Chapter 269: Coming To The Point

on December 12, 2014 in Volume 2 Book 8: Elven Holiday, Volume 2: Sophomore Effort

In Which Glory Is Admittedly Bi-Curious

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While I’m very excited about what Patreon can do for me as a writer, I also have an immediate need to shore up my finances so I can start the new year on firmer footing. My goal is to get off of paying for important services month-to-month by switching to cheaper annual plans and get enough of a padding in my bank account that I’m not skating month to month. You can find more details in the blog post that went up yesterday.

Tomorrow I’ll post a short (about ten minutes) podcast I recorded talking about my approach to worldbuilding in general terms. For every $100 the fundraiser brings in, I’ll be recording another one talking about a particular aspect of the world, as suggested by readers. We’ve already got two of them on the way.

Anyway, on to the story…


After we checked in with Oberrad… where we learned that everyone was getting along so far and nothing of note had happened… and I made a quick reflection to Ian, we ate quite a bit of the welcome platters.

Though there were quite a few things I couldn’t identify, I tried most of them. There was a fridge of holding hidden inside the cabinet under the mirror, and we were able to stow the leftovers for later, though Glory noted that we weren’t likely to go hungry.

It made sense to do at least a cursory inspection of the rest of the accommodations before we headed out. There was really only one other room… to save on even more space, the bath portions of the bathroom were ensuite with the toilet closeted away.

The bed was… a bed. Big, with adjustable firmness, but Glory proclaimed it to be just barely adequate.

She hadn’t been kidding about the facilities, though. The bathroom area was tiled over in some kind of gray stone, which the the tub looked like it was carved from… or maybe “polished” would be the right word since it was all smooth, shiny curves. It was big enough for two people, at least in the same way that the loveseat was.

Well, I supposed you’d have to know someone really well to take a bath with them in the first place.

The glass-enclosed shower, on the other hand, was roughly big enough for a skirmish match. The showerhead was big and hung directly from the ceiling, though there was also a detachable handheld unit on the wall, attached to some kind of box that looked vaguely vent-like. There was a ledge or shelf big enough to sit on along one end of the glass enclosure. I couldn’t imagine why it would be there if not for sex.

“Steam bath,” Glory said, putting her hand on the metal box. “Not my thing, but very much yours, I think?”

“I don’t know why they bothered with the rest of the ship,” I said. I put out my hand and could feel the fire energy bound up inside that box.

“I did not bring you here to spend the entire trip in the bathroom.”

“You didn’t bring me into your private room so we could not spend time in it, either, though,” I said. “Can we at least see how it works?”

“Later,” she said. “I don’t want to see you with clothes off until I know you don’t have to put them back on until morning.”

“I can’t argue with that.”

“I bet you could if you tried.”

“Okay, probably,” I admitted.

“Anyway, let’s go… I want to see the promenade.”

“Sounds like a dance,” I said.

“It’s more like a street, or a shopping mall,” she said. “At least, that’s my impression of it.”

“I know what it is,” I said.

Glory did a double-take when she opened the door to find Wisdom standing outside it.

“Wow, the soundproofing is really good,” Glory said. “How do people knock?”

“There’s a bubble a few feet in diameter surrounding the door… any sounds originating within it are transmitted through,” Wisdom said. “I did some investigating when I noticed.”

“And then you stood outside the bubble while waiting for us to come out?” Glory said.

“I didn’t want to intrude,” Wisdom said.

“I think you wanted to show off,” Glory said.

“I didn’t know if you’d want to be disturbed after having been in so much company all night,” Wisdom said.

“But you were willing to stand out here until dinner time or later on the off-chance that we’d come out?”

“I wouldn’t have stood out here indefinitely,” Wisdom said. “Only until it reched the point where it was no longer worth it to me.”

“How long would that have been?” Glory asked.

“Longer than this,” Wisdom said.

“Okay, guys, I know you have this dance you do and I don’t really understand it, but I don’t want to spend my vacation playing guessing games,” I said. “What do you want, Wisdom?”

“Mackenzie Blaise, that is rude,” Glory said.

“Yeah, maybe, but I know you don’t really disapprove, because you know I like it when you call me by full name,” I said. “I mean, I’m not jealous… I like Wisdom… but I just don’t want to be on guard for agendas and machinations and things. I’m pretty sure part of the reason we came up here is to get away from that.”

“Well said,” Wisdom said. “What I was hoping to get away from is the social strictures that say as the new elf in the court, I have to stay within certain boundaries and can’t be too bold in putting myself forward. So, I’m being bold. But… and I’m sure I don’t have to tell you of all people this… one can be bold in action and still have a certain shyness of spirit.”

