Chapter 293: Same Old Lang Syne

on March 19, 2015 in Volume 2 Book 8: Elven Holiday, Volume 2: Sophomore Effort

In Which A Resolution Is Reached

“You’ve had a lot on your mind,” Amaranth said. “Don’t worry about this one thing… you might have forgotten the turning of the year, but how could I? The cycle of the seasons is a huge part of who I am. Even a relatively recent mortal calendar means a lot to me.”

“It’s not like I had huge plans,” Glory said. “There was no way of knowing exactly when we’d make it home, or what kind of shape we’d be in… but I thought that no matter what, we’d need something in the way of refreshment and maybe distraction, and since it was a holiday anyway… we might as well have a low-key affair to mark it. What are our supplies like? I’m guessing pretty low after the storm… what do you think the odds are that a pizza delivery would get through?”

“I might know a place I could get a pizza in walking distance,” I said. I didn’t think the black door concealed a pizza oven, but people came to it from all sorts of places. I bet enough coins would convince someone more conveniently situated to pop out and pick up something for me.

Okay… maybe that would be going a bit far, but I liked having a problem I actually could maybe solve with a little ingenuity and a creative application of available resources.

“Mack, I know that everything is technically walking distance if you try hard enough and believe in yourself,” Steff said, “but are you remembering what you’d be walking through?”

“Glory, honey… I don’t want to be rude to a queen in her castle, but I told you not to worry about it,” Amaranth said. “You put Mack in charge of making sure things were taking care of, and she put us in charge…”

“Technically, Mack put me in charge,” Steff said. “I mean, yay, team effort, couldn’t have done it alone and would have gone bugfuck crazy with boredom if I’d tried… but I’m the one who was given the responsibility.”

“And you did a good job, sweetie,” Amaranth said. ” Like I said, I couldn’t personally do a lot for the defense effort…”

“You did all that was required,” Glory said.

“We were lucky that more wasn’t,” Amaranth said. “But even if things had been rougher, I never doubted we’d make it through things okay, and I never doubted that you’d make it back… and as I’ve said, I really couldn’t help knowing that the new year was coming. So, I’ve been ready. There is nothing left for you to do but relax.”

“I… feel a little weird about that, given that in theory I’ve been doing nothing but relaxing since we left,” Glory said.

“How’s that been working out in practice, the last twenty-four hours or so?” I asked.

“That’s a fair point,” Glory said. “You know, if you don’t mind… I think I’d like to be alone for a few hours. Doing nothing, thinking nothing… maybe collapsing and falling asleep, but definitely being in charge of nothing.” She looked at me. “Nothing personal, Mackenzie… I just need some ‘me’ time.”

Amaranth put her arm around my shoulder.

“I don’t think that will be a problem,” she said. “Just don’t sleep through the countdown… I mean, unless you want to. Taking care of yourself is important, but it would be a shame to miss it accidentally.”

“Oh, I wouldn’t miss it for the world,” Glory said. “I made very definite plans for the new year some time ago… though I have a feeling I may have to stand in line.”

“Yeah, well, there’s a first time for everything,” Steff said. “Off you go.”

Glory’s idea seemed to be popular with the other elves, and not just because it was hers… most of the rest of the court had already dispersed to their corners of the house, mostly alone. It was just the three of us pretty quickly.

I could understand the impulse… it was hitting me that I hadn’t had any real time to myself for most of a week. On the other hand, I hadn’t seen Amaranth or Steff in that long, either. It felt like it would be rude to disappear. More than that, I wasn’t sure I wanted to. What I really wanted was a way to do both things at once… I supposed that just sort of hanging out quietly without any pressing demands would be the closest thing to that.

“I’m glad to see you guys and all, but I really hope you don’t mind if we just sort of chill for a bit?” I said. “It’s been a long day.”

“Mack, hon, it’s been a long fucking week here,” Steff said. “I don’t plan on doing anything more strenuous than falling over, and if someone can convince the couch to meet me halfway on that it’ll be a big help. You’re cute and all, but if you think I’m going to jump your bones just because I haven’t seen you in a few days…”

“Okay, okay, point made,” I said. “Amaranth?”

“Well, it’s been hectic enough that I’m a little… what you might call ‘undernourished’,” she said. “But nothing that can’t wait until you’re feeling up to it. It will be more satisfying then. Anyway, I’m sure Ian’s going to be in need of some serious release when he gets in, and that should be more than enough to make up for the wait.”

“Sorry,” I said.

“I just told you it’s okay, baby. Your needs are real, including the need for rest and… if you want it… privacy.”

“I know,” I said. “I just wish there was a way I could accommodate your needs at the same time as mine.”

