Chapter 271: Long Winter’s Nap

on December 19, 2014 in Volume 2 Book 8: Elven Holiday, Volume 2: Sophomore Effort

In Which We Settle In

The world fell away.

There was no other way to describe it.

The ship’s movement was totally masked on the inside. There was no sense of acceleration, nothing to feel. From our point of view, the ground outside the window… already far below… just started to dip away, slowly at first and then faster.

“What a curious sensation,” Glory sai. “I mean, there is no sensation, and that’s curious. It’s like watching something in the TV, isn’t it?”

“It’s so big and real, though,” I said.”We’re trapped in the bubble and it’s the whole world out there.”

“Imagine a TV that you sat in and the show was all around you, though?” Glory said. “It might look something like this. Though, this would make for an odd show.”

“It would be something, though,” I said. I couldn’t take my eyes off the landscape growing smaller zooming out beneath us, but I was grateful for the conversation.

“Humans!” Glory said. “The things you won’t build.”

“Elves have made flying vehicles,” I said.

“Graceful little sky-boats,” she said. “Floating litters. We made things to skim just above the treetops.”

“Well, we started out with the same sorts of things,” I said. “Broomsticks. Flying carpets.”

“We never went past that.”

There was an odd kind of yearning in her voice, a sadness that I didn’t understand, so I said nothing., just looked at her. Nestled in the window, there was no way for us to sit without touching, no way for us to look out except to sit facing each other. My legs were sort of folded beneath me, her feet were in my lap. The landscape outside the window was losing definition for me, though I imagined the view through Glory’s elven eyes was quite a bit different.

Her eyes were out the window, mine were on her. She was so beautiful, in the cold elven way. Not the type of girl I was drawn to, but just as a matter of aesthetics?

…no, it wasn’t just aesthetics. The truth was, I barely knew what my type was, and I hadn’t spent a lot of time looking at other girls’ faces. It was still kind of awkward to do so now, even with the ones I was openly involved with who I knew definitely had feelings for me.

Somehow, looking at Glory was easier than it had ever been. Maybe having seen the dizzying view out the window had made me feel braver? Though I didn’t actually feel noticeably brave. Instead, I felt… weightless. Weirdly disconnected from everything. Maybe that was it?

“That’s why I wanted to do this new, while I’m still young,” she continued after some silence. “I don’t think I’d have the nerve for it when I’m older.”

“There were non-middling elves on the promenade,” I said. “I mean, I think… they sure carried themselves like adults.”

“They’re still young, though… I don’t think I saw a single elf over two hundred,” she said.

“How do you tell?”

“Like you said, it’s in how they carry themselves,” Glory said. “Anyway, nobody who came of age much before mass air travel was a thing would trust their immortal life in one of these things, unless they were sure they were done using it.”

“…you’re not doing much to keep me positive,” I said.

“Sorry,” she said. “But the thing is, those early attempts and the horrible accidents you’ve read about? They lived through those eras of flight… to them, it’s all one era. This is still a brand-new, untested and untried thing. Elves don’t believe in new magic. That’s why for all our art, we’re so far behind.”

“It might also explain a certain conservatism in human arcanists, until the very modern age,” I said. “Our earliest wizards were learning from elves, either directly or by trying to copy what they thought elves were doing. Any innovation was frowned upon for a long time. There are still living wizards… human ones, I mean… who believe any spell that’s not thousands of years old is a dangerously untried corruption. I mean, I understand where they’re coming from. Probing the limits of magic is risky.”

“So how do you get from flying carpets and broomsticks to something like all of this?”

“Very carefully?” I said. “It’s safer to try to combine what we know works in new ways, which is what applied enchantment is about. You can still run into problems with overreaching, but it’s a bit safer in general? The limits of what can be done are more solidly defined in the center than around the edges, so you don’t want to rely on the edges and the corners and the things that might be open to interpretation unless you have to, because even if you manage to pull something awesome off that way, expecting it to work again might be pushing your luck.”

“Why is that?”

“I don’t know,” I said. “Last winter, in my thaumo class, Professor Goldman described the universe as having a sort of ‘goodwill reservoir’, which is just a way of personifying the amount of flexibility or give that it has at a given time. When you try something awesome or desperate and the universe lets it happen, some of the reservoir gets emptied… but the reservoir empties faster if you come back again asking for more of the same, or if one request leads directly to another.”

“If you give the universe reason to believe it made a mistake indulging you, in other words,” she said.

“Yeah, that’s pretty much it,” I said. “Though again, it’s not necessarily a decision that’s being made by someone, somewhere. That’s just a way of conceptualizing it.”

“Strange,” Glory said.

“What is?”

“It never occurred to me before, but there isn’t a god of magic, is there?” she said. “We don’t have one… elves, I mean… and I’ve never heard of a human one.”

“No, we don’t have one,” I said. “I mean, that I know of… my, uh, theological education was kind of skewed? And the IRM in general isn’t big on public recognition of gods that aren’t affiliated with Khersis… and Khaele, but only because you can’t get away from her domain? There are regionally important gods, and gods that are supported by trade guilds and things, including a lot who are patrons of particular magic arts, but I don’t think I’ve heard of a god of magic. Don’t you think there would be one?”

“I don’t know if that would make sense,” I said. “I mean, it would be kind of like having a god of divinity?”

“But it would explain why magic works… and doesn’t work… the way it does.”