“You know, I find that sort of thing endearing,” Glory said.

“Yes,” Wisdom said. “I really got the idea from your girlfriend, you know… when I saw how she acted last night to step out of the social hierarchy, I knew this was my chance. That’s why I was as bold as I was with you.”

“I was surprised, but appreciative of that.”

“I noticed,” Wisdom said.

“Okay,” I said. “But… are you getting close to Glory because you want to get out of the low-status role and being close to her helps you, or are you trying to get out of the low-status role because you like Glory and your low status stops you from getting close?”

“I’m a little disappointed that you don’t remember more of Acantha’s instruction,” Wisdom said.

“…so, both,” I said.

“You sound so displeased, Mackenzie,” Glory said.

“I don’t like the idea of someone using you for social climbing,” I said.

“Everybody in my court is ‘using’ me for social standing, one way or another,” Glory said. “But if you have a friend who makes you laugh, are you using them for humor? If you have a friend whose cooking you enjoy, are you using them for food?”

“Ideally, no,” I said. “People don’t like being used.”

“I would say that people don’t like feeling exploited,” Wisdom said. “And the language of utility, in Pax and human culture in particular, speaks to exploitation. But there are utilitarian considerations in any relationship. We are all close to the people we are close to because of what we get out of it.”

“What about what we do for them?” I said.

“That is covered by my statement,” Wisdom said.

“But… okay, I do have some friends who cook,” I said. “And while I love it when they make food for everybody, they like doing it. They’re not doing it to build up goodwill so that people will do things for them.”

“Do you think they would still enjoy cooking if their friends didn’t appreciate it?” Glory said. “You’re describing a relationship where both sides are getting something from the other: someone to cook, someone to cook for.”

“You make it sound almost bilateral, my queen,” Wisdom said.

“Well, I’ve been… curious… about bilateral relationships,” Glory said. “But even a hierarchy must offer some benefit to those at every level of it, if its going to be stable.”

“Okay,” I said, “but at the point where everybody appreciates what everyone else is doing, can you really say that anyone is being used?”

“I understand that you’re working in a framework where this is so,” Wisdom said. “But by that logic, if Glory appreciates my attention… and I believe that she does… could you really say that she’s being used?”

“I… don’t have an answer for that,” I said.

“You don’t like the answer for it,” Wisdom said. “You know what I think? I think you don’t trust me because you know I learned from Acantha.”

“You’re right,” I said.

“Well… so did you,” Wisdom said.

“But the difference is, I don’t have to guess at my motivations,” I said.

“I wouldn’t suggest that you do,” Wisdom said. “But it might be a mistake to assume you have perfect knowledge of them without stopping to examine them. For instance, how certain are you that you’re not motivated by jealousy?”

“Very,” I said. “I’m not the jealous type.”

“Deciding that someone is not capable of something because they’re not the type is one of the most elementary errors of judgment one can make when dealing with a person,” Wisdom said.

“But I’m talking about myself,” I said.

“Have you never been wrong about yourself?”

“Okay, fine, let’s examine the evidence,” I said. “I’m pretty well entrenched in polyamory… my primary girlfriend is a nymph who has sex with other people on a regular basis, I know that Glory is what I would call intimate with almost every member of her court. Why would I be jealous of you in particular?”

“Classically speaking, ‘jealousy’ is not about what others have that we want, but what we have and fear that others want from us,” Wisdom said. “You don’t mind who is close to Glory because they’re not a threat to your position.”

“And you are?”

“You’ve seen I’m capable, intelligent, and efficient. You’ve seen me want things and go for them. And while I’m shy for an elf, you know I can move through unfamiliar environments with a confidence you lack.”

“…you don’t mean my position as her girlfriend,” I realized.

“You were right, I’m not much different than any other member of the court in some ways,” Wisdom said. “Elven cultural narcissism has created a great deal of homogeny… the only one of us who could said to be more Glory’s ‘type’ than the rest is her own sister, so none of us are likely to catch her to the exclusion of anyone else. You’re unique… and measurably human, something none of us are. If I wanted Glory to have that kind of relationship with me, it would be a tough fight.”

“It would be no fight,” Glory said, taking my hand in hers and squeezing it. “But go on.”

“Let’s be realistic,” Wisdom said. “Mackenzie has done been perfectly serviceable as your agent, better than you probably expected. Better than she expected, I’m sure. But making her your agent was just an excuse to have her close, and that excuse is no longer needed.”

“I like working for her,” I said.

“You like the challenge and the fact that it’s put you in a position to figure out what you’re capable of,” Wisdom said. “But you won’t like how it complicates her relationship with you for very long. When that point comes, do you think you’ll be in a position where you’ll step back and just be her girlfriend, or will it lead to a complete break?”