“You do a lot of that anyway,” she said. “When you can… and when you can’t, it’s okay. That’s what a relationship is. It’s not like I can be there for you twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week.”

“I’ve never needed you to, though,” I said.

“And I don’t need you to do any more for me than you do,” she said. She gave me a kiss on the forehead. “It’s seriously fine. I’ve missed you, baby, but I’ve missed the closeness as much as the sex… well, in a different way, maybe.”

“On the subject of needs… politely re-voicing my need to find a couch and fall into it,” Steff said.

“Oh, sorry!” Amaranth said. “Do you think you can make it up a flight of stairs? I feel like the second floor lounge is likely to give us more privacy.”

“Yes… and yeah, it’s empty,” Steff said.

“So what exactly did you have planned for New Year’s?” I asked Amaranth on the way up the stairs.

“I wouldn’t say I have a plan… I just tucked a few things away before we sort of hunkered down here,” Amaranth said.

Being built as a dormitory, every floor in Oberrad House had its own lounge. They were all more or less built to the same cookie-cutter plan, but that didn’t mean the more transitory furnishings had to be the same. Now that the renovations were largely complete, the decor of Oberrad House heavily featured large potted plants and a lot of plush seats made for leaning back and lying down: recliners, chaise longues, and elaborate sectional couches.

It was a good place to collapse. Elven femmes didn’t seem to believe in sitting upright any more than human furniture and architecture forced them to. They preferred furniture they could drape themselves over.

“What a year,” Steff said, after we’d settled in a bit. “You can apply that either to the past few days, or the actual year. Seriously, I can’t wait until 223 is dead and buried so I can dig up its corpse, animate it, make it drive a stake through its heart and bury itself again.”

“…I didn’t think stakes through the hearts worked on zombies,” I said.

“No, they’re one of the few things with hearts… usually… that won’t die if you jam a stake through it,” Steff said. “Which is why it would be able to bury itself again. But, honestly Mack, you’re way too literal about metaphors and you always have been.”

“I realized you were speaking metaphorically from the moment you mentioned the corpse of a year,” I said. “My problem is the internal logic of the metaphor… just because something isn’t literally true doesn’t mean it doesn’t have to be internally consistent.”

“The shoving a stake through its heart is a metaphor,” Steff said.

“Well, yeah, a year doesn’t have a heart.”

“No, I mean, within the metaphor where the year is a person who has died and left a corpse, the stake is a metaphor,” Steff said. “It is a meta-metaphor.”

“I think at this point you’re just using ‘metaphor’ to mean ‘I don’t have to say things that make sense on a literal level’,” I said.

“If we were talking about an actual person who wasn’t a vampire but just sort of hung on and never left, you’d accept that I could talk about wanting to shove a stake through their heart and it would be a metaphor for that, right?”

“Yeah,” I said.

“Okay,” Steff said. “In the metaphor, that’s what the Year of our Imperium 223 is.”

“Except in your metaphor, the year is actually dead, or will be,” I said.

“There may be more than two layers of metaphor here… I don’t know, I’m too burned in the brain to figure it all out,” Steff said. “Fuck this year, okay? Fuck it in its soon-to-be-dead, undead, and/or living ass, literally and metaphorically.”

“But you couldn’t do it literally…”

“You know, it’s amazing how much I managed to miss you,” Steff said.

“I missed you, too,” I said.

“You’re quiet, Amy,” Steff said.

“I’m just enjoying this,” she said.

“What?” Steff and I both said.

“This. Right here, she said. “The two of you. It’s not just that you’ve been gone, baby… it’s that you’ve been busy. We’ve all been busy. School, life, sex… everything. We’re all being pulled in different directions, so many directions each. We see each other at breakfast, usually lunch, sometimes dinner… we spend some nights together… but it’s all so… I don’t know…”

“Perfunctory?” I said.

“Obligatory?” Steff said.

“I don’t want to say that,” Amaranth said. “But… it does get that way sometimes.”

“I think when you’re getting pulled all over the place, sometimes you have to make the effort… even if it feels like an effort,” I said. “I mean, it beats the alternative, right?”

“If the only alternative is not seeing each other,” Amaranth said. “But I feel like we can do better. I feel like we should do better.”

“That sounds like a resolution,” Steff said.

“I don’t usually do resolutions,” I said. “But… I’ll join you there. I’ve been thinking a lot about what the future might hold, and I haven’t come up with any answers for the long term. I think in the short and medium term, though, I can say… the future’s going to hold whatever I put into it. Whatever we put into it.”

“And possibly a sneak attack by asshole middlings or some sort of snow death beast,” Steff said.