“Well, it’s not just magic that has the ‘goodwill reservoir’ effect,” I said. “Magic just sort of… amplifies things? Makes them more obvious? I don’t know. You run into the same problems trying to make a reliable bicycle or non-magical timepiece that you do trying to do something brand new with magic, but it’s just more likely to fall apart or grind to a halt than explode and kill you or open a rip in the planar fabric.”

“Still… if it makes sense to think about it in terms of someone making the decision to let you get away with trying something or not, then I’d think it would be natural to imagine some kind of god doing that?”

“That’s not what a god is, though,” I said. “I mean, you can’t just make up an otherworldly being to explain every little thing about how the world works that you can’t find an explanation for. For one thing, I think the actual gods might object. Anyway, just because we can describe what’s happening in terms of a decision-making process doesn’t mean that’s what happening. I mean, it’s random enough that we could say it was dice.”

“Why not? A hidden god rolling dice… it would probably explain a few things.”

“The gods do not play dice with the universe,” I said.

“Not the ones we know about,” she said. “Anyway, who says they don’t?”

“They do.”

“But I’ve heard plenty of stories of them placing wagers on mortals and elves, so maybe they don’t need dice because they have us?”

“What’s that got to do with your secret dice god?”

“Nothing?” she said. “I’m just thinking out loud.”

“Okay,” I said. The ground outside was… barely recognizable as ground. It was high up enough that it looked like a map, all the fields and forests being little more than irregular shapes of slightly different colors of greenish-brown. The whole thing was very surreal, which was maybe why everything was starting to feel unreal to me, dreamlike. “So… what’s our plan for dinner?”

“We have reservations at a nice candlelit cafe on the upper deck for midnight, and then we’re meeting the others poolside for a late-night general orientation.”

“Midnight? Why so late?”

“Because I figured if we didn’t crash shortly after takeoff, we’d still want a nap or something by dinnertime,” she said.

“What, are you tired already?”

“You are,” she said. “Too tired to react when I said ‘crash’… you’re dropping off, Mackenzie Blaise. Did you forget you were up all night?”

“…yeah, but that was hours ago,” I said, stifling a yawn… well, not entirely stifling it.

“After you get a little sleep, you’ll probably understand why that’s not an argument,” she said. She disentangled her legs from mine and slid gracefully out of the round window seat to the floor. “Come on, let’s lay down, and then we get this vacation started properly.”

“If you want to take me to bed, you don’t need an excuse,” I said, sliding out of the window, and finding my legs had gone to sleep. No real surprise there, since Glory’s legs had been basically on top of them. Glory slipped an arm under my shoulder to steady me. “Sorry, little wobby.”

“Yeah… I would need more than elven ears to make sense of that garble,” she said. “You are dead on your feet, dearling.”

I had a retort to this, something that I’m pretty sure was about how no, she was tired, but it and most of the actual trip from the window to the bed was lost to the mists of time. That was pretty much it for my first day on the cruise ship, the first day of my vacation. That one day had seemed to stretch on for a long time, probably because it had started in the middle of the night and also because so many different things had happened during it.

The last thing that I clearly recalled was Glory saying, “Don’t worry, I won’t let you sleep through the holidays.”

Tales of MU will resume in January
Check back tomorrow for a podcast!

Have a wonderful rest of the holiday season.

<3


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64 Responses to “Chapter 271: Long Winter’s Nap”

  1. Sapphite says:

    That’s so very sweet – I love that sleepy feeling you get, especially when a loved one puts you to bed.

    Current score: 5
  2. Randie says:

    I just wanted to let AE know that the chapter alert email function appears to be down again.

    Current score: 2
    • N'vill says:

      Same here, last notification was for chapter 269, so two I had to find for myself not knowing they were here.

      Current score: 0
  3. Kobold says:

    Tales of MU is sleeping through the holidays 😛

    Great storyline. I always like seeing the dynamics between different couples.

    Current score: 3
  4. wings_of_change says:

    Omg, now I know what the focus of my next tabletop rpg will be! I love the idea of characters finding out about the players rolling dice, deciding on their fates. I’ll need to think about it more, but that could be an awesome meta game…

    Current score: 0
  5. Readaholic says:

    Awww. That’s really sweet. And a humorous meta reference to what is and isn’t permitted to work – with an interesting insight into bicycles and clocks. Presumably the gnome ones work because they’re hidden by the gnomish effect.

    Current score: 3
    • zeel says:

      Wounder if that ability has anything to do with their rather. . .different. . . kind of god.

      Current score: 0
    • riotllama says:

      I LOVE this idea of gnomish technology working because most of the gods overlook it.

      Current score: 0
  6. Zathras IX says:

    Elven ambitions
    Have cultural limits—this
    Far and no further

    Current score: 3
  7. Nocker says:

    I think Mackenzie needs to remember the things she’s encountered. Gnomes DO have reliable time pieces and she’s encountered one, but she’s probably forgotten by now for obvious reasons. Beyond that though even the words to describe such a thing aren’t known to her, but are to Glory and some other elves(She didn’t know the word “clock” until recently, but it did appear elsewhere). So it just seems like it’s not something humans have managed, but nonhumans got around to at some point.

    Even beyond that, one wonders how complex things have to get to “break down”? I mean to simple sundials just kind of crack apart? What about hourglasses? How about major installations like Stonehenge which track seasons? Candle clocks which are just wax and a flame?

    If you stuck two wheels on a frame and animated the wheels with magic, does that not work? How about a skateboard, which is just a piece of wood with wheels on it?

    I’ve never really been able to wrap my head around this concept. I mean obviously given the malbus situation people are able to track time and record it, and if magic amplifies things then making a magic timepiece should just be even more impossible.

