Chapter 218: Transitional Rule

on June 18, 2014 in Volume 2 Book 7: Courtly Manners, Volume 2: Sophomore Effort

In Which Glory Gets Into Mackenzie’s Bed

I told you that the story of my time as the “agent” of Queen Glory’s court in exile began while I was still working with Acantha and the others, but of course it actually went back further than that.

She’d been courting me… no pun intended… ever since her sister got involved with my new friend Nicki, and it had only been my extreme reluctance to get involved with anything having to do with the middling elf culture of Treehome that had kept me from accepting. She’d had a plan to remove that objection by removing herself and her friends from Treehome, but it had been too vague and speculative for me to commit. I’d told her to let me know when she was successfully disentangled from the Treehome intrigues.

Wisdom’s comments to me to expect news from Glory had obviously been about that, though I doubted that Wisdom herself had known that. As the newest member of Glory’s entourage, Wisdom was also the last one she would confide in.

Still, Wisdom was no fool, and I could see the faint flicker of excitement behind her marble mask each time that she relayed further indications of some nascent progress or impending news. Even if she wasn’t in the loop, I didn’t believe it was a coincidence that she had joined Glory’s court just before Glory made her big move. While it was well within the realm of possibility that Wisdom was a plant from another court, angling for information or trying to mess up things on principle, it seemed likely that she was gambling on Glory having a way out of that kind of life.

At first, I hadn’t had much reaction at all to these secondhand messages. As much as I was rooting for Glory to succeed, I’d made a point to not get invested in her quest. And while it was possible to infer that things were generally on the right path from the hints, there still wasn’t anything specific like a timeframe.

The continued stream of vaguely good news might have made things seem quite a bit more definite, but since they came to a head at around the same time that the soldier stones project was really heating up, it was hard to get excited.

Whether I was excited or not, though, on the day when Glory finally contacted me herself, it already felt to me like it was a done deal before I heard it from her lips. It was like I already knew what she was going to tell me. I think it was because Wisdom had gone quiet about the subject, but had a strange air of satisfaction around her. Two’s friend Hazel, who had volunteered to help Glory discreetly scout locations to move her troupe into, had a similar air.

It would have been a thin thing to pin a deduction on, but I’m not claiming that I actually did see it coming… only that it seemed really obvious in retrospect.

“I thought you would have been more pleased,” she said, not quite able… or not choosing… to keep the disappointment off her face.

She’d come to visit me in my room, for the first time, which was another sign that the time for secrecy was past. A lot of our previous conversations had been in sound-warded rooms. Lounging on the bed, she somehow seemed more regal than any of the times I’d seen her sitting, even on her throne in mirror conversations.

I think it was because the throne seemed like a ridiculous prop, whereas our bed… a four-poster canopy bed Amaranth had snuck in to take the place of our standard issue dorm bunk beds… was actually kind of nice in a way that left me feeling a little self-conscious about it. It suited Glory perfectly, though.

“I’m thrilled, I really am,” I said. “I’m also a little mentally exhausted. I don’t mean to go back on what I said before, but I kind of have other constraints on my time right now.”

“Oh, I’m aware of that,” she said, and of course she would have been, since Wisdom had the same constraint. I wondered if Wisdom’s loyalty to her queen superseded her non-disclosure agreement, though I had no reason to ask. “Mmm… I’m resisting the urge to tell you taking another job while you were waiting to hear from me reflects both poor sense and poor taste. Well, I suppose I did just tell you that.”

“If you wanted me to sit around doing nothing when I could be earning money, you should have paid me to wait,” I said. “I’ve been learning to appreciate the value of my time.”

“Yes, that’s another bad habit you’ve picked up,” she said, and that’s when I knew that she was joking. “And now I’m going to pay the price, aren’t I?”

“Whenever I’m available, as long as you need me,” I said. “I have a feeling I’ll be more available soon.”

“Good, because I have a feeling I’m going to be needing you soon,” she said. “There is a lot of work to be done before our new hall is fit for even human habitation.”

“…I thought you had already moved,” I said.