“There are a lot of presumptions here,” Glory said.

“I wouldn’t have been so forward, but she did demand it,” Wisdom said. “Do you think I’m wrong?”

“I don’t know if you’re correct,” Glory said.

“I’m offering to remove a complication before it becomes a problem,” Wisdom said. “And that’s just the beginning. She’s been good, but I could be amazing.”

“Wisdom… I’m on vacation,” Glory said.

“I understand,” she said, and then she glided away.

“Sorry,” I said, when I felt like she’d probably left the deck.

“What for?”

“Turning that into a thing,” I said.

“Mackenzie, if you hadn’t said anything, she probably would have been following us around the whole trip, looking for an opening to put herself forward, trying to make herself useful, or just generally ingratiating herself,” Glory said. “And while I like her well enough, and certainly won’t mind seeing her from time to time, that’s not what I had in mind. So I’m glad you cut that short.”

“What do you think about what she said?”

“I think I’m on vacation,” Glory said.


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13 Responses to “Chapter 269: Coming To The Point”

  1. zeel says:

    AE is getting really good at the final lines in chapters.

    Current score: 8
  2. Order of Chaos says:

    Ian and Wisdom have now both done the relationship cost benefit thing. Also elves do talk round a topic at times which may be how Glory has missed that Mackenzie is quite happy worrying about stuff before it goes wrong because she likes to be thinking and if it does go wrong she has the relevant data to hand.

    Current score: 4
    • Nocker says:

      Sometimes you kinda need to do a cost-benefit analysis of your relationships.

      In Ian’s case lets be honest, Mackenzie is a giant ball of crap waiting to go down and that’s even presuming she’s flawless as a person, rather than the bratty mess she often is. Not to mention that their relationship dynamic isn’t terribly favorable to him, and he has to put up with people like Steff he genuinely dislikes on top of it.

      In Wisdom’s case I think it’s something that just doesn’t translate to our language all that great. She’s viewing the whole thing as wanting to be mostly professional but having a sexual element it seems to need to by necessity of their whole midling dynamic. She wants to fill a niche that Mackenzie is filling and doing adequitley, thinking she can do better.

      In terms of actual quality, I’m almost inclined to agree on that sentiment though. Wisdom has her shit locked down to an almost uncanny degree and seems better prepared and informed by a signifigant margin. Of course Glory could keep two agents, or even partner them if things get serious, but that’s Glory’s call and I don’t know if I’d like ToMU becoming a buddy cop series.

      Current score: 0
      • Lucy says:

        One is the comically clumsy Half-Demon daughter of the local infernal Don,
        the other is a hyper-competent Elven Teenager,
        together they fight crime…

        …or at least do odd jobs for one of the Demonettes Girlfriends

        Current score: 3
  3. Eliska says:

    But…but…that’s Steff’s job to take from Mackenzie!

    Current score: 5
  4. Cadnawes says:

    Wow, that’s kind of awful. Mack does seem to be good at agenting, in ways that Glory needed her to be, like finding Oberrad house and tracking down, and communicating with, the craftspeople. Mostly she knows a wide variety of people and is good at research. I am not so sure Wisdom would be better at that kind of thing to the extent that she thinks she would be.

    Part of my evidence for that is this very thing: Wisdom is arguing she’d be a good agent and is pestering her would-be boss on the first night of vacation in front of the person whose job she wants to steal, and said person picked right up on the fact that she wanted something specific. Wisdom also, by pointing out Mack’s potential inadequacies, is calling Glory’s decisions regarding her into question. Smoooooooth.

    This sort of thing, right here, would be looked at very, very poorly in any human circles I’ve ever dealt with.

    Current score: 3
    • zeel says:

      Wisdom just needs to be patient. Mackenzie will graduate long before she or Glory.

      Current score: 1
      • Cadnawes says:

        LOL, indeed.

        I’m not saying she’s bad, of course, but that was… really graceless.

        Current score: 2
        • Nocker says:

          Of course she’s graceless, it’s Glory she’s after.

          Current score: 7
  5. Readaholic says:

    At least Wisdom’s stated agenda is out in the open now. And so long as she leaves it at that, and is happy to wait until Mack leaves, it will probably be fine.

    Of course, all that presumes that Wisdom’s stated agenda is her entire agenda regarding Mack, Glory, and the court. She could easily be a double agent for the paralyzed elf who currently rules treehome through terror, or simply out to sell Mack to Mercy.

    Current score: 3
  6. Zathras IX says:

    One can be bold in
    Action and have a certain
    Shyness of spirit

    Current score: 3