    Current score: 1
    • Dan says:

      I think you’re thinking too hard on the subject. Honestly I’m not the biggest fan of the way science works, or rather how it doesn’t, in this universe. I find that any acknowledgment of it generally takes me out of the universe and thinking about how Alexandra wants the story/lore to go.

      Regardless, I’ll try to answer some of your questions. Sundials won’t work because darkness is magical, which is why Mack and other half-demons/demons can see without light. Same with stonehenge. That means it could purposely avoid the correct area of the sundial and mess with people, or just avoid sundials in general… makes me wonder if sundials could be used like a flashlight at night, hah. That’d probably end up with casualties though, because it would be playing with the rules in a way that makes people roll their eyes… and I’m thinking outside of the story again.

      As for candle clocks and hourglasses, that hasn’t been addressed afaik, but if it ever is, it’ll probably be revealed that fire and air pressure are both magical. The fire could choose to melt wax like it was paper, and the air in the hourglass could suck through an hour worth of sand in five seconds.

      Skateboards might work, but a fall that in our world might cause a bruise would probably cause a broken bone in Mack’s. And a broken bone in ours would cause a death in hers. And if you get in a hurry, it’ll be likely that it would actually break down.

      As far as the gnomes, they’ve always had a steampunk/tinkerer quality to them, so obviously they get to break rules that no one else can, because of the rule of awesome. Gnomes that can’t make non-magical items would be like ugly, pitiful elves that can’t go into the woods or weak dwarves without beards.

      …Apparently I’ve thought too much about this subject myself. TLDR: It works because magical awesomeness.

      Current score: 0
      • Anvildude says:

        I feel like you’re overthinking the aspect of ‘science doesn’t work’ into ‘sciency-stuff doesn’t work’. Sundials and clocks and hourglasses and horseless carriages work, but not for the same [i]reasons[/i] that they work in our world. A Sundial works because the principle of measuring time is based on the movement of the celestial sphere, and so a sundial uses the principle of looking at the sun to tell time- sort of adding a middleman, if you will. Installations like Stonehenge would work on the same principle, but on a larger and therefore more stable scale (because largeness has the aspect of stability). Hourglasses work because each grain represents an increment of time passing, as it passes through the central area- in fact hourglasses are probably even more accurate than other short-time measuring pieces.

        Clocks, then, would have to be (if not mechanical gnome timepieces) essentially enchanted abstractions of sundials, magicked in such a way that the hands turn as the celestial dome turns, but with different levels of ‘delay’ or ‘quickness’ added on, so the minute hand is 60 times as ‘fast’ as the hour hand, etc.

        The whole ‘Universe says no’ splodeyness only comes into play when you attempt to work purposes too small and too broad. Bronze has an aspect of Bronzeness and Metalness and all that those imply. Steel has an aspect of Steelness and Ironness and Metalness, but you can’t make Steel more like Bronze unless you actually make it more LIKE bronze, rather than just making the Steel have properties similar. In a way, the sort of ‘everything has smaller components that are more similar to each other as you get smaller’ that we have- trillions of unique star systems, billions of species, millions of molecules, about a hundred elements, a dozen or so subatomic particles, and 4 flavours, doesn’t work in MU because the universe says ‘stop’ at a certain level of homogenation- a Cat is similar to a Dog in that it’s an animal and has four legs and is fuzzy etc. etc., but Cat parts will be inherently different than Dog parts because they’re from a Cat and not from a Dog, and so have completely different properties such as grace and balance and purring and stuff, while Dogs have properties of Loyalty and tracking and barking.

        Current score: 0
        • zeel says:

          It should be noted that many of the things mentioned here are not explicitly stated in the story to work or not work, and while Mackenzies words could be interpreted to include them they do not do so necessarily. We don’t actually know what exactly will or will not work unless it gets mentioned specifically.

          Sundials? Never mentioned in the story. Might work, might not.
          Hourglass? Used, but in a narrative metaphor.

          If I had to guess, I would think they both probably work about as well in the MUniverse as they do in ours. And are, as in our world, rarely used because more modern, accurate, and convenient devices exist.

          Current score: 0
    • Sliversith says:

      This might help answer some of your questions.
      http://www.talesofmu.com/other/mumoo

      To answer your questions regarding “simple” scientific processes for tracking time… Excluding, as mentioned, the gnomes, who have entirely their own system for when things work, or fail to (possibly due to their unconventional “deities”), such processes may, and probably would, work, for a time, but of course they wouldn’t just fall apart… They just wouldn’t work necessarily. You are trying to cheat the system in a small way, so their failure would likely also be small, but the more you come to rely on them, or the more nuanced you try to make them, the more likely they are to do so.

      Re-read some of the thaumatology lectures from the first book. Basically trying to force in any scientific way of imposing yourself on the world (measurements are an imposed structure on a unstructured world) falls under the “nobody likes a smart-ass” clause.

      Current score: 1
      • Nocker says:

        Yeah, but that still doesn’t make sense. I mean how can a Sundial NOT work, provided the sun does what it always does? How would a candle burn improperly if you used the same grade of wax against a simple ruler?

        The entire idea of a timekeeping device in and of itself would need to be impossible.

        Current score: 0
        • zeel says:

          Because you assume that the wax burns at a constant rate, or that the shadows have a constant angle as they would in our world.

          In the MUniverse things are not consistant – you can’t have reliable machines because such things require absolute precision that simply won’t work in this world.

