative debt to Tolkien, not just in the concepts I’ve inherited from him but in everything I’ve gained and gleaned from D&D.

      Current score: 0

      • Arakano says:

        Narration-wise, yeah, The Hobbit may well be Tolkien’s best work, I agree. World-building wise, the Silmarillion, IMO. LOTR is a nice mix of the two, so to speak, though I personally like the Silmarillion best. It’s hard to compare it to the other two works, though.

        Current score: 0

        • Narration-wise, yeah, The Hobbit may well be Tolkien’s best work, I agree. World-building wise, the Silmarillion, IMO.

          Totally. It’s sad that as world-building went up, narrative flow went down the way it did, but of course we don’t know what he might have done if he’d had unlimited time. We might have gotten any number of tales as lyrical and accessible as The Hobbit, built from the pieces he’d assembled.

          Current score: 0

          • Arakano says:

            Now I feel sad. Stupid mortality! While they would have certainly turned out way bleaker than The Hobbit, I think there were already glimpses of great potential in stories like the Nan i Hurin. Still, I am grateful for what we have. Whenever I curl up and re-read the Hobbit, it takes me back to being a small kid, including inappropriate gasps and awe of excitement at most scenes with Thorin (not a nice guy, but the most regal dwarf ever) as well as the final battle (yeah, I ain’t quite like Mack in that regard).

            Current score: 0

    • Angnor says:

      I have to strongly agree with you. I know everyone gets different things from this story and enjoys the different parts, but the world building and magic (system?) are fascinating and probably my favorite parts of the story.

      Current score: 0

  59. Hoeppner says:

    I think it would be awesome to hear some stuff about the cultural shift from “wizard and apprentice” style magic, to the more academic-like magic they have now.

    Current score: 0

  60. readaholic says:

    I love these lectures and world-building stuff, and I like the action-stuff too. My vote is for Thyleans, please, Ms Erin.
    Oh, and I think that Puddy’s burst of strength and Embries leaving in the arena episode is a definite hint as to Puddy’s ancestry. Maybe her obnoxious braggitiness is an instinctive reaction to being on a greater dragon’s turf. Or maybe she’s an obnoxious braggart anyway.

    Current score: 0

  61. Shaun O'Braun says:

    “But why in so many individuals is it just in great feats?” Hart said. “In every case where there is provable ancestry from dragons, it manifest physically…

    manifest should be manifests.

    You know what about that super-paladin, the one so many people almost worship, the bat-crazy grandmother of Mackenzie? I’d like to hear more about that.

    Current score: 0

  62. Kagedviper says:

    I’m sure some of those kids are curious about that half-demoness in their class.

    Current score: 0

  63. Stonefoot says:

    First, I have to say that I love all the world-building. For me it really makes the MUniverse more real.

    Second, reading these comments has put three weird pictures in my head:

    One is Mack, picking up her journal (a blank book which generates more blank pages as she needs them, without getting any thicker or heavier), opening it to page five thousand and something, and writing “I don’t keep a journal.”

    Second, that there is a plane of reality (like the water plane which has an infinite supply of water) which contains an infinite supply of people who will see a few parallels between the MUniverse and our Earth and immediately conclude the it’s a cleverly disguised exact copy of Earth and start trying to “crack the code” – all evidence to the contrary being studiously ignored.

    And last, that I will never be able to imagine a college or university without a Department of Lore located in (where else?) Fenwick Hall.

    Current score: 0

  64. Fiona says:

    More and more, looking at the way the MUverse is described in terms of geography, the more I think it actually IS our world. The Westering Lands being North America, the Mother Isles being the British Isles, the Ardan being the Med, Kazarus being Siberia, etc, etc.

    It all just seems to click together so perfectly with our world.

    Current score: 0

    • fka_luddite says:

      NO!

      AE has stated that map-work is not an area of her expertise. Thus when offering a geographic description, she relies on a mental model, rather than a constructed map; this model tends to mirror the world we (and AE) live in. Naturally the resultant geography resembles “our world” without being our world.

      Current score: 0

    • erianaiel says:

      Rather think of these places of occupying roughly the same location as the other places do in our world.
      Many things are represented by things or names or languages (and events!) we know to make it easier to grasp for the reader what is going on. Kind of how Tolkien wrote he ‘translated’ the language of the hobbits in modern english and that of the Rohirim in old english.

      Current score: 0

    • Arakano says:

      I would rather compare the MUverse to Martin’s ASoIaF-world in this regard. Most of the geographic, historical and political stuff in it can be linked/compared to/related to stuff in the real world, but parts are changed, molded and thrown around freely. It IS a creative work, after all, not a “copy and paste”. ;)

      Current score: 0

  65. Estcher says:

    I believe that Mack has dragon blood from her grandmother’s side. Anyone else starting to share this belief?

    Current score: 0

    • Durragh says:

      what would prompt that?

      Current score: 0

    • Angnor says:

      Nope, sorry. At least, nothing I’ve read leads me to believe it.
      I could be completely wrong about this, but I don’t think there’s anything going on beyond human/demon in Mack’s ancestry.
      Specifically, there’s just something about Embries’ talk with Mack that leads me to think Martha was just human. I’d love to cite something specific, but that’s just the feel of it to me.
      I’m sure we’ll find out how wrong I am eventually…

      Current score: 0

    • Burnsidhe says:

      No. Martha was a member of the White Dragons, true, but that is a specific human organization, not an indication of having dragon blood.
      Kind of like being a member of the SEALS doesn’t mean you are part aquatic mammal with flippers and a heavy layer of fat.

      Current score: 0

  66. Janus says:

    Way too many comments to read through ‘em all to see if this was already caught…

    “there’s are many other ways to come by the ‘greatness’ that gets chalked up to something like dragon blood. Durkon’s Hammer applies.” there should either be left unornamented or are should be dropped

    and immediately thereafter…

    “I believe applying Durkon’s Hammer would leave one to conclude” I believe applying Durkon’s Hammer is much more likely to lead to a conclusion than to leave to one.

    and why not go for a triple?

    “But the other part is that dragon side is too strong to be denied.” I assume THE dragon side is too strong?

    aaaaand one more for the win

    “In every case where there is provable ancestry from dragons, it manifest physically.” Should either be “manifests” or “manifested”, I think.

    Current score: 0

  67. Jollylawger says:

    Thyleans. I want to know about the Barrow-Wight… that could lead to Liches and more about the Mother City… and Lich to Demon is an easy leap.

    That’s the chain I’m hoping for!

    Current score: 0

  68. Those Thyleans do sound pretty interesting… Bearsarkers are always fun!

    Current score: 0

  69. BMeph says:

    I want to know how mermaids keep their figures so well…is it because of their liquid protean diet? ;þ

    Current score: 0

  70. Helen Rees says:

    here be dragons:

    http://www.greenmanreview.com/book/poetry_beagle_earlypoems.psb.html

    Current score: 0

  71. Khazidhea says:

    “In every case where there is provable ancestry from dragons, it manifest physically”
    Not sure on this one, but shouldn’t it be ‘manifests’?

    Current score: 0

Leave a Reply