“That falls under the heading of ‘things I can’t control’,” I said. “I can only deal with that kind of problem as it arises. The problem of… well, let’s not call it a problem. The subject of relationships? Friendships? Those we can control. Those we can do something about.”

“I’d drink to that, if it didn’t mean getting up,” Steff said.

“Hold onto that thought,” Amaranth said. “I don’t know much about the long-term future, either, but in the short term, I predict a lot of toasting.”

Author’s Note:

As you may recall, back in December I was raising money to help keep Tales of MU going through the next year. I raised a bit over $300, which was not nothing but also not quite enough to let me enter 2015 brimming with confidence and on solid financial ground.

Not wholly related to that but also not completely unrelated, I have been going through a period of self-doubt and depression that I’m just starting to get a handle on. It’s affected every aspect of my life, including work. The lack of confidence has really affected my ability to deliver the podcasts that started so promisingly, though I’m working on the next one for delivery tomorrow. “Feature creep” has also been a problem, as there’s a lot to talk about, though that’s admittedly a better problem to have than crippling self-doubt…

I digress. Anyway, there’s a vicious cycle to these things. Fear of failure makes it impossible to put one’s best self forward, which leads to the very failures that were feared. Though I didn’t say as much, I’ve come very close to giving up at a few points over the past few months. Talking frankly about this stuff is making it a bit easier.

I’m not out of the woods yet, but I’m back in a fighting mood at least, which is where I tend to do my best work. I couldn’t have made it this far without your support. I can’t make it further without it. It’s not on any one person to keep MU going except me, though it’s up to all of us collectively to make it possible. If you want to keep reading, if you want to see where the next story-calendar year takes Mackenzie and company, now is the time to pitch in.

There’s no crisis right now, just the cold reality that it takes time to do what I do, and it takes money to live a life while doing it. I’ve been riding on thin margins for a long time now. That’s why I’ve been branching out more lately, exploring publishing in other venues, trying out other stories… I still love what I’m doing here, but it might be that I’ve taken this ride as far as it can go. Or maybe I just need to take it further than I am.

Like Mackenzie, I have some hard decisions to make about my future, and like Mackenzie, I’m not at all sure what it holds for me.

I do know what my past has held, and I am deeply appreciative for it.

Thank you all for reading.

<3 AE

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

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14 Responses to “Chapter 293: Same Old Lang Syne”

  1. Zathras IX says:

    You say you’ve made a
    Resolution, well, we all
    Want to change the world

    Current score: 10
  2. Ducky says:

    Tales of MU has been a huge part of my life for the past seven years. Thank you so much for writing, and as always, take care of yourself first.

    Current score: 6
  3. Mickey Phoenix says:

    AE — I’ve spent many years enjoying Tales of MU. Years during which, for the most part, I couldn’t afford to donate an appropriate amount to thank you for your hard work.

    I’d like to make up for that.

    Would you prefer that I do so by increasing my ongoing monthly Patreon donation, or by donating a lump sum?

    Current score: 6
    • P says:

      For what it’s worth, AE has said she often doesn’t read the comments because of how emotionally draining it can be. I also know that early on sometimes she would defend her work against people’s often unfair criticisms and people would post here and other places about she was conceited, a narcissist, etc, so basically if she reads the comments she has to choose between just quietly listening to people telling her she sucks as a writer or else challenging them and getting labeled as a narcissist. Which I think would make me not want to read the comments regularly, either.

      I would just up the patreon amount personally (except I don’t donate regularly due to being an unemployed disabled person), but if you want to check with what she wants maybe ask on twitter or contact her directly some other way? Or else we’ll get lucky, she’ll comment on here, and I’ll look silly for having made this post.

      Current score: 1
  4. Arancaytar says:

    “Mack, hon, it’s been a long fucking week here,” Steff said.


    “Well, it’s been hectic enough that I’m a little… what you might call ‘undernourished’,”

    So it has only been a long fucking week in one sense of the term.

    Current score: 5
  5. Vee says:

    I remember one of your past fundraising drives that involved the money donated being counted as votes toward a particular plot change. Wasn’t that a successful one? Maybe try that again, or release more merchandise for us to purchase?

    Current score: 4
    • Yumi says:

      That was a fun one; I remember donating for it.

      Current score: 2
  6. Vee says:

    You are an AMAZING author, one of the greats. You have a very unique ability to create a whole other world… One that is consistent with itself and makes sense according to its own rules. On top of that world-building ability, you also have a talent for making nuanced and very real characters, with lots of character development. Whatever you do next, I hope it involves writing fiction.

    I know that depression saps a person’s motivation and get-up-and-go. You have a very large readