Chapter 267: Getting Onboard

on December 4, 2014 in Volume 2 Book 8: Elven Holiday, Volume 2: Sophomore Effort

In Which Glory And Mackenzie Have Reservations

Boarding the ship, it became apparent that part of the reason for all the crowd control concerns was that there was a mix of new passengers coming aboard for the start of their voyage and returning passengers for whom this was just one port of call.

I hadn’t given much thought to the operations of cruise lines overall, but given that they were more like a mobile vacation site in and of themselves than an actual method of getting from Point A to Point B, it had never occurred to me that people might be getting on and off at different points along the route.

Both returning passengers and new ones boarded the ship through the same points, but the new ones had more business to take care of and needed a little more shepherding. The gate to the gangplank was broken down into two lanes, with the old hands breezing through and those of us who were newly initiated stopping to show our boarding passes to a woman in a vaguely nautical hostess uniform in what I would later learn was called powder blue.

She gave each newcomer a gold bracelet set with a clear stone that turned green when she touched our boarding pass to it. After I saw her handing one to a person in front of us, I noticed that everybody who blew through the other lane was wearing or holding one.

“The star in the gem will point you towards your room when it’s on your wrist and you are conscious only,” she said. “This is also your room key and your all-access entertainment pass. It can answer general queries and relay messages to and from your hospitality crew. We recommend you wear it at all times during your voyage, on the ship or off.”

She gave this spiel to me and Nicki, but didn’t bother to repeat it for the rest of the people in our party. I supposed that assuming the elves would have already caught it a few dozen times was a safe assumption, given how many of us were being processed through at a time. I hung back a little just inside the gate to keep an eye on the others, though… I knew well enough that just because an elf could hear didn’t mean they were listening, and by necessity they had to be pretty good at filtering.

I was looking for a particular vacant, far-away look that signaled that the bearer had checked out completely, but everyone seemed pretty bright-eyed. The desire not to look foolish had a wonderful focusing effect on the elven mind.

Because I was hanging back, I noticed when Wisdom asked if the devices could lead her to other people’s rooms.

“Within your party, yes,” the agent said. “Did you book together?”

“Yes, we did,” Wisdom said with an air of satisfaction.

I remembered the affection she’d paid to Glory during the trip down. While she hadn’t been the only one to do so, she’d been less outgoing in general than most of the group. I didn’t think I’d seen her getting friendly with anyone else.

if I’d noticed, then Glory probably had, too… it would be worth mentioning when we were alone together, though. I didn’t think there was anything worrying about it. I didn’t really have it in me to be jealous over it, and I didn’t think Wisdom meant any harm. It was possible… even likely… she had an ulterior motive, but the more likely ones were still fairly benign.

Also because I’d hung back, Nicki was the first one to step out into the sunshine on the deck… or dock, or whatever it would be called when a balcony was built onto a big concrete slab of a building to make a place for gangplanks to go… and see the Cloud Chariot in all its glory.

“Oh… wow,” she said.

If it had been hard to get a handle on the size of the cruise ships when we were standing on the other side of the complex and couldn’t see all of them, it was even harder when we were right up close to one of them and could see little else. It was taller than most buildings, and also longer than any building I’d seen of its height.

“It’s so… still,” Nicki said. “The party boat was drifting a bit.”

That was another thing that made it disorienting. The fact that it was just hanging there as if it was held up by the ramp-like gangplanks connecting it to the to the boarding complex made it even harder to process what I was seeing.

“Yeah,” I agreed. “Though I think if this one was drifting a bit, it would be too much.”

The elves seemed less awestruck, but that wasn’t to say they weren’t impressed. They just took it as their due that they would be impressed by their surroundings, especially when they knew what they cost.

“Now this is more like it,” one of them said. “After being closed inside all that concrete and brick, I was a little worried, you know?”

“It was a bit dwarven in there, wasn’t it?” another said.

“Very utilitarian,” Wisdom said. “This is more elegant. The form follows the function, yes, but there are thoughts in its expression beyond ‘What do we need it to do?'”

While it was accented with gold and there was what almost looked like a small city growing out of the top of it, the ship’s hull was wood. Something in my head said “cedar”, but I had no idea if that was based on anything or if it just seemed like a good wood for a boat to be made out of. Rather than individual planks or timbers or beams or whatever it was a ship made using traditional methods would have been made out of, the hull seemed to have been carved of one single massive piece of wood.

Obviously that would have been too fantastic to be practical. More likely, it had been force-grown in the correct shape with magic, or even more likely, magic had been used to join individual pieces of wood into an unblemished whole… or unblemished hull, as the case may be.

Either way, if it wasn’t actually elven construction, it seemed likely they’d be familiar… and thus comfortable… with the techniques employed.

I was having a hard time feeling reassured.

“Please keep moving!” a man in a powder blue shirt and khaki pants said from the middle of the gangplank… which was probably as wide as a hallway, so long as the particular hallway was a narrow one, though it did have railings as promised. “Folks, please keep moving so we can keep the gangplank clear!”

I started moving forward at what I felt was a reasonable pace, but then I felt small yet firm hands pushing me from behind, and I started moving slightly faster.

“This is a really big ship, Glory,” I said, knowing with relative certainty that the way things had been going, she was the only one in the group who would be literally pushing me.

“I know,” she said. “Isn’t it amazing?”

“It’s… a lot more than I was expecting.”

“Are you afraid you’ll get lost?” she said.

“I don’t see how it could be safe.”

“Well, it’s flying right now,” she said.

“It’s floating.”

“Whatever it’s doing, it’s not falling,” she said. “I thought you’d decided your anxiety about flying was really masking your uncertainty about moving forward.” You were okay on the party boat.”

“The party boat was pretty reasonably sized for something that’s got to stay up in the air under its own power,” I said. “This thing? It’s way too big for a single levitator.”

“It has thirty-two levitators, in fact,” Wisdom said, appearing smoothly beside me.

“That’s thirty-two things that can go wrong,” I said.

“I’m sure it takes more than one failure to bring it down,” Glory said.

“Only two-thirds of them are in operation in one time to begin with,” Wisdom said. “It can fly with half of them, and make a controlled descent with as few as four, as long as they’re sufficiently distributed across the superstructure. In addition, the size itself is actually a stabilizing feature in its operations.”

“Yeah? How’s that work, exactly?” I said. It flew in the face of everything I knew about aeronautics.

“A craft of this size shares some properties with a landmass,” she said.

“How’s that make it more stable?” I asked.

“Ships crash,” Wisdom said. “Landmasses don’t.”

“She has a point, Mackenzie,” Glory said. She slipped around, falling in beside me, between me and the railing, though she kept an arm around me to gently encourage me forward. “When’s the last time you heard of an island crashing?”

“…okay, granted, I have never heard of an island crashing, but somehow that’s less reassuring than it sounds,” I said. “How many floating islands are there in the world?”

“Charted, or inhabited?” Wisdom asked.

“Thank you, I think we’re good here,” Glory said, gesturing for Wisdom to move ahead.

As soon as she did, most of the rest of the group also diverted around us, though Grace and Nicki stopped just in front of us instead of hurrying onward with the rest.

“The thing is, it’s not as though this is the maiden voyage,” Glory said. “Apart from being the holiday run, this is the most routine of routine operations. It’s probably made this exact run dozens of times.”

“So maybe it’s due,” I said. “If you had read the books that my grandmother kept around the house…”

“Books from your grandfather’s time?” Glory said. “Multiple human generations ago!”

“Still true, though,” I said.

“Mackenzie, you sound like an elf,” she said. “This is a modern ship, with modern enchantments and modern methods… as an applied enchanter and certified geek, I’d think you’d be embracing that progress.”

“Well… I guess it’s a little late to back out now,” I said.

“No, if you don’t want to get on board, I’ll give you money to get home,” she said.

“But you’d be disappointed in me.”

“I’d be annoyed with you, but I’d rather be annoyed that you’re not here than annoyed that you’re here but constantly predicting doom.”

“…I guess once we’re underway I’ll probably get used to the idea?” I said. “And if I don’t, well… probably from most of the places on board, it would be easy to forget I’m on an airship at all.”

“If you’re sure… because it’s going to be hard to back out later,” she said.

“I’m sure,” I said, and to prove it… and get off the gangplank a bit sooner… I quickened my pace a little.

Once were onboard, I realized that Wisdom’s question hadn’t necessarily been noteworthy, except for showing that she’d been thinking ahead. While Glory had kept us together, it was inevitable that we would break up our little group into actual little groups. As much as her royal highness had worked to foment a spirit of egalitarianism on the trip so far, the fact remained that not everyone in the group could afford the kinds of accommodations that she had booked for herself, even with a generous subsidy from the court accounts.

“I put up the money to get everyone onto the first class decks,” she explained as we headed towards our suite, guided by the movement of the tiny star that had appeared in our jewels as soon as we set foot onboard. . “Anything extra was up to individuals… a few got their own upgrades, but most didn’t. We’re all reasonably close to each other, and we all have access to the same dining and entertainment opportunities, but I don’t expect we’ll be doing everything as a group. In fact, that’s part of what makes it a vacation for the court: it can be a vacation from the court, to whatever extent anyone needs it.”

“I’m really looking forward to the dining,” I said.

“We are not taking our meals at the buffet,” she said “I hope you realize that.”

“I like buffets, though,” I said. “I like the novelty of them.”

“What novelty? You have had buffet-style dining three times a day every day for a year and a half.”

“That’s… a slight exaggeration,” I said. “Anyway, what I mean is, it’s not what I grew up with, so it still seems kind of amazing to me.”

“Okay, given that you grew up with no food, it makes sense that you would like the idea of unlimited food,” she said. “But I like the idea of good food, and I think that you will, too, if you give it a chance.”

“Or maybe you’d enjoy the buffet if you gave it a chance,” I said. “I mean, it’s still going to be a luxury buffet, right? Probably a lot of the same dishes in the full-service restaurants, probably made by the same people.”

“No matter how much you eat on a buffet, you’re not getting your money’s worth,” she said.

“Maybe that’s true for the average human or elf, but I can eat a bit more… anyway, in this case, the price of the buffet is built into the cost of our passage,” I said. “So we’re already not getting our money’s worth if we don’t go there.”

“Mackenzie… I promise you, you can have all you can eat at any eatery on the ship,” Glory said. “Whatever you want, as much as you want. If you want every item on the menu brought to the table in alphabetical order, we can do that.”

“That’s not as fun, though!” I said. “Also, I would probably drop dead of embarrassment if you did that.”

“Why?” she said. “It would probably waste less food than gets thrown out by the buffet every day.”

“But it would be… I mean, it would draw a lot of attention, and put a lot of people out,” I said. “Believe me, I don’t want that… I do want to check out the buffet at least once. Is that so bad?”

“I suppose it’s not,” Glory said. “And I suppose I should be happy that you’re not mindlessly acquiescing to my wishes… but… I have plans. Maybe it was wrong of me to make them without your involvement, but since I couldn’t surprise you with the trip itself as I did my sister, I had to have some fun. Still… well, it’s not exactly a balanced compromise, but as you’ve pointed out, your admission to the buffets is already paid for. If you wanted to wander into one of them during the afternoon, or some other time, then we could both have what we want.”

“Okay,” I said. “But if I think you’ll like it, I might try to drag you back there the next time.”

“Fair enough,” she said, taking my hand in hers and raising it to her lips. “Just bear in mind that my stomach has a more or less mundane relationship to the rest of my anatomy, and with the reservations I have lined up, I won’t be interested in filling up on shrimp cocktail.”