          Current score: 2
        • Seth says:

          In our world, the relative positioning of the Earth and Sun are fairly constant things – or at least change in small predictable ways. The rotation of the earth is predictable. Things like “gravity” and “inertia” are constant.

          In MU, consider instead that the Sun is the literal interpretation of Apollo’s chariot, running on the inside of a dome covering the sky. For the most part they go from Point A to Point B, but sometimes they like the scenic route, and in the winter the horses are lazy and so travel closer to the horizon. We don’t see any roads or street signs on the sky, so the path varies somewhat. Sometimes they stop for water a long the way, but not the same point every day or for the same duration. On occasion, the driver of said chariot has DVR’d the season opener of the Battlestar Galactica remake and drives a little faster to get back to the stable. This is all assuming that the other gods/demi-gods aren’t doing anything to screw up the path through the sky, changing the weight of the chariot, anchoring it with a magical lasso, hitting the global halt button on time itself, or altering the size of the sky/earth.

          Current score: 7
          • zeel says:

            Something like that.

            Current score: 1
          • Nocker says:

            But that’s not how the sun works. It’s a fixed object operating on a predictable pattern that can be observed. That’s how Malbus was identified: There’s a pattern that can and IS measured, and the discrepancy was noticed and confirmed through multiple sources.

            I mean if magic just makes the whole issue worse, then there should be NO timekeeping devices, because they’d all explode at once. So how is it that a magical timekeeping device that plays with way more fire gets a free pass than some bits of rock arranged in a circle?

            Current score: 0
            • Lucy says:

              how can they bake cookies the same way each time? an inconsistent universe is by its nature inconsistently inconsistent, it can have pools of consistency but it will have them scattered inconsistently throughout

              Current score: 3
            • Nocker says:

              The issue I’m having is that it isn’t inconsistent. It’s consistent. “X does not work, every single time. Unless you add Y. In which case it works every single time.” That’s not inconsistency, that’s just adding a roadblock to the process. Especially when things like scales and weights DO work in the MUverse, unless a mage explicitly tries to cheat them. So it’s a case of “making specific things X and Y don’t work, but everything else is cool” on top of that. I get that the “real” reason is that that setting rule is supposed to be the building block of a bunch of other stuff, but I’ve always seen it as a kind of clumsy way to achieve the desired end.

              The methods OT didn’t actually HELP, is the main issue. Having a character outright say “this is just there because the author thought it’d be neat” and not be refuted in any way shape or form doesn’t actually address the issue. It just makes the issue super visible because someone just called you on it and you never responded.

              Current score: 0
            • zeel says:

              It’s just like rolling dice for various effects. Some things have such a high chance of success you can pretty much rely on them – bake some cookies, and chances are most of them will come out pretty much the same. But the roll has it’s effect, you will end up with one or two cookies that aren’t as good – you may even end up with a bad batch. But most of the time you will at least end up with something delicious.

              But not all things you want to do are so easy, for some you may never roll the right thing to get it to work – or you might roll it five times in a row, but you have no assurance that roll six will be good as well.

              But then to make it even more wonky the universe has a sense of. . . propriety, and some actions have their rolls skewed. The result is that nothing in the MUniverse can be relied upon to produce absolute results. Some things are of course more consistent than others, and some things are more forgiving than others (cookies taste good within a much greater tolerance than most mechanical devices can function).

              Remember also that this is a world that functions like a tabletop RPG. Some elements are so trivial that you don’t bother rolling for them, or even discussing them. Do you need to roll the die for every step you take to see if you trip? It’s assumed that you can walk just fine and will do so reliably. You only roll if it’s something that may have some larger impact, like if you need to take a step without making noise.

              If you construct a mechanical device you are essentially rolling a big handful of dice where each part has a die and requires a specific roll. Unless they are all right the machine won’t work. In our world we can control the system absolutely, things are what they are and have the properties they have. But the MUniverse isn’t like that. And if it feels like your taking too much for granted it might just change things on purpose.

              Current score: 3
            • Nocker says:

              That STILL doesn’t adress the underlying issue though. Mainly because it presumes a complex device still works about 99.999 percent of the time. Mackenzie’s mirrors and time pieces never catch fire on her or explode, despite complex magical items explicitly being complex systems unto themselves. Otherwise Two would have died years ago due to all the rolling you say takes place.

              When Mack made her wand, she didn’t just roll some die, she consulted charts and had to look up what each element meant. There was a clear system in place with specific elements being manipulated with no random number god being referenced. It wasn’t science as we recognizeit, but it was something internally consistent and demonstrable.

              Which is where the break happens. At some point things stop being so, but we never actually see where. This supposedly common property is never demonstrated or tested like everything else is. In fact, things that run counter to it can and do come up regularly. Mundane weights and measurements apply, so you there’s no blanket ban. Some stuff just doesn’t work, and only that stuff, because the author said so, and it doesn’t connect super well to me when held up against other elements.

              Current score: 0
            • zeel says:

              As I said some things have a really high probability and some things a low one. And the probabilities themselves shift over time.

              Furthermore there appear to be certain things the universe (essentially the GM) thinks are cool, and some things it does not. The rolls are arbitrarily skewed at the whim of the universe.

              I is intentionally not consistent. And yes, it works however AE says it works, because she is, in a meta sense, the cosmic Game Master. It’s weird to think about the world like that yes, as it runs completely counter to everything in our own. But it does make a certain kind of sense, and it is meta-consistent. It’s actually quite brilliant.