“We have,” she said. “But I couldn’t reveal it to the other courts as a fait accompli if I’d done any but the most preliminary preparations. We packed up and moved in the night. Well, that makes it sound a lot simpler, but you don’t need to know all the details of the exact subterfuges used. The point is, we’ve moved into a shell of a building and now we’re… well, I suppose you’d call it camping. Renovating a building while we’re living in it is going to be a lot more complicated than if we could have taken the time to do it properly. That’s why I could use your help.”

“Well, I don’t know how much help I’ll be with home improvement,” I said. “But I’ll take logistical complications over people trying to kill or enslave me type complications any day of the week.”

“Oh, believe me, you’d be one of the last people I’d ask to fix something,” she said. “I’ve spent enough time watching you to know how that would go.”

“Your majesty is too kind,” I said.

“If we could do things our way, it would be a pretty simple fix… just gut some of the walls, stick some heartwood planks in potting soil, and we’d be well on our way with nothing to do but wait. But the campus proper is subject to different building codes, and we’re supposed to be respecting the historic character of the building… historic character! The place wasn’t even built when I was born. Oh, but, anyway, we were thinking dwarves might do the job quicker than human contractors, but… I’m still learning how to talk to humans.”

“So you want me to be a go-between with dwarves,” I said.

“Yes,” she said.

“I’m not sure I’m in a position to do that right now,” I said. “No matter how quickly they can get things in order, it would be a full-time job while they’re working.”

“Well, it’s not like I need you on site to translate,” she said. “Just find someone and hire them on, or get them to come out and provide an estimate, or whatever it is they do. We’ll always have someone present to answer questions or deal with issues as they arise. I just… I don’t know where to start.”

“I wouldn’t really know where to start, either… though, I guess I know who I could ask,” I said. If Andreas didn’t have any tips on who I should talk to for construction and home repair, some quick crystal gazing would probably turn up an answer.

“And that’s a start,” Glory said.

“So, where exactly is this shell of a building?” I asked, trying to imagine anything that might fit that description. “Out on west campus somewhere?”

“No, it’s right in the middle of the main campus,” she said. “It’s a facility called Oberrad House, and we can rent it for a small fee as long as we restore it and then continue to maintain it.”

“Oberrad House?” I said. The name sounded familiar, and saying it aloud, I had a vague memory of someone having told me about it. “Wait… that’s the former frat house that was too expensive to keep up, but too important to tear down?”

“If you knew that such a place existed on campus, you could have saved some searching,” Glory said.

“Sorry,” I said. “In my defense, it wasn’t exactly on the tip of my tongue.”

“Well, it’s not the ideal solution… I mean, the ideal solution would be for there to be a fabulous tree palace in the middle of campus, but it may be the best we can hope for under the circumstances,” Glory said. “The initial price is a bit steeper than I’d hoped for, but after that the costs seem reasonable.”

“I’d be worried that the university will be tempted to turn around and put it to a more profitable use after getting the cost of repairs out of you,” I said. “I’m assuming the deal isn’t completely open-ended.”

“No,” she said. “They wouldn’t agree to in perpetuity or even terms of centuries… which may be reasonable, given that the university is itself so young, measured in those terms. But it’s ours for a quarter of a century as long as we keep up our end, and then after that, whoever’s running the show in my place can renegotiate. My hope is that by that point, there will be enough elves living on campus that we don’t need a special hall.”

“Do you really think that people will just abandon Treehome like that?” I asked.

“I will be very surprised if I don’t get a nice trickle of defectors to my court, but it’s less about people fleeing Treehome and more about them bypassing it, as it becomes more obvious that there are other options. Honestly, Mackenzie, the whole middling thing is on its way out,” she said. “I think for the next century or three it will just become less and less common, and then it will be gone. Some of the older elves who are still interested in reproducing might treat their children as being not-quite-adults until they’ve ended their first century, but it will be a lot less formal. On the subject of formality, though: you said you’ve come to an understanding what your time is worth. So, what is it going to cost me to engage you as my agent on this task?”

I was glad she’d mentioned the value of my time. I had no idea how much this kind of service would be worth, and if I’d thought about it in those terms, I probably would have said “almost nothing”, since I could have told her to talk to Andreas or check the ethernet for free. It felt like at least one of those solutions should have been obvious to almost anyone.

Putting it in terms of the value of my time, though, gave me a convenient benchmark.

“Let’s say five silver,” I said. “Plus another five for each full hour after the first, in the event that it takes that long.”

“Is that all your time is worth?”

“It’s the going rate,” I said. “For the time being.”

“And when do you think you would have results for me?”

“I don’t see any reason why I shouldn’t have something for you by tomorrow night.”

“Oh, good,” she said. “Five silver is nothing, but the idea of paying by the hour is still very strange to me… it seems like an inducement to take all year.”

“Well, yes, but if I did that, I’d expect you to fire me,” I said. “Taking advantage of the terms of employment now means I’m less likely to have employment later.”

“Ah, that I understand better,” she said. “Well, I’m a queen… I can’t pay such a low rate for an agent. You must understand that. So we’ll say ten instead of five.”

“…maybe I can find time to be there for the estimate, too,” I said, imagining Glory bankrupting her court by getting into a bidding war with herself. The stereotype that dwarves would do anything for gold was unfounded, but if a naïve young elf was just throwing it their way, they wouldn’t have to do anything.

Glory laughed.

“Don’t worry, my agent,” she said. “I have every confidence the dwarves will charge me a more dignified price for their services. Do you think you will have your business concluded by dinnertime tomorrow?”

“I wouldn’t guarantee that,” I said. “I think it’s a little late to be reflecting around tonight, and so I was counting on doing it tomorrow evening. I mean, I could start during my afternoon break, but I might end up playing echo tag.”

“Ah. Well… that was going to be my excuse to ask you to have dinner with us tomorrow,” she said.

“Oh, sorry,” I said. “I mean, I can try… I’m not putting it off until then on purpose.”

“No, it’s fine,” she said. “I’m sure I’ll manage somehow.”

“I’m sure you will, too.”

“So… would you care to join us for dinner tomorrow?”

“Huh?”

“I told you it was the excuse, not the reason,” she said. “The reason is that I’ve missed you, when you’ve been pointedly not associating with me… and now the point of that disassociation is passed. So why not? We eat in the same dining hall that you do, so I know you like the food. Unless you have a problem with the company?”

“No, I just… I wasn’t expecting this,” I said. I knew that she had a fondness for me that went beyond whatever she saw in me as an “agent”… in fact, I knew that whatever it was she saw was more the excuse than the reason. But most of our social interactions had consisted of me telling her that her sister was fine, that Nicki was treating her well and being treated well.

“I’m sorry, do you need more warning?”

“No, actually, tomorrow night’s probably going to be as good a time as any, at least in the near future,” I said.

“Wonderful!” she said. “It’s come as you are, but… please do wear something that’s touched a hanger more recently than the floor.”

“I’ll… do some laundry tonight,” I said.

“Oh, goody,” she said. “Then it really will be an occasion!”


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37 Responses to “Chapter 218: Transitional Rule”

  1. Tierhon says:

    I can hear the glee in the last line.

    Current score: 8
  2. Not her, the other girl says:

    “There is a lot of work to be done before our new hall is fit for even human habitation.”

    I missed the “even” at first and thought, doesn’t she mean elven? Then I reread it. Heh.

    Current score: 3
    • zeel says:

      I had to double check too, a subtle little bit a racism there. . .

      Current score: 1
      • erianaiel says:

        Technically it would be specieism 🙂

        Current score: 2
        • Masterofbones says:

          They can interbreed, so the whole “species” thing is kinda weird. And since you have the elven race, the dwarven race, etc, it still sort of works.

          Current score: 1
  3. Grant says:

    Nice chapter.

    Current score: 0
  4. zeel says:

    Wonderful.

    I’m glad to see that Oberrad House was, in fact, a Chekhov’s gun. Once Glory mentioned her intent I knew that it would at least come up, either as a solution or a random and immediately dismissed option.

    Current score: 2
    • Klaus says:

      Excuse my ignorance, but what is Chekhov’s gun?

      Current score: 0
      • Lunaroki says:

        Copied from the Wikipedia article:

        Chekhov’s gun is a dramatic principle that requires every element in a narrative be necessary and irreplaceable, and that everything else be removed.

        Remove everything that has no relevance to the story. If you say in the first chapter that there is a rifle hanging on the wall, in the second or third chapter it absolutely must go off. If it’s not going to be fired, it shouldn’t be hanging there.
        —Anton Chekhov

        Generally speaking, if the author takes the time to focus the story on something that seems trivial or irrelevant, there is an expectation that this is being done to set it up to be important to some aspect of the story later on. The chapter where Mackenzie was talking about Oberrad House with Jamie, I think it was, wasn’t terribly relevant at the time and seemed like a mere side-track from the current plot. This set up the expectation that Oberrad House would become something important later on. And now it has. Chekhov’s Gun has been fired.

        Current score: 1
        • Burnsidhe says:

          And… don’t expect *every* offhand mention of anything to be another Chekov’s Gun in the story. This is a slice of life story, not a novel or a play. Just like real life, there will be things that come up or are mentioned, and then lead nowhere.

          Current score: 1
          • hoppy says:

            Or to set the stage or increase realism

            Current score: 0
          • zeel says:

            Not to mention that AE loves red herrings just to mess with us.

            Current score: 3
            • erianaiel says:

              The very subtitle above each chapte is proof of that love for red herrings.
              For actually red herrings you could try Norwegian herring salad…

              Current score: 0
      • Mist says:

        Chekhovs gun is a way to minimalist every story into a boring predictable set of phrases. It’s often employed so Americans and modern readers can follow the story without getting lost in the development and placement. Like the monomyth, it results in truly tedious storytelling.
        Basically it comes from this, if a playwrite (author) describes a prop then it -must-be used later in the story. The obvious correllary to this is the more detail and effort used in describing it, so the reader doesn’t miss the cue, then the more important the object will be. Sadly this results in any story can quickly be predicted by the juxtaposition of character stereotypes and listed props. So if a gun is mentioned, then very likely someone will be shot, struck or treatened with the gun. A truly gifted author might McGyver the gun in an attempt to salvage some fraction of creativity (eg use it to hide a secret message or to wedge open a trapdoor) but even then the triggering of chekhovs gun law sensitives the intelligent reader to the solution almost immediately.

        The technique is also observed by quality DMs… Who don’t want their players spending entire gaming sessions turning over miscellaneous furniture and items in the search for “treasures” in what is basically everyday items.

        Also, with the chekhovs gun, locations and even entire scenes, just become holding structures/collections for props.

        To avoid this lamentable problem, best beloved, track down and read some better quality literature. And dear reader, you will expand your mind (and no doubt your word count) beyond the sadness which is post-modernism.

        Current score: 0
    • zeel says:

      Come to think of it, Oberrad was first referenced all the way back in early vol.1 – when Mackenzie was describing the layout of Harlowe she mentions that part of the dorm had been sectioned off and given to a fraternity. I’m not sure which chapter it was, but it was really early. She even does that thing where he tells the reader something that she dosn’t actually know at that point in the story.

      Current score: 0
  5. D. D. Webb says:

    I find myself unable to help liking Glory. After Acantha, this makes me very suspicious. Now I’m just waiting for the other shoe to drop…

    Current score: 2
    • moridain says:

      I think of her as the opposite of Acantha.

      Acantha tries to seem genuine but is actually sneaky and selfish.

      Glory tries to seem Selfish and sneaky, but is actually pretty genuine.

      Current score: 11
    • pedestrian says:

      Would Her Majesty wear anything as mundane and common as a shoe?

      I’m betting slippers..the only question would be, silk or glass?

      Current score: 1
    • adsipowe says:

      racist

      Current score: 2
  6. Anvildude says:

    I feel like the reason I, and others, like Glory so much is that she clearly treats all the subterfuge and intrigue like the game/joke that it really is. You can almost see the quotes every time she discusses regal matters.

    Current score: 8
    • zeel says:

      Ya, I think she is intended to be a counterpoint to Iason/Acantha/Ariadne – not all elves are dicks, just most of them.

