Chapter 287: The Snow Job

on February 26, 2015 in Volume 2 Book 8: Elven Holiday, Volume 2: Sophomore Effort

In Which No News Is Frustrating

The royal guard of Oberrad didn’t keep us in suspense for very long. Fortunately, my fears about a phantasmal sneak attack proved to be groundless. Unfortunately, the explanation didn’t actually shed much light at all on what had happened.

“The short version is that Dee and I were pretty sure there was a contingent of Treehomeschool kids sneaking up in the storm,” Steff said through the mirror. “Pala was keeping stuff blowing around, but she didn’t want to add to the precipitation because that’s apparently a pain for the grounds crews. Something happened, and a lot of them got cut up pretty bad… well, I say a lot of them, but I don’t know how many ran. Elves don’t leave a lot of tracks in snow even when it’s not blowing like crazy. There were a dozen wounded, though.”

“What’s the long version?” Glory asked.

“…the short version, but Mack tells it?” Steff said. “Sorry, boss lady, but that’s seriously all we know. Amy patched them up… she ran short of divine whatever juice, but they wouldn’t let Dee near them so some of them were limping back, and I mean limping. All the ones who didn’t get away clean were pretty neatly disabled.”

“Callahan?” I said. She was the first person who sprung to mind when I thought of disabling wounds. She also had a thing about elves, and was at least peripherally aware of what was going on. She’d told me in close to so many words that she wouldn’t murder all of Treehome for me… not that I’d actually asked… but she likely had enough self-control to non-irreparably maim our attackers.

“No,” Steff said. “I didn’t see much of the wounded before Amy unworked them over, but from what I did see and what she told me, it was too neat for her tastes. I keep thinking ‘monster’ because of how many they took out, but it doesn’t seem like claws or teeth… believe me, some kind of arctic merfolk variant hunting on land was the first thing I thought of.”

I shuddered. It wasn’t something I had thought of, but now that Steff had put the idea in my head it was hard to get it out.

“How sure are you about that?” I asked. Mermaids had a cultural thing about only hunting in water, but I had direct personal knowledge that some of them subscribed to a more… liberal… interpretation that considered being out in a rainstorm to be basically the same thing as being underwater.

“Pretty sure,” Steff said. “Anyway, if it was a merperson on a holiday trip, it wouldn’t even need the storm for an excuse, not with a layer of fluffy frozen water covering all the nasty ground.”

There went the last vestige of my desire to ever be outside in the snow.

“What else can you tell me?” Glory asked.

“I think we’re looking at a smaller, finer blade. Whatever hit them was probably pretty small. If I didn’t know where Nae was, I would have thought it was her, to be honest.”

“Was it really just one attacker?” Glory asked.

“I’m kind of hoping so, because it’s scary to think there could have been a whole rampaging horde of something that was completely shielded from all our senses,” Steff said. “From what the walking wounded said, it sounds like if there was only one, they were really fast, but if it was a group, they used hit and run tactics to hide their numbers.”

“Maybe they don’t want to admit they were taken out by an individual or small group to avoid embarrassment,” Glory suggested. “Or they’re lying to deprive us of valuable information about a potential threat.”

“Yeah,” Steff said. “We also thought it was sketchy that they didn’t know who hit them, or even really how… but Dee says that they’re telling the truth, as close as she can tell. And she says she can tell pretty well on some of them.”

“It’s almost got to be a trick, but I don’t see how,” Glory said. “The whole ‘false sense of security’ thing is just too much of a cliche… and not enough of an elven concept for them to rely on it.”

“They did wait until you’d been away for a while before they tried anything,” I said. “I mean, I kept thinking they’d attack as soon as you were gone, or once you were fully committed to the trip… this is not quite the last minute, but kind of close for random happenstance, but I can’t figure out why else they would have waited so long. I mean, they couldn’t have been counting on the storm, because it might not have happened. I’m assuming Pala would know if someone else was leaning on the clouds, or whatever?”

“Yeah, she’s pretty insistent that no one’s doing anything with the weather,” Steff said. “Actually, though, it was a pretty good bet there would be a storm sooner or later, because the low-level weather wards the school uses to mitigate the worst crap are relaxed during the break, while everyone else in the area is buffing their protection up because they don’t want their holiday plans getting snowed out. That makes the school kind of a path of least resistance… I don’t really know the details, but Amy and Pala said it was pretty close to inevitable we’d get at least one white-out storm.”

“And middlings don’t necessarily go anywhere for holidays, so they’d know the pattern,” I said.

“You don’t normally go anywhere for holidays, either,” Steff said. “Why didn’t you?”

“You say ‘normally’ like this is a thing that happens all the time,” I said. “Last year was my first Khersentide at school, and this year I took off. Anyway, pretty close to inevitable isn’t enough for them to pin all their hopes and dreams on it, but it’s enough to make it one of a couple strong contingency plans. So assuming that this wasn’t just phase one in a clever scheme, they still have one strong ploy that the window is still open for. But either the timing is critical for their back-up ploy or it’s not as good as what they were trying in the storm… otherwise they wouldn’t have let things go as long as they did.”