              Current score: 1
            • Nocker says:

              It’s not even a sense of just the world being internally consistent, the statement is internally inconsistent in and of itself.

              “Mundane stuff like this fails, and magic makes it so bad it explodes. Therefore we take the stuff that’s mundane and fails, and put magic in it.”

              By Mackenzie’s own statement, timepieces should explode. It’s not even a question of “is the GM cool with X vs Y”, it’s a case of “the GM is saying one thing and doing another thirty seconds later”.

              Current score: 0
            • zeel says:

              The timepiece doesn’t explode, it simply won’t work or won’t keep track of time very well. You don’t have to roll a critical failure to not succeed. In most cases it probably works at first and grinds to a halt, or it loses/gains time significantly. In the real world a poorly made watch won’t keep good time, in the MUniverse all watches would count as poorly made.

              Current score: 0
            • Nocker says:

              But the timepiece IS reliable! That’s the issue. X does not work and Y makes things that don’t work explode. But adding X and Y produces a result inconsistent with the one stated to happen. Not even in the sense being meant, where the universe doesn’t like smartasses, but in the sense that everything just said is directly self contradictory. After all, if the universe hates a smartass and refuses even sundials, then even the first most rudimientary timepiece with magic would thus instantly ping as smartassery, because of the fact that even tracking days in a loose sense is forbidden to everyone and the enchanter is forcing the issue.

              Particularly given that premodern magic items explicitly explode much more easily, but MU timepieces also predate that and are made of flammable substances like paper. So your timepiece, given what was taught to Mackenzie, would literally go up in smoke.

              Current score: 0
            • zeel says:

              She said non-magical timepiece. Magical ones work fine, it’s doing it without magic that is problematic (unless you’re a gnome apparently). The GM just likes magic better.

              Current score: 2
            • Nocker says:

              But thats the thing. Magic makes things more volatile and prone to blow up bigger. It says such right up there.

              The rule that stops system gaming is described as being a stopgap on this specific kind of thing. Not “make it with magic THEN we’ll see”. The DM doesn’t like magic better, and everything except meta stories denies the existance of a DM anyway.

              The muffin idea from before is kind of a different deal, because in that case there is never an explicit and hard wall that needs to be crossed. Its only when there’s that hard wall being referenced in a way that’s not even self co sistent that there’s a problem(timepieces just make it more obvious, since the words relating to it either exist and are common enough for Mackenzie to know or aren’t and alien depending on some other chapters).

              Current score: 0
            • Nocker says:

              But they do. Glory used the word way back in chapter 229 and Mackenzie never questioned her on it, meaning that the phrase and saying would need to be common enough that Glory would pick it up and use it expecting to not be asked about it, and be correct.

              So SOMEWHERE out there, there has to be a clock identified as such.

              Current score: 0
            • Mack says:

              I hope all y’all are donating to her Patreon, considering your high standards for consistancy in a serial novel that has spanned something like a decade.

              Current score: 0
            • zeel says:

              Considering the last OT, it’s a pretty good bet that I am. Though further evidence may be require to make that conclusion. . .

              Though I don’t remember nit-picking the consistency.

              Current score: 0
            • Anvildude says:

              Like I was saying earlier- it’s because the underlying reasons aren’t based on specific interactions between everything, but rather on traits of individual objects. It’s not whether it’s consistent or not, but _why_ it’s consistent.

              A timepiece based on the movement of the sun is as reliable as the sun- I wouldn’t be surprised if ‘magic clocks’ stop during eclipses or other celestial superevents.

              Similarly, a carriage isn’t just going to fall apart because it you’re expecting it to work every day- but some days it might move slower, and some days it’ll be a little louder, and some days it’ll be more rattly without any change in input, because the universe has decided that you’re having a bad day. It’ll break when something hits it, because ‘breaking’ is what things do when other things hit them- unless they’re more resistant to breaking than the thing hitting them is good at breaking.

              It’s artistic instead of mathematical- you can’t calculate, but you can logic and reason- and there’s probably an entire branch of MatheMagic or Arithmancy based on the use of properties such as ‘more than 4 but less than 6’ and how that relates to the property of ‘5’ and such.

              Current score: 0
            • riotllama says:

              You said, “But the timepiece IS reliable! That’s the issue. X does not work and Y makes things that don’t work explode. But adding X and Y produces a result inconsistent with the one stated to happen.”
              You seem to think that adding magic to mechanical devices would upgrade them from just not working or breaking easily to having them explode. I thought it was stated pretty clearly that adding magic to mechanical devices stabilizes them, as magic works, while mechanics don’t.

              That’s why a horseless carriage still looks like a carriage and not a car. The carriage is a simple mechanical device that animals pull and it travels. Power it by magic instead of say, horses, and you dont get something that blows up regularily, you get something that works because a carriage has a property of travelling and carrying.
              If you tried to take a banana and enlarge and mobilize it, it would probably blow up specatacularily because a banana has the properties of fruit and not of say our world’s idea of a “banana boat”.

              Current score: 0
          • zeel says:

            But that’s not the point at all. Timepieces are not the issue, complex mechanical things are.

            Ever seen the inside of a clock? It’s a horrifying mess of gears and moving parts. Every part needs to be designed and machined to a very specific shape and size, even a tiny flaw will cause the whole thing to grind to a halt, or keep time poorly.

            It’s not the fact that it’s a clock that makes it a problem, it’s the fact that it is a machine. The complex mechanical device won’t work because the universe is not consistent enough for that level of precision. A bicycles is less complex, but still relies on the same mechanical principles which apparently just don’t work in the MUniverse.