      Current score: 3
  7. Glenn says:

    I think I see where this is going, and if I’m right, Glory is going to end up with a far more defensible fortress than she currently wants or expects to ever need. Mack is going to talk to the one Dwarf she really knows well, who just happens to be a member of Clan Ironholt, which specializes in home security, and things like scry-eyes, wards, and locks. I expect Andreas to say that his clan can do this job, (though they might subcontract some parts of it) because why would he miss an opportunity to make some money for his clan?
    So we have an Elven “Queen” who thinks she has to overpay the people she hires in order to act appropriately meeting some Dwarven security specialists. How will the Dwarves react when Glory starts throwing money at them? Their pride in their own craftsmanship won’t let them do a bad job, so they’ll make sure Glory gets her money’s worth, which means she’ll get a really secure building right next to Harlowe Hall.
    Having a fortress may be unnecessary for Glory now (unless the other elves really overreact) but I suspect that AE has plans for Mack’s third and fourth years that will make it seem a very wise investment later on.

    Current score: 2
    • TheTurnipKing says:

      It’s not about overpaying.

      And elves think in long time-scales. Expensive defences may be unlikely to be a factor now, but in the extremely long terms, they’re rarely a bad investment.

      Current score: 2
      • pedestrian says:

        In a historical sense fortresses/castles are death-traps.

        Eventually tourist destinations for people to force their kids to endure touring the ruins of poor strategic planning.

        And the inspiration for a flood of cringeorthy bad historical fiction.

        Current score: 0
        • Dzen says:

          Fortresses were game-changingly effective tools right up until Vauban in the 18th century. Whatcha mean, death traps?

          Current score: 0
          • Anne says:

            Fortresses are (were occasionally) death traps the in the same way a monkey gets its hand caught in a jar. Okay that is a bad simile, but the thing that made them attractive (keep the barbarians out) also could be used against them. That is a siege on a castle (fortress) that penned the occupant inside could starve him to death. The besieging force of course had to bring lots of food, etc to be able to out wait the fortress occupant, but in the end if you’re inside a place that has no food you’re dead.

            Current score: 0
  8. Trace says:

    it seems to be that she is wrapping things up

    Current score: 0
  9. C8H9NO2 says:

    As I think of it: Elves are very much accustomed to infighting. Andreas clan is Security focused. Glory will appreciate that protection. And events as they unfold in later school years will probably show it was a worthwhile investment.

    Current score: 1
  10. Mike says:

    “Oh, believe me, you’d be one of the last people I’d ask to fix something,” she said. “I’ve spent enough time watching you to know how that would go.”

    Bwa-ha-ha, perfect! And…

    “Wonderful!” she said. “It’s come as you are, but… please do wear something that’s touched a hanger more recently than the floor.”

    “I’ll… do some laundry tonight,” I said.

    “Oh, goody,” she said. “Then it really will be an occasion!”

    Great stuff!

    Current score: 9
  11. Zathras IX says:

    Queen Glory’s court
    In exile is only fair
    To Middlings at best

    Current score: 6
    • Klaus says:

      While there’s no such thing as a good pun, that one wasn’t bad.

      Current score: 0
  12. Dzen says:

    Is it just me, or is Mack simply not cluing in to exactly how fabulously rich Glory is by human standards?

    Current score: 1
    • Anne says:

      I think she is missing it, just as she probably missed getting percentages of further payments wrt the Soldier Stones project. Then again that could have been left unsaid because even in a story as detailed as this one it takes more time to write or tell the details than for them to happen….

      Current score: 0
  13. Readaholic says:

    Heh. Nice contrast between Glory and Acantha.

    Current score: 2
  14. Trent Baker aka Zergonapal says:

    Its an interesting change prefacing the chapter with exposition of current events. I wonder if this will be an ongoing thing in every chapter or just when AE feels the need for some exposition when she is shifting gears so to speak.

    Current score: 0
  15. Arancaytar says:

    It’s a facility called Oberrad House

    Heh, that’s a district close to where I used to live. Oberrad, I mean.

    Current score: 0