“Well, there are other reasons to let a target stew than the vaunted sense of security,” Glory said. “Vigilance fatigue does set in after a while. A botched attack is one of the best things that could happen, from our point of view. I imagine this has jolted everyone awake.”

“Totally.” Steff said. “And on the subject of security, anything that’s not bothered by a giant-enhanced blizzard and can leave a bunch of elves flat-footed and is lurking around outside our door doesn’t really make me feel secure. I mean, did it take them out because it’s on our side, or because they were the closest victims at hand at the moment? Either way, we’re not about to let down our guard here.”

“Maybe that’s the play,” I said. “Now instead of being focused on the real threat from Treehome, you’re focused on this unknown threat.”

“That seems pretty thin,” Glory said. “The answer to both problems is the same: keep up the defenses, keep alert.”

“Yeah, but… okay, I don’t know how true this is in the general case, but one of the things I learned from Acantha is that when you do someone a favor, it creates a feeling of obligation in you,” I said. “Healing the other elves’ injuries inflicted by the… silent snow beast, or whatever… introduces the idea that everyone’s all on the same side.”

“So you think the next move is going to be a proposed alliance?” Glory asked, frowning slightly. “They’re going to send an envoy? That doesn’t sound right.”

“I’d be surprised if it’s anything that ham-fisted,” I said. “Because that would get you thinking in terms of alliances and enemies, and if this is the game they’re playing, they don’t want you thinking about what you’re doing at all. Because if you think about it, they’re still the assholes who were creeping up through the storm to attack… but if you don’t have a chance to think about it, if you’re just reacting… you’re going to default to what you did before, which is help.”

“Yeah, I really can’t see that happening,” Steff said.

“No?” I said. “Imagine it’s the middle of the night, and suddenly there’s a whole bunch of unarmed and wounded elves running in the open, straight for the door. They start pounding on it and screaming for help. Given what happened earlier, what do you think the odds are that someone would open up and let them in without thinking about it?”

“…pretty good, though lower now that you’ve said that,” Steff said. “I mean, I like to say that my response would be fuck them for being out in the cold again when they know there’s something dangerous out there… but I’m not sure I’d actually want to hear what happens when whatever’s chasing them catches up with them, if it’s right on the other side of my door.”

“And you’re not the only one there,” I said. While they’d probably know better to believe a suspicious plea for help coming out of the blue, Amaranth and Pala would probably both open the door without hesitation given the set-up as described.

“Okay, so Dee’s relaying an impromptu security briefing, regarding that,” Steff said. “How sure are you that this is what’s going on?”

“On a scale of one to ten?” I said. “…not very at all. There’s only so much we can do without actual information. This is my best guess based on what I know. I think it’s pretty logical. My last guess… that the wounds were mocked… was also pretty logical based on available information. It just happened to be wrong. I just don’t see what else you can do, though.”

“Well, Pala killed the storm,” Steff said. “It goes against her inclination… Dee’s word… to make weather more mild, but we decided it’s worth the strain. We don’t know if the storm helped our mysterious protector/marauder or not, but if it can sneak past our senses during a blizzard, we’re not getting much good out of it. All the magic plant stuff is still on… nothing’s triggered any of that, or the wards around the place, or any of the mundane surprises we’ve set up.”

“I’d feel better about that if I knew that it wasn’t going off because no one’s come close enough to set them off,” Glory said. “Someone or something who could approach a cadre of elves unnoticed might be able to slip past any number of defensive measures. The sheer variety of different approaches they’d have to get around should give me some comfort, but it doesn’t.”

“Yeah,” I said. “Given that it’s already evaded telepathy and physical senses… that suggests it’s not exactly a narrow, targeted ability. And it’s a simple fact of magic that some of the most powerful effects are also the most simple and categorical. You can use a lot of relatively minor spells to try to become invisible to individual senses and to slip past particular types of traps and alarms and wards… or you can just ratchet up your unnoticeability to the point where the tripwire your ankle just touched is too embarrassed to admit it thinks it might have felt something.”

“…why am I suddenly picturing an army of guerilla gnomes sneaking around in the cold?” Steff said. “Or maybe that should be uerilla… the g is silent.”

“…I suppose it’s just possible that Two’s friend Hazel might be feeling a bit invested in the success of Oberrad House, given her role in finding it,” I said.

“Yeah, but even if she was around, you’d never get her out in the cold,” Steff said. “And even if she could slip past all the elves, she’d never take them down.”

“Have you ever seen her when someone says something about her mother?” I asked.

“Touche,” Steff said. “But I kind of don’t think they all did, and again, this was someone with a lot of finesse, not sheer berserker rage.”

“You seem pretty certain of your estimation of the character of the attacker,” Glory said.

“Well, I have no idea what their character is like,” Steff said. “I mean, if I was going to attach a moral value to cutting up a bunch of elven dickholes, I’d say it’s pretty saintly, but I have no idea what motivated them, or even if our friendly neighborhood assassin squad was their only target. Or if they were even targeting and not just rampaging.”

“Do you think they were rampaging, though?” Glory asked. “You’ve mentioned the precision a few times now, and ruled out possible attackers on the basis of your impression of cool control.”

“…well, okay, yeah,” Steff said. “But like I said, I didn’t get a good look at the unhealed wounds.”

“Which suggests one of two things,” Glory said. “Either it was so clearly the result of a skilled hand acting under tight control that you couldn’t help but draw that conclusion anyway, or you formed a hazy conclusion from an incomplete picture. Speak honestly: do you think it’s the latter?”

“…the thing is, I don’t want to oversell you on what I saw, but no, I really think I’m right,” Steff said. “Whoever this was, they were a fucking sculptor and the elves were their block of wood, or whatever.”

“Hmm,” Glory said.

“I could be wrong,” Steff admitted.

“I don’t think you are,” Glory said. “And I don’t think that someone who strikes with such perfect precision and then gets away cleanly would have attacked randomly or without purpose.”

“So are we inferring from this the idea that you have some kind of guardian angel, out to protect your house while you’re away?” I said.

“No, that would be foolish,” Glory said. “I said the attacker would have a purpose… that isn’t the same as saying they’re on our side. Were they protecting Oberrad House, or not permitting it to be attacked by anyone else?”

“…what would they be waiting for, though?” Steff said. “Why wouldn’t they just take advantage of the same storm that shielded the others?”

“…unless they were planning on doing that, which is why they were out and about at the same time and in the same place as the attack squad they took out,” I said.

“That is one possibility,” Glory said.

“You sound like you’re thinking of another,” I said.

“Someone may not wish for the house to be attacked when I am not there.”


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59 Responses to “Chapter 287: The Snow Job”

  1. Techdragon says:

    Precise, difficult to detect and skilled in asymmetrical combat.. Sounds like traits that an expert assassin would have in abundance.

    Current score: 1
  2. Phreddie says:

    What no comments yet?

    Ook.

    Current score: 1
  3. D. D. Webb says:

    Or, alternatively, someone who can specifically cut up a bunch of elves would prefer to attack the building when it’s full of a bunch of elves, rather than a nymph, half-elf, drow, storm giant and kobold.

    Current score: 1
  4. Anon says:

    So we haven’t seen Mercy in a while…

    Current score: 8
    • Nocker says:

      This is my bet as well, mainly because of information Mackenzie hasn’t got on her.

      We’ve SEEN Mercy fight. Briefly, and not without much detail, but this fits the profile of her in Melee. She’s faster than Callahan and way more precise. But at the same time she’s totally indiscriminate and will use uncontrolled force if it’s the path of least resistance to victory(See also quickfire and her use of it with one of the least precise ranged weapons ever made). She’s also an elf, so no tracks from her either, and she can buy her way through anything money can buy, so anything that stops psychics and mages, though not divines since consumer grade divine power is noted as being on the lower scale for obvious reasons. Which makes sense given it didn’t trip Amaranth’s grid or even try to get close.

      Emberies wouldn’t need to do more than tell them to stop and do as he says. Mack Daddy’s preferred weapons aren’t terribly precise and he’s more into blunt force. Callahan hasn’t got this kind of style as mentioned.

      The only question is why any of these elves are alive, even if barely. Anything that good at violence would have killed them just as easily if not moreso, Mercy or no. If it really was killer intent they’d probably never have been able to limp to the door if they didn’t die instantly.

      Current score: 1
      • D. D. Webb says:

        There’s the question of motive, though. What could Mercy possibly get from intervening in this? The only thing even tangentally related to Glory she wants is Mack, and it’s hard to see any way this leads her toward that goal.

        Current score: 3
        • Nocker says:

          Glory has the ire of her elven clients.

          Remember to the other middlings, it’s all about the power game and the idea that elves are Better Than You. An elf with power can thus lie, cheat, and steal to their hearts content and sell people utterly devoted to them to death at the hands of Mercy, and they do rather consistently.

          Glory is challenging that entire system and bringing everything out in the open. What’s worse, she’s doing it while siding with someone opposed to one of their income sources. To say nothing of other stunts that could piss of Mercy’s friends. After all, Nae left the ToH and that life behind entirely, and now she’s running with the both of them and armed to support them.

          Glory’s built a crew that’s a threat. Not in the sense of their existing, substantial power or their substantial wealth, but because they’re challenging the game itself. Mercy relies on the existence of a few fucked up players to get her product. No elves, no Caron, and suddenly she’s poorer two slave sources, and two that are secluded and away from public eye.

          Mercy may look like she has all the power in the world, but her current game seems like it’s based on specific players dealing to her and specific laws staying worded as they are. ANY threat to that, however minor, should be nipped in the bud. Especially any so close to home as this.

          Building that demonic army is a long term goal. But to get there she needs to meet short term goals to feed it.

          Current score: 3
        • Trent Baker says:

          What if its Iason? When we had stories about him I got the strong impression he was a badass when it came to bladework. Why he would stop the attack is still up in the air though. Does he want Glory’s plans to break away from Treehome to succeed or fail without outside interference? Or does he want to make it fail and the aborted attack would somehow interfere with his plans?

          Current score: 2
          • Nocker says:

            Iason is a manblood though. He’s slightly stronger but he’s less graceful and poised by comparison. It’s BARELY noticeable even with him emphasizing it but it means barring some ridiculously crazy shit he’d never be fast or stealthy enough to catch multiple elves by surprise.

            Not to mention that he likely has zero interest in this bullshit to begin with. His social stuff with Glory is explicitly squared away as nonexistant and he has no interest in women or their politics.

            For Iason to run in and pull this off, he’d somehow need to become many times faster and more powerful, as well as have a reason to interfere with petty middling politics as a result. That’s possible, but the only way it could happen is some kind of major plot shit happening to him offscreen.

            Current score: 2
  5. Miz*G says:

    Or Mack daddy was trying to be “helpful”.

    Current score: 0
  6. zeel says:

    It took them a long time to get to that conclusion. I was wondering why they were treating “The Elves” as a single unit this whole time. Multiple factions exist within tree home, and they don’t really have much incentive to work together. There could be whole war brewing in the woods over who attacks Oberad when – perhaps the only reason nobody got that close any sooner is that no one let them.

    Current score: 4
    • Nocker says:

      Building on the Mercy idea, we know Mercy watches Mackenzie AND has Treehome contacts. Given that both sides of this arrangement are bugfuck crazy all it takes is one bad idea for things to snowball

      Current score: 1
  7. Cadnawes says:

    I really thought this was going to be worse news. Vacation isn’t over yet but for all this crowd gets into, they’ve been remarkably lucky so far.

    Current score: 1
  8. Zathras IX says:

    Striking with perfect
    Precision and stealth sounds like
    A Mercy killing

    Current score: 4
    • Trent Baker says:

      That is part of the issue I think. I would expect some actual deaths if Mercy was involved.

      Current score: 2
      • Lucy says:

        actual dead bodies would get left outside for the Authorities, Callahan would almost certainly get a look at them, and probably recognize Mur-si’s handiwork. I doubt that Mercy would survive Callahan coming after her

        Current score: 1
  9. DaRexy says:

    OK, I’m simply flabbergasted. Many of you regular commenters here will endlessly debate the minutia of a make-believe magical system but you miss something as obvious as this. It’s like you can’t see the forest for the Treehome. (Sorry, couldn’t resist)
    Anyway, barring the introduction of a new character/monster this was obviously Mercy. Mercy has a very obvious motivation for attacking at this time. You were given a hint, the hint IS the late timing of the attack. Mercy has very purposefully waited until Mack was much closer to returning from the trip.
    You all also seem to dismissing the current residents of Oberad House as a reason for the attack when it is clear (to me) that they ARE the reason for the attack. Mercy wants Mack. To get to Mack she has to get past Mack’s support system. With the exception of a human boyfriend, a human girlfriend, and a new elf lover (who may have questionable motives regarding Mack) Mack’s entire support system is in that house. Even Ian is supposed to be taking up residence there before Mack’s return, no mention of it here in this chapter but has he returned yet? Sure Amaranth is immortal but it seems unlikely that if she were killed this late in the break that she would be re-born and returned to campus before Mack’s arrival.
    Mack, bereft of nearly her entire support system, would be ripe for the picking. At the very least this would be a huge demoralizing blow to her.
    Mercy wants Mack, she’s desperate but not stupid. She was either about to attack Oberad, and kill its residents, or she was casing the joint in preparation for that attack when the Elves showed up to attack her target which would spoil her plans. She couldn’t kill a dozen or so elves, doing so would have put the campus on high alert, with a lock-down and investigation similar to what happened after the death of a certain swan princess. She needed to discourage these elves from their plans without disrupting her own. So she maimed and humiliated them, hoping everybody would chalk it all up to elven mischief as she slinks back into the shadows for the night.

    Current score: 1
  10. Lurk says:

    Thing is, in terms of motivation, it could be anyone. I could make a very strong case for Puddy, who certainly has the raw power and could probably have the finesse if she felt like it, and who could maybe be 1/1024th something-that-doesn’t-leave-tracks. Or for Barley, who we also haven’t seen in a while and know very little about in terms of the capabilities of a fallen nymph. These two are both misfits and would likely jump at the chance at a place in Glory’s new court, like the Winter Guard applicants but forgotten. The same applies to anybody buff enough who consider themselves outcasts.

    It could be Acantha, acting typically with motivations unknown but ultimately self-serving, or Eloise, subtly getting involved more than she initially planned but not wanting to get fingered as responsible. Teddy has a vested interest in keeping most of the Winter Guard safe. It could even be Mack’s mom, who is contractually forbidden from directly helping her daughter but could maybe get away with some interference in her life while Mack herself is away. Or maybe it’s just somebody doing somebody else a favor, paying off some debt we don’t know about or have forgotten about.

    Heck, there is still a mermaid on campus who hasn’t gotten much screen time lately.

    Point is, the characters with whom our magnificent writer has supplied us are all vibrant, complicated, three-dimensional Characters with a capital C. They each act according to many motivations and stimuli, many of which we as readers don’t even know about. We can narrow down suspects by capability and opportunity, but with a cast like this, motive can always be contrived. It’s just like they said several times in-text: there just isn’t enough information yet to make the proverbial arrest.

    Current score: 2
    • Lurk says:

      Heck, just for the lulz it could be the ROTT! Tryin’ out some new powers. “Hey, check it out! I can totally make these guys stab themselves THROUGH THEIR WAKING DREAMS! How awesome is that? IMPOSSIBLE to see coming! Oh, by the way, now the elf queen owes me a huge favor, cha-ching!”

      … Well, you have to admit, it WOULD be patently Ridiculous. It’s right there in the name, and therefore the nature.

      Current score: 1
    • zeel says:

      I feel like the comments section is really just the Wild Mass Guessing page on TVTropes. I mean the absurdity of some of the theories is boggling

      Current score: 4
      • erianaiel says:

        But that’s what makes them fun!

        Current score: 4
      • Cadnawes says:

        Yup. My theory is that guessing is pointless because there is no reason to believe that trouble would be caused by one of MACK’s enemies on this one. This just isn’t likely to be about her.

        Current score: 3
    • Nocker says:

      Puddy doesn’t do finesse. She runs like a bounding demon and fights with a giant axe. Even if she spent every day for the year training for this there’s no way she could manage it. Barley is barely trained combat wise and physically mostly human in terms of muscle power, and I vaguely remember fallen nymphs losing power, not gaining it, and she still has no arcane power to compensate or accomplish anything. Acantha is forbidden by elven cultural conventions, though she may not bother with them, but still probably can’t manage this physically or through combat experience she doesn’t posses, and if she needed this done she’d just hire a go-between. Laurel is psychic, but she’s telepathic and not telekenetic, and the distinction was made, so physical wounds aren’t her style or within her training, and even then demonic “deals” explicitly aren’t some kind of overbound contract most of the time so much as informal agreements. Feejee you MIGHT make a case for just because there’s a mermaid comparison, but that’s a really big might given she has an actual weapon to rely on to hurt people.

      Part of being three dimensional is that you can say there are things the characters can and can’t do. The fact of the matter is that very few are even able to pull off something like this and even fewer are even involved. Blindsiding a squad of armed elves in this specific manner only fits one characters profile once you go through the details.

      Current score: 0
      • Lurk says:

        It never fails to astound me that a person can so carefully read a post as to contradict it point by point, and yet so completely miss the point itself. 🙂

        With virtually no admissible information as yet, let us not get so married to our own pet theories that all others are knee-jerk kicked away. Myself, I think a direct intervention by Mercy is a bit of a stretch. There are approximately six-point-seven-five MFT’s of other possibilities here, none particularly more viable than the last and most of them with equal or superior motive to that of Mercy.

        Current score: 2
  11. LetsSee says:

    Precision? Control? Elves are a block of wood? Giant storm?

    Embries might just like the taste of elf. Any guess as to how many elves may have simply disappeared? Could be a simple blessing in the name of a snack, or a grander plan by Embries.

    Current score: 1
    • Nocker says:

      According to him elves are more trouble than they’re worth. Even if he wanted them, this also isn’t his style. He’d just march one down to his office and put them on the table. He’s only ever done individuals and he’s only ever equipped for a specific way of doing that. While he might be physically capable of this(and that’s a might, not a confirmed), it’s not the way he prefers to do things.

      Current score: 1
    • Stripey Orange Socks says:

      Who carved figures for Soldier Stones? Would they fit this description?

      Current score: 1
      • Nocker says:

        Actual physical crafting is passed down to elven or part elven hands by pretty much everybody who isn’t Ian(who uses blocky rock elementals anyway) or Shiel(given the game is traditionally kobold and she’s comfortable enough working with them anyway).

        There’s no way in hell Ian or Shiel could pull this kind of thing off(maybe. Ian has some kind of metaphysical bit of Mackenzie inside him since freshman year. We have no idea what having a fragment of demonic power jammed into the soul does, and he hasn’t got the power to access it in ways others do), and every other craftsperson is accounted for on either side already.

        Current score: 0
  12. Seth says:

    I was thinking Eloise. Elves out in a snowstorm, she would be watching. As an animal-form she could go under the radar on any countermeasures looking for human intruders, and that would also explain the combination of raw force and precision.

    And no Elf would ever admit to being defeated by a squirrel.

    Current score: 3
    • Brenda A. says:

      Why, though?

      Current score: 0
      • Seth says:

        Because Mack asked her to watch over the house.

        Current score: 1
    • Cadnawes says:

      But Eloise would have told them it was her if it had been. She knows what’s going on.

      Current score: 1
  13. James says:

    “Someone may not wish for the house to be attacked when I am not there.”

    Or, someone may not wish for the house to attacked when MACK is not there.

    Oh, crap. Mack Daddy.

    Opportunity:
    + Mack Daddy is on, or near campus. (Callahan’s bathing room.)

    + He is, or believes he is, capable of taking Callahan, providing she’s unarmed. That should make him more than able to carve a few middlings, avoiding his usual MO.

    Motives:
    + He wants Mack to go full-demon or, failing that, be destroyed.

    + Long-term plan – Forcing her to defend Glory could push her into demon-rage, as he hoped the class would.

    + Long-term plan B – But, just having her on campus next time would be enough if, next time, he makes his attack plainly infernal. Everyone knows Glory has a half-demon assistant. It’s a short leap to everyone from the middlings to Grandma Blaise blaming Mack.

    + In the meantime, revealing himself to Glory as her defender, could give him a foot in the door, psychologically. Sense of obligation?

    + RIGHT NOW, he could be inside the house, with Amy’s divine energy expended and Dee focused outside. If he gets bored, somebody’s going to die. And not in the good way.

    I don’t see anyone with as much to gain, or such a solid chance of pulling it off. But man, do I hope I’m wrong. I hate that guy.

    Current score: 1
  14. Guess says:

    My guess is the Druid girl in (finesse) Beast mode…

    Current score: 1
  15. not her, the other girl says:

    Ninjas. There, I said it.

    Next chapter(s): Glory and Mack arrive at a coastal location among their ports of call and they’re going about their day being touristy when suddenly PIRATES!

    Current score: 4
  16. Mo says:

    Professor Einhorn.

    Current score: 1
    • Arancaytar says:

      While Einhorn might have the ability (though she doesn’t seem to be a particularly deadly fighter, just a regular ancient elf) I don’t know what her motive would be.

      She’s had one driving objective so far, which is to get rid of Mack. Protecting Glory’s stuff while they’re on vacation doesn’t really achieve that…

      Current score: 1
      • Nocker says:

        Glory and Einhorn are first cousins and have been shown to communicate. We don’t know the consequences of how Mackenzie affected that relationship since, but the relationship itself very much does.

        Current score: 0
  17. Lunaroki says:

    I’d suggest Mariel, based on the speed thing, but honestly she’s just not the type. Even if she had some hidden motivation she hasn’t been shown to have any type of actual combat skills, and just moving faster than the eye can see wouldn’t hide her from the net of magical and psychic detection they had in place.

    Current score: 3
  18. zeel says:

    Actually, it was most likely an interloper from another world. Someone came through via the Inn, happened across some elves in the snow, and sliced ’em up a bit. Actually, it was probably a local that’s been away for a while – little Aidans dragon father! He’s a dragon, so super powerful and magical so nobody would notice him. And he actually did it to help Mackenzie because he overheard her talking to Pala at the Inn – and through some other unknown sources he figured out who she was! So when they get back from the trip he will take her to her brother in the Mother Isles.

    It makes perfect sense.

    Current score: 1
  19. Arancaytar says:

    Something happened, and a lot of them got cut up pretty bad…

    Not something, someone. I’d estimate that Oberrad house has some freelance defender (or defenders) they didn’t know about. Who might be in it for their own purpose, though I must say that any formidable individuals who come to mind (Callahan, Embries, Mur-Si, Mack’s father) don’t seem the type to leave all the attackers alive. Well, Callahan might, if she really felt it was important to keep Oberrad out of trouble with the university.

    “What’s the long version?” Glory asked.

    “…the short version, but Mack tells it?”

    Heh

    Current score: 3
  20. Arancaytar says:

    “I don’t think you are,” Glory said. “And I don’t think that someone who strikes with such perfect precision and then gets away cleanly would have attacked randomly or without purpose.”

    This makes me a bit more invested in the Mur-Si theory.

    “That is one possibility,” Glory said.

    “You sound like you’re thinking of another,” I said.

    “Someone may not wish for the house to be attacked when I am not there.”

    Ooooooof.

    Current score: 1
  21. Rob T says:

    when people mentioned Mercy, I thought wouldn’t it be awfully convenient if the attack came after Glory and Mack got back and one Half-Demon went missing in the chaos.

    Current score: 1
  22. Nocker says:

    “Given that it’s already evaded telepathy and physical senses… that suggests it’s not exactly a narrow, targeted ability. And it’s a simple fact of magic that some of the most powerful effects are also the most simple and categorical. You can use a lot of relatively minor spells to try to become invisible to individual senses and to slip past particular types of traps and alarms and wards… or you can just ratchet up your unnoticeability to the point where the tripwire your ankle just touched is too embarrassed to admit it thinks it might have felt something.”

    Of course, this kind of presumes that the caster has great heaping gobs of magical power to rely on, either bought or by nature. It’s the kind of assumption Mackenzie is comfortable enough to make, since she has those gobs, but most individuals don’t.

    Current score: 1
    • zeel says:

      Well I don’t think it’s so much an assumption as a point: Either the person evaded with lots of simple spells (and was very weLLC prepaired) or they had access to very powerful magic.

      Essentially, not detecting them tells you almost nothing asside from “shit is serious”.

      Current score: 1
      • Nocker says:

        I think one high power upswing is more accurate than many low power ones.

        Rather than just ratcheting up one power many times over, imagine how many this would take. Sight, Sound, psychic, tracks, and every other detection system would need to be dissuaded individually.

        Either way, you’re looking at a HUGE dump in power. Which knocks out anyone who isn’t magically skilled or has magical skills on call.

        Of course in terms of power levels that’s still a pool of half a dozen people, but it still narrows it down a bit. Especially when you consider this is arcane power and not divine or psychic that would be used to accomplish this.

        On that note, this is mostly just a random guess, but maybe it was Sam Cross who did this. He’s got just as much raw power as Mackenzie and has been building the exact same skillset and spell list for fifty years longer than her. He obviously couldn’t make a move with her actually there, since half demon auras don’t play well together, but he’s probably got a vested interest in keeping his successor out of trouble.

        Not to mention that the building in question was dedicated to his best friend. If there’s ANYWHERE he doesn’t want associated with this kind of thing, it’s there.

        Current score: 1
        • Nocker says:

          Yeah, thinking about it, I’m gonna change my guess to Sam formally. A few things in particular jump out at me the instant I consider thinking about it:

          -Sam was trained by a ranger and knows how to operate in the wild if needed. Catching elves roughly the same age as him unaware isn’t impossible. Additionally, he’s been able to use invisibility to slip past elven senses since HIS days at MU. Barring another one-off issue, he’d easily be able to get by them, particularly given his new lifetime of experience.

          -The description presumes blades, but mentions sea devil claws as being another dead ringer. A DEMON claw could probably do similar damage. Especially if he, like others of his kind leaves on or more long to function as a weapon.

          -There’s a giant, Sam shaped hole in the MU wards. They explicitly made an exception for him in their security systems. The old wards are mostly gone but it could be that they were the base for the new ones and the hole was left in.

          -A dead man with few friends needs to maintain cover. So he wouldn’t send them to a morgue and instead just deal wounds that he knew would be healed before serious questions would get asked.

          Current score: 1
          • zeel says:

            This theory is both ridiculous and intriguing. On one hand you aren’t wrong, he could do it (assuming he didn’t die). But it’s also a really big stretch to think he actually would

            And let me remind you once again that old campus is gone, the exceptions for Sam are gone with the walls and wards. Not that it matters, the paths would no more react to him than Mackenzie.

            Current score: 1
            • Noker says:

              It’s a safe enough bet to presume he didn’t die. Nobody actually SAW him take anything that’d have killed him and no body ever turned up. General fiction conventions aside his would be a body they’d be looking for in particular given he was blamed for the whole thing.

              As for his motives, they seem kind of self evident to me: His successor is trying something that appeals to his better nature, and the spirit of his presumably dead friends. Her father is a mutual enemy and thus helping her hurts him, even indirectly. Hell, most of her enemies are his, even if in a roundabout way. If nothing else the longer Glory’s gambits and relationships go on, the more it pisses off a certain elven professor.

              Current score: 3
          • Cadnawes says:

            I just wanted to say that I don’t think this is what is actually happening but I really like it.

            Current score: 1
  23. Arancaytar says:

    If the reason for the unexpected defense is indeed to delay the attack until Glory returns (a theory that has a few problems, but nonetheless), then I’d suspect Mercy for two possible motivations:

    1.) Glory is a long-term prospect for Mack (as an employer, a romantic partner or both) beyond university, and reasonably powerful in a way that Amaranth isn’t. If Mercy still has designs on enslaving Mack, then Glory is a bigger threat to those plans than Amy.

    2.) There was an offhanded mention (probably in Jamie’s story) about Treehome involvement in trading slaves to Mercy. Glory’s actions could lead to integrating elven and human affairs more closely, which could also threaten that eventually.

    Problems with Glory’s theory: If the elves got curbstomped by an invisible foe when they tried to attack, are they really going to think about trying again after she returns? The defences they encountered were so overwhelming that they might have been discouraged entirely… keeping in mind that Glory and Oberrad are at most slighting them, not threatening.

    Current score: 1
  24. Thinker of Thoughts says:

    As has been covered by others there are many possible candidates but some things that jumps out at me is that speed, precision, and gorilla tactics were used by a single attacker or a very small group (or a very large group of gnomes).

    Mercy is a possibility but I don’t think that she would do something like this without nearly complete certainty that she would get Mack out of the deal somehow.

    Mack’s dad falls into a nearly identical category to mercy, he has motive but no concrete gains from such an action.

    Callahan is another possibility. We know she has the abilities to do something like this. Actually I kind of like the idea that she might decide to test herself a little bit while “educating” (pronounced scaring the crap out of) a group of elves on their way to a miss deed. In that case the fact that none of them are dead might simply be because she hates the paperwork. It might also help reinforce her resemblance to the elven bogeyman among the latest crop of elves. I think that leaves her as a fairly plausible candidate but still less likely than my personal favorite.

    The most likely possibility that I can come up with is that this was simply part one of a two part semi-cooperative strike by at least two factions of treehome elves. Essentially two the heads if two courts got together and hatched the following plan. Phase 1, a mid sized group ~10-15 (probably) weaker elves from court A sets out to attack Oberrad house (group A). Court B sends 1-3 highly skilled fighters (group B) to attack and scare the unsuspecting members of group A, which flees and seeks aid at Oberrad house. Hopefully (for the attackers) Oberrad house lends aid which serves several purposes. It drains defending healers, it provides useful intelligence on the layout and composition of the defenses, further it serves as psychological warfare by suggesting powerful threats of unknown origin and intent, or conversely may lure the defenders into a false sense of security by implying that the danger is past. Additionally it lays the groundwork for a second attack (phase 2) while simultaneously providing a possible abort point for both courts and could place court B in a position to “ally” itself to Glory’s court by claiming (truthfully) to have defended them from attack. It also allows court A to save face among other the other courts (we tried but something interfered) in the event that the second attack is aborted. Both courts have their bases covered right up until they decide to go for the second and primary attack but can now make an informed and tactical decision based on the intelligence gathered by group A (which the head of court A passes to the head of court B and possibly other courts). The optimal time to carry out phase 1 would probably be about midnight and the optimal time for phase 2 would probably be around 3-4, long enough to let the defenders relax or exhaust themselves worrying while still being far enough from dawn (it’s still winter) that darkness can reasonably still cover the entire operation.

    All in all the plan minimizes all risks, while maximizing, chance of success, the number of options available to the participating courts, and tactical intelligence. Which, from my understanding, is very much in line with the attitudes and tactics employed by the elves of treehome. So there is my 2 (200? 2,000) cents.

    Current score: 1
    • Nocker says:

      The problem is you still need a middling elf, or multiple middling elves, capable of pulling this off.

      Physically it’s pretty much an elf is an elf is an elf. They’re largely identical and their muscle mass can’t grow or shrink due to exertion(Remember, Iason was like, less than an inch taller and broader and he was a hulking freak among them, and any other “large” elves are given separate status. Treehome elves also seem to mostly study and train part time and fuck around otherwise so the intense training needed to compensate isn’t going to be super common. Especially given that combat grade magic of this specific breed requires a lot of training and practice to nail down otherwise.

      I may be wrong, but I seriously doubt there’s an elf in treehome that’s even remotely capable of pulling this off, let alone multiple, and getting away unseen.

      Current score: 0
      • Thinker of Thoughts says:

        I will grant that most of the elves we have encountered haven’t displayed the dedication required to reach such a level of skill but one of the things that makes it nice is that if group B could be hired or equipped specifically for this task. Which means that the actual cost of it could be quite low (compared to equipping a large group) especially if all the magic gear required amounts to pair of boots that don’t leave tracks and might enhance movement speed, a cloak with its un-noticeability ramped way up, and some kind of blade probably with its speed boosted. All of these are probably quite similar to the types of gear that might be used by scouts in the opening scenes of the bonus story entitled “Opening Skirmishes”. And since I went back to get the name their tactics are a fairly decent match as well.

        Current score: 0
  25. readaholic says:

    I LOVE all the wild mass guessing. Any story that could provide this much WMG must be pretty good, and also pretty popular.
    I’m going for the Mercy option as being the strongest motive here.
    Although the potential loss of income from slaves is really only an excuse for Mercy, as Mack would be her main target.

    Current score: 0
  26. Arancaytar says:

    “…why am I suddenly picturing an army of guerilla gnomes sneaking around in the cold?” Steff said. “Or maybe that should be uerilla… the g is silent.”

    Steff still wields weapons-grade awful puns.

    Current score: 0