            I’m not even sure what you are complaining about here any more. Do you just not like the way the story is written? It is what it is, and it’s meta-consistent (by this I mean the author never contradicts herself, even if the universe itself does). Sure it is a bit weird, but that isn’t a flaw. If that’s the issue then there isn’t any point in arguing about it.

            Current score: 1
            • Nocker says:

              But thats why I specifically asked about sundials at first. There is no mention of a clock, just a timepiece.

              So the wording would mean it’s not an issue of gears, since the earliest of devices mentioned don’t use gears or any moving parts. It’s also not an issue of measurements, because moving parts are involved with other devices tagged as vaguely scientific that never fail in and of themselves, but aren’t timepieces. In the same sense that wagons are fine but bicycles aren’t, despite early bicycles not having gears or even pedals and being LESS complex than wagons that do function. But two wheels on a frame is a no go while four is kosher, even if that’s literally the only difference.

              Its just an issue because the specific things being mentioned are being tagged in a way that has no rhyme or reason in the grand scheme of things, nor the motives assigned for exceptions mentioned.

              Its not the rule itself, it’s the way it’s implimented and demonstrated. You’re presuming certain things about the conditions that allow it to make sense, but those things are never mentioned. IF gears and wires were explicitly a factor then I could come to agreement with you, but they aren’t.

              Current score: 0
            • Nocker says:

              Not to mention that even if it’s an issue of interlocking parts, there’s still the fact that those still have to work by necessity. Mills are a thing and clearly have been for a while, and you need at least as many interlocking parts for a mill as you do a bicycle even with a chain. Given how rare wizards evidently were before the modern age I doubt that every single hole in the wall village could pay an enchanter every single time they needed to grind corn, assuming they could get ahold of one.

              Current score: 0
            • zeel says:

              Well you’re the one who’s bringing up sundials. Mackenzie never mentions them, and she probably isn’t talking about non mechanical bicycles either. Sundials aren’t very reliable in our world either, since the path of the sun isn’t constant anyway. I would guess that a sundial is about as useful in the MUniverse as it is in ours – that is, not very. It’s perhaps more precise than looking at the sky and judging from the suns positions, but in most cases there isn’t much point. Especially if you can use magic or a machine to do it better.

              The point is that the mechanical version works about as well in their world as the magical version would in ours.

              Clearly simple machines do work in the MUniverse. A wedge, like the edge of a sword, seems to work just fine. However in our world we can precisely calculate just how a given wedge will distribute a given force when pushed against a given object. This means we can create a complex machine using lots of wedges and it always works the same way.

              In the MUniverse that isn’t true. The wedge does the same thing, but the extent to which it does it is variable. The die rolls to see just how good the wedge is at being a wedge every time it is used. This little added chaos screws up the machine. The less precision the machine requires the less this matters, a clock isn’t going to work, a mill however will probably be okay, and we know a sword works perfectly well.

              Apparently magic can be used to tweak the rolls – you can increase the inherent “wedgyness” of the wedge so that the rolls are always higher (though still not always the same). This is how mackenzie can make a blade sharper without sharpening it – the physical shape of the object isn’t the important part, as it is in our world.

              You could probably make a clock out of heavenly enchanted parts such that each exemplified their function. However doing so would be a waste since you can use magic to track time in a much simpler way.

              It seems that the main function of magic is to change the way the dice roll. Either by skewing the numbers, or by adding new kinds of dice to roll. You can make a brick harder, or even make it glow. The result is that magical things tend to work better because they skew the results.

              But then there is that second level of “cosmic GM” (which may or may not be a living being of any kind). Where overreaching gets you smacked down. This is why the above idea of a magical machine might explode on you – the universe doesn’t like you being a smart ass.

              Current score: 3
            • Nocker says:

              Mackenzie never mentions sundials, but she never mentions mechanical clocks either. She just says “timepiece”, which is a term that’s broad enough to cover everything from mechanical clocks to hourglasses to sundials and candle clocks. They just all fail if they aren’t magical, and we’ve seen the way Mackenzie uses the tearm to mean activley blessed, enchanted, cursed, ect, as opposed to just existing in a magical world.

              Current score: 0
            • zeel says:

              That’s because the term “timepiece” is the MUniverse equivalent of a clock. Their clocks are a time tracking enchantment connected to an illusion to display the time. They don’t call them clocks though.

              When she says a “non magical” timepiece she is referring to mechanical clocks like we have. She simply doesn’t have the word “clock” to use. This is why they don’t say “three O’clock”, they just say “three”.

              Current score: 1
        • Nocker says:

          A clock is mentioned in 229 by Glory and nobody questions it. Granted Mackenzie is apparently ignorant of what the word means a few chapters later, so that just raises even more questions regarding timepieces.

          Current score: 0
          • zeel says:

            Assuming the search function works right. . .

            The word “clock” appears in three chapters. One mention is from an outsider (at the Inn of The Black Door):

            “Yes, but you must understand that we are on different clocks,” he said.

            “…different what?” [Mackenzie]

            She doesn’t know what a clock is. However she internally uses the word once, and as you pointed out so does Glory. But in the chapter 41 commentary AE outright states that she avoids mentioning clocks (along with chemistry). For this reason I have to assume that two of those uses are actually mistakes. The etymology of clock is from the Latin “clocca” meaning bell. So the only reason we call them that is because they traditionally rang a bell, so the large expensive clock was useful to anyone who could hear. This development wouldn’t make sense in the MUniverse, therefore the term shouldn’t exist.

