Chapter 230: Pillow PrincessAlexandra Erin on July 24, 2014 in Volume 2 Book 7: Courtly Manners, Volume 2: Sophomore Effort
In Which Mackenzie Struggles To Get A Grip On Her Surroundings
I woke up on a cloud.
At least, that’s what it felt like to me… well, I couldn’t say I had an actual basis for comparison, but when I woke up enveloped by a soft, springy, pillowy structure that both supported my body and yielded to it, I couldn’t begin to imagine what it would be if not a cloud.
A few moments later, the adjective “pillowy” intruded into my consciousness, and I revised my estimation of what was actually happening.
I hadn’t paid much attention to the furnishings of Glory’s room when I first came in, both because it had been so damned cold at first and because show-off that I was, I’d been too intent on what I was doing.
I’d been in Glory’s room before, of course, but I’d never paid a lot of attention to her bed. Not consciously. If anything, I’d consciously avoided looking at or thinking about it.
It was big, I knew that, possibly bigger than any bed I’d ever been in, and because of a combination of the size and the fact that it was oval-shaped I’d always assumed that she’d had a mattress specially made for it.
As it happened, she didn’t.
What she had instead was an awful lot of small, satin pillows.
I looked in the direction the voice seemed to come from, and found Glory sitting side saddle on the solid rail of twisted bamboo around the edge of the bed. “Yeah,” I said. I started to get up, or tried to, but then realized I wasn’t sure how to, short of flopping over and then crawling to the edge where there was something to hold onto. The pillows just shifted beneath me when I tried to push off them.
My brain had started to put together what happened. Somehow, I packed too much power into the last spell, and drained too deeply from my own reserves. It was usually impossible to do this under normal circumstances… like, you could overextend a muscle, but it would be hard for most people to try to reach something across the room and have their arm fall off as a result.
For a certain level of overreach, the thing you’re trying just becomes impossible.
There were a few cases where it did become possible to draw too deeply from the well of power within a wizard. Menstruation was one of them, but I had a potion that took care of that and a whole suite of related problems. Evidently using my wand as a conduit could trigger the same problem, if I set the spell up and then shoved the power through it… it was too good a conductor. Add to that the little power drain problem I’d noticed, and multiply that by the number of individual sparks…
Oh, shit… my wand.
“Is my wand okay?” I asked.
Glory stared at me, and then let out a short, less melodious than usual laugh.
“Is your wand okay?”
“Yeah, I mean… I didn’t drop it and break it, did I? Or land on it? Or anything?”
“Mackenzie Blaise, I can buy you another wand,” she said.
“But I made that wand!” I said, with rising panic. “You don’t understand, it’s the best thing I’ve ever done… it’s practically an extension of me. Eventually, it really will be… or it would have…”
“Your wand is fine!” Glory said. “Are you okay?”
“I’m fine,” I said. “I might be a little screwed in class the next few days, but I might have enough powerstones to fake my way through it.”
“What even happened?”
“Nothing major,” I said. “I just… overextended myself. Too much, too fast, in too short a period of time… I probably tried for about five times as many sparks as I needed.”
“If it’s so demanding, why do so many people do it?”
“Well… I think a big difference is that what you’re used to seeing is illusion, where I was making real sparks,” I said.
“…so on top of everything else, you might have burned down my new building?”
“No, they were completely harmless!” I said. “I promise you, Glory, there was no chance of them affecting anything.”
“So what’s the difference between that and illusion?”
“Real magic’s harder to do,” I said.
“I knew you were a showoff,” she said. “I take it that an illusionary display would have been less likely to knock you on your backside?”
“You asked for sparks,” I said, sheepishly. “Those were the sparks I knew how to do.”
“As much as I am accustomed to getting what I want, what I want includes you upright and mobile… or at least conscious and safe,” she said. “I’ve sent my sister to get Amaranth… I wasn’t sure you’d want to be taken to the healing center, but you weren’t waking up on your own and I didn’t want to be responsible for moving you or keeping you here.”
“That’s… probably the right call, all around,” I said. “But I kind of wish you’d just waited another few minutes. I’m going to be fine, really.”
“Somehow, the fact that you’d rather Amaranth didn’t find out about this makes me think that I made the right decision,” she said.
“I’d rather everyone didn’t find out about this,” I said. “It’s kind of embarrassing… I’ve mostly managed to shed my reputation of falling down all over the place, you know?”
“Mackenzie, this wasn’t a pratfall. You passed out,” she said. “You were unconscious, and I couldn’t wake you.”
“Sorry,” I said. “I’m really sorry that I scared you… that doesn’t make me feel less silly, though.”
.When Grace arrived shortly after that, she had not just Amaranth in tow, but Steff, Ian, and Nicki as well.
“I’m sorry it took so long,” she said to her sister. “Amaranth felt it wouldn’t be proper to leave Ian and Steff out of it, and it took us a while to find them.”
I saw Nicki shuffle a little behind her at this, but Glory didn’t question how she’d joined the party or what she was doing there now.
“That’s quite alright,” Glory said. “Though I would have appreciated if you’d returned to tell me that. I had quite enough to worry about as it was.”
“How long could it have taken?” I asked. “I only just woke up a minute ago.”
“Mackenzie… you were out for hours,” Glory said.
“Can’t have been,” I said. “It was late in the day when I came over. If it was more than a few minutes, it would be… oh, it is dark out.”
“It’s dark in,” Ian said. “I know you’re probably big on mood lightning, but doesn’t that usually require lightning?”
“Sorry,” Glory said. “The original light fixtures were stripped out and moved elsewhere, and once it became clear that the windows would redone quickly, I didn’t make it a priority to replace them. For the benefit of those who can’t see as well by starlight, can anyone do a little light? Anyone not Mackenzie.”
“I wasn’t going to try,” I protested.
“I can… but Mack wouldn’t thank me,” Amaranth said.
“Yeah, she has a slightly fatal allergy to divine radiance,” Steff said. “But I could do a corpse light.”
“Will that be bright enough for the humans to see by?” Glory asked.
“It depends on how close to death they are,” Steff said. “But… probably not. I can also do black light, dark light, unlight, anti-light, soul fire…”
“Will any of those help anyone here to actually see?” Glory asked.
“Not in the sense that you mean,” Steff said.
“Then why are you even offering?”
“I don’t know,” Steff said. “They’re kind of cool? I could go get my hand-of-glory, but I only have one of them, and since I’d have to fetch a candle anyway for it to work, I might as well just get the candle.”
“Um… Nicki can make a light,” Grace said.
Glory looked at Nicki.
“Is this true?”
“…sort of,” Nicki said. “I could make something glow, which I guess is similar? I mean, the same basic effect. There would be light, but I wouldn’t be making a light.”
“Proceed,” Glory said.
“Um… well… I guess we’re all sort of gathered around the bed, anyway,” Nicki said. “Would that be okay?”
Glory nodded, and then said out loud, “Yes. Please, get on with it.”
Nicki put her hand on Grace’s shoulder and then kind of walked haltingly around her, as if she was afraid to come out from behind cover. She remained cautious as she approached the bed, her hands out in front of her as if she feared running into something. She was so nervous, in fact, that even as slow as she was going, she still managed to run her shin into the side of the bed.
“Ow… ops,” Nicki said.
She knelt down and touched the bed with both hands. The bamboo rail changed color to a bright, vivid pink and then began to glow, giving off a pink-tinged radiance.
“Oh, I like,” Glory said. “I’m not sure about the color, though.”
“Oh, it will change,” Nicki said, and as she spoke, it was already fading to a kind of pale green. “Sorry, it’s the spell that I had ready for a class project.”
“You have nothing to apologize for,” Glory said. “If you can make it switchable, I wouldn’t mind having it permanent.”
“I could probably…” I started to say, but Amaranth and Glory both shouted, “No.”
“I didn’t mean right now,” I said. “Guys, this is seriously a bit of an overreaction. Look, I passed out, but I’m okay.”
I started to shift around to get closer to the edge so I could get up and show everybody how okay I was.
“Don’t move a muscle, missy,” Amaranth said. “The last time this happened, you ended up in the healing center on bed rest.”
“Yeah, and look how that ended,” I said. “I know they’ve improved things, but I’m not about to put myself back in their hands for another extended stay anytime soon.”
“Then it’s a good thing you’re already in a bed,” she said.
“For a certain value of bed,” I said.
“If there’s a problem with my bed, you don’t have to be in it,” Glory said. “Although I’d feel terrible turning you out of it in your condition.”
“What condition?” I said. “I do not have a condition.”
“It’s not that I don’t believe you, baby, it’s just… better safe than sorry,” Amaranth said. “Right?”
“I’m pretty sure that was the thinking last time,” I said. “And it ended with me teleported into a dungeon full of monsters, curses, and delving students.”
“To be fair… that’s really unlikely to happen twice,” Ian said.
“Funny,” I said to him. “I suppose you’re with them?”
“I’m… actually pretty sure that the difference between you staying here and you going back to your own bed and sleeping all night would be pretty negligible,” he said. “But I also know when I’m outvoted.”
“Me, too,” Steff said.
“If you both disagree with them, how are you outvoted?” I asked. “And who decided Glory suddenly gets a vote?”
“I think her concern for your well-being is pretty obvious,” Amaranth said. “Instead of being angry that she’s expressed it, maybe you should appreciate it, even if you disagree.”
“I’m sorry,” I said. “Glory, I didn’t… I value your opinion, I really do.”
“The thing is…” Ian said, then stopped.
“Go on,” I said. “No one else is hesitating to speak their minds.”
“Well, I think you might be less encouraging if you knew what I was about to say,” he said. “The thing is, if there’s really not a lot of difference if you rest up here or back in the tower, then… why not stay here? It’ll be easier all around.”
“How is it easier?” I asked. “I don’t have any clothes, or even pajamas… I don’t have my toothbrush, or any of my stuff for class tomorrow, so I’m going to have to go back to the tower before breakfast anyway.”
“Well… you’re already here,” he said. “And you wouldn’t have to argue with anyone.”
“Crossing the campus in the dark is dangerous enough when you’re at one hundred percent,” Amaranth said.
“But I’m not exactly helpless, am I?” I said. “I might not be capable of using magic right now, and I might be a little dizzy and off-balance…”
“I forget… which side are you on right now?” Steff said. “Because if you’re with Amy, I’m starting to think you’ve got a point.”
“Okay, fine,” I said. “I’ll stay the night, if it will make you happy.”
“That’s just as petulant as I always imagined,” Glory said. “But somehow, less endearing.”