“You need to make reservations to eat on board the boat we’re stuck on?”

“They aren’t necessarily required, per se,” Glory said. “There are a range of dining options for all budgets… all budgets that can afford a cruise… and with varying levels of exclusivity. Some of them practically require reservations, some actually require them, and some… well, it was probably overkill, booking a table. But I mean for us to be treated right, Mackenzie Blaise, and that means leaving as little to chance as possible.”

“That’s… that’s actually more touching than the fact that you made all the dinner choices in advance,” I said.

“All the dining choices, I would say,” she said. “Both to emphasize the fact that I have chosen the venues but not the actual meal selections, and that there’s more than one meal in a day.”

“I guess on that note, it’s already a little late for lunch,” I said. “When’s our first reservation?”

“Oh, well… our first meal is a bit of an exception,” she said. “I did book it in advance, but I didn’t make a reservation, and though I did select the food.”

“…you’ve lost me,” I said.

“Well, I didn’t know for sure when we’d get here,” she said. “And I didn’t want to risk that we’d end up scrambling to make a reservation, or get stuck waiting.”


“So I ordered room service.”

Tales of MU is now on Patreon! Help keep the story going!

Or if you particularly enjoyed this chapter, leave a tip!

Characters: , , , ,

12 Responses to “Chapter 267: Getting Onboard”

  1. Daez says:

    Tricky tricky, Glory…..

    Also noticed a bit of a trail-off sentence here… Maybe missing a bit?

    “Yeah,” I agreed. “Though I think if this one was drifting a bit, it would be too much. I mean, all those” is where it cuts off.

    Nice chapter, AE. 🙂

    …….but I’m still eagerly and desperately awaiting more Semele…. 😀 so excited!

    Current score: 0
  2. Jonathan says:

    “Though I think if this one was drifting a bit, it would be too much. I mean, all those

    Looks like there’s a missing bit after this.

    Current score: 1
    • Klaus says:

      I don’t think so. I read it to imply that even small movements wpuld have incredible destructive potential.

      Current score: 2
  3. x says:


    if I’d noticed, then Glory probably had, too. [Capitalization]

    “I thought you’d decided your anxiety about flying was really masking your uncertainty about moving forward.” You were okay on the party boat.” [extra quotation mark]

    as soon as we set foot onboard. . [extra ‘.’]

    “I did book it in advance, but I didn’t make a reservation, and though I did select the food.” [Not a typo, but the “and though” feels weird here]

    Current score: 0
  4. Zathras IX says:

    The desire not to
    Look foolish has an effect
    On almost all minds

    Current score: 3
  5. Order of Chaos says:

    I’m starting to see Wisdom as a cross between Two and Amaranth, anyone else seeing this?

    Current score: 2
    • Nocker says:

      I see her as just being a more experienced enchanter in general. She’s got everything locked down and obviously knows what she’s doing.

      Though she’s kind of had to become capable out of necessity. She did mention that keeping mail under her clothes has stopped seven arrows(which may be related to Treehome, but Marcel and Keegan both keep the same habit, one being presumably full human and the other a half demon roughly analogous to Mackenzie). One doesn’t survive treehome that long without becoming capable in many ways, after all.

      Current score: 4
  6. LetsSee says:

    Anyone else think that Glory is going to be treating Mack to a few virgins?

    Current score: 0
  7. muH says:

    Hmmm i can think of particular turnaround related to meals …

    Current score: 0
  8. Iain says:


    Current score: 1
  9. Arancaytar says:

    “The star in the gem will point you towards your room when it’s on your wrist and you are conscious only,”

    Huh… if that condition is there for security, wouldn’t it be more practical to make a display that was only visible to the person using it?

    Current score: 0
  10. Nigel says:

    All this talk of food and dining has me wondering, when does Mackenzie next need to feed?

    Current score: 1