            Current score: 0
            • Nocker says:

              That’s a different chapter, in 229 we have this quote, spoken by Glory:

              “Oh, I don’t mean the same ones who work during the day,” she said. “They have enough shifts of workers to go around the clock, which was actually part of their original proposal… ”

              So Glory knows what a clock is, and the word is in her lexicon and she’s comfortable using it around Mackenzie. The term rather unambiguously DOES exist because it’s used right there.

              Current score: 0
            • zeel says:

              That’s one of the two mistakes I was talking about. Glory shouldn’t have used that expression.

              Current score: 1
            • Nocker says:

              After thinking about it, Glory MAY have also been to the Black Door herself. Given it’s mostly unexplored connection to elvenkind it’s possible that some members of her court go off there.

              Though just as likley is that some rival court caught Mackenzie planning there and had time to prepare.

              Back to the actual matter of discussion, I think we’ve reached one sticking point of dispute:

              You claim that the use of “timepiece” in this context specifically refers to ones with gears, I’m asserting that it does not, mainly because there’s no reason to presume that gears are being referenced.

              Though there’s also one reference to an hourglass, but only a metaphorical one, so I have no idea how that relates to things.

              Current score: 0
          • zeel says:

            Well she uses the word “timepiece” which in her world refers to a magical device that displays the current time. I would guess it looks fairly similar to a digital clock. Of course she says “non-magical” as a qualifier – thus I assume she is referring to a non magical device that displays time as precisely as a standard time-piece.

            Sundials, hourglasses, and such don’t really count. A sundial can’t tell you the time of day, just the fraction of the sunlit portion of the day. And an hourglass is a timmer, not a clock. So she must be referring to a mechanical device that keeps time like a clock in our world – emulating the function of what she would call a “timepiece”.

            The exact configuration of that device, and its means of displaying time would be irrelevant – one way or another it’s fairly complex, certainly more complex than a bicycle.

            Current score: 0
            • Nocker says:

              Of course, those are all qualifiers that are never actually mentioned.

              Sundials and Hourglasses are used to measure the passage of time, and thus can be used as timepieces. Even a clock doesn’t measure “actual” time in most cases, it just measures specific intervals of roughly one second according to it’s internal proccesses, hence why mechanical clocks are almost always “off” by at least seconds, if not minutes, compared to each other. If you need to set a waterclock with no moving pieces beyond liquid or a candle you’ve regulated the dimensions and makeup of to the movement of the heavents, there are a wealth of devices to do that that also have no moving parts. Hence why say, the ancient chinese, were able to keep increasingly exacting standards even thousands of years ago. If those methods worked, then you’d probably see enchanted time pieces as alchemically regulated liquid timers or sundials that align enchanted shadows. Or combinations of both where the latter regulates the former(which is a much simpler enchantment than building the whole thing from scratch). But it could be that those exist and Mackenzie just plain doesn’t care about them, given that she’s rather explicitly biased towards enchantment and mentioned once way back when that she considered things with moving parts to be hobbyist toys.

              But this is still a distraction from my overall point. That is to say that the statement doesn’t WORK. If you can’t measure time without magic for the same reason magic often backfires, then a timepiece with magic would also thus backfire.

              Current score: 0
            • zeel says:

              It isn’t that you can’t measure time without magic, it’s that setting up a device to do so precisely all the time so you just have to read it is complicated. The more complicated the less likely that it will work reliably.

              Doing it with magic works because that’s what magic is, a force that allows things that are normally impossible to be possible.

              The limitations on magic are not hard and fast rules. “magic often backfires” is not an accurate statement, better would be “magic abhors a smart ass”. Magic backfires when you try to get cute, it has (loose) limitations and trying to work around them is dangerous. A magical timepiece is within the bounds of those limitations, so no problem.

              Current score: 0
            • Nocker says:

              Yeah, but again, doing it with magic makes the problem more visibile and dramatic. And again, a synchronized water clock is still a clock.

              Ergo, if you can’t even manage a water clock, then you can’t manage a more complex magical timepiece. Because if two jars and a hole won’t function, then that basic impasse magnified several times over is just going to be an even bigger problem.

              After all, if you can’t run ANY kind of workaround without using magic, and magic only makes the problem more visible, then logically speaking there shouldn’t be a magical workaround either. If something like a timepiece were an intentional exception, it’d probably have been mentioned way sooner in mackenzie’s textbooks.

              MU enchantment is rather consistently based on platonic ideals. Mackenzie doesn’t just assign arbitrary attributes, they have to be assigned to something that can be registered as a thing that exists. Hence why Sooni breaking a chair to splinters means it can’t be recognized as a chair and repaired with mending. Or why when modding a staff or knife Mackenzie always lists off the inherent properties of those objects as an ideal. Even when mentioning other sorts of enchantment or magic like comparing things, you have to get something “real” involved.

              But the universe doesn’t register “timepiece” as a physical thing that exists. So an enchanter can’t make a timepiece by enhancing something simple or animating an existing one, or giving it the attributes associated with one. So none of the known methods of enchantment actually work when building a timepiece.

              If they’re doing it the “hard way” in terms of working the specific events as triggering for specific timing, then you’re running into the same issue as the “rolling” solution proposal you put up, in that you still need an interlocking and complex system to fit perfectly into place. Only now instead of inert materials you’re charging them with flammable and explosive power.

              Current score: 1
            • zeel says:

              As was mentioned when the mockboxes got destroyed, and failed to explode spectacularly like Mackenzies staff – an enchantment is not the same thing as a spell charge. There is very little energy bound up in a timepiece, if it was damaged it would simply be broken, it would not explode.

              Anyway your missing one of my main points, that magic is not just another kind of machine. A complex magical system is actually inherently more stable than a simple one (Mackenzie mentions this while practicing her fire throwing). The complex enchantment that creates a timepiece increases its stability, while the mechanics of a clock would reduce its stability.

              Furthermore we have to remember that Mackenzie is not necessarily precise in her language, nor is she aware of every possible timekeeping device that has ever been devised. Many of the super simple “timepieces” you pointed out might actually work just fine. However I highly doubt they were what Mackenzie meant by her above statement.

              As to the platonic ideals, yes that is a huge part of how MUniverse magic works. However that’s not the extent of it, that’s the part Mackenzie dealt with in her enhancement class yes, but there is so much more. We know for a fact that logical systems can be put into enchantments, that and some kind of a constant delay is all you need to track time.

              Current score: 0
            • Nocker says:

              The mockboxes are modern, but Mackenzie references old-style time pieces and also says that magical devices broke when exploding in past ages due to overloading be more commonplace. Ergo, early time pieces from when they’d need to be on the cutting end were also more likley to explode

              Additionally, can you link to the chapter about magic being inherently more stable? That’d probably clear things up much more neatly. I can’t find the specific passage.

              Current score: 0
            • zeel says:

              She was talking about staffs and wands specifically as far as overloading goes. A timepiece doesn’t need a spell charge in it, just a constant enchantment.

              As to the reference – 448: Playing With Fire

              Then there was simply the fact that more sophisticated spells often benefited in some way or another from their sophistication. It was one of the less predictable exploitable facets of spellcraft. Sometimes you tried to get fancy and you got a little bonus from it.

              This implies that the increased complexity increases stability.

              Current score: 1
            • Nocker says:

              You’re presuming that timepieces never need or needed charges, which is unconfirmed, as well as that complexity is a garuntee of stability, which it explicitly is not.

              It says you occasionally get a bonus,and what that is isn’t predictable. If what you want is a predictable self contained system an unknown extra is generally a bad idea. Unless the DM in this case can somehow understand intent perfectly and conisistently.

              Current score: 0
            • zeel says:

              Part of the main issue here is that in all cases that we don’t know something for certain or as an absolute I am assuming that things in the MUniverse actually work correctly as described. That is, I am assuming that author isn’t crazy.

              Therefore we must assume that there exists an explanation for why things work the way they do – even if we, or even the author, don’t know them.

              So when someone says something that could be interpreted in multiple ways, I interpret it the way that isn’t contradictory to all the other things I know. It’s like sudoku, each square could contain any number from 1-9, but only one will actually work based on all the others.

              This is why I am assuming that Mackenzie is talking about mechanical clocks, and I am assuming (with significant backing evidence) that magical timepieces are stable and should be.

              Yes, there is room to interpret this otherwise. But if the interpretation makes it look like the story is flawed. . . well the story is more enjoyable when I assume I made a mistake.

              Current score: 1
            • Nocker says:

              Then it seems we’ve reached an impasse. I can’t accept the same conclusions you have, because the information I took away from various chapters is different from yours, and you’re working on a different assumption from me as a baseline. I’m willing to accept that our views are incompatible on the matter, since I can respect you as a smart individual who knows what they’re talking about.

              If I’m interpreting this as a flaw, then I’m willing to interpret it as a non-fatal one. Erin obviously isn’t a machinist and only seems to have a few hours to pump out a chapter as of late. You’ll occasionally run into a stumbling block if you’re running in sub-optimal conditions on a narrow timeframe when discussing subjects you aren’t an expert in. Especially given that the podcasts make it clear that the setting was mostly just vague ideas justified after the fact in the beginning, so this was probably just an excuse to have all-magic timepieces and find some kind of method of going from A to B.

              Current score: 0
  8. Brenda A. says:

    An interesting discussion, although there is some confusion as to who is saying what at times… there were a couple of times when Mack seemed to be replying to herself as if she weren’t the one who had just said the previous bit.

    Current score: 1
    • zeel says:

      Yes, I think we might be missing some line breaks and “I said”/”she said”‘s.

      Current score: 0
  9. Iain says:

    Dun dun…
    Dun dun…

    Current score: 0
  10. Arancaytar says:

    “It’s so big and real, though,” I said.”We’re trapped in the bubble and it’s the whole world out there.”

    “Imagine a TV that you sat in and the show was all around you, though?” Glory said. “It might look something like this. Though, this would make for an odd show.”

    “It would be something, though,”

    Reaching semantic satiation with “though” here, though.

    Current score: 0
  11. mbwakali says:

    Been reading this tale on and off for the past few years. I would stop when i hit some thing that made me feel akward or depresed or a “trigger” moment, but i would always come back.
    And today i went to hit the next button and i couldnt find it, no next, nothing, nada… took me a few mins to realise, i was up to date.
    So now i have a new and difrent feeling associated with MU,
    Sadness that i have to wait for more…

    Current score: 0
  12. Hollowgolem says:

    I literally laughed out loud at the Einstein line in this context. Fair play to you, AE.

    Current score: 0
  13. Arancaytar says:

    “The gods do not play dice with the universe,” I said.

    Heh.

    “Anyway, who says they don’t?”

    “They do.”

    For all these gods’ indisputable existence, theology seems to involve about as much circular reasoning there as here. 😛

    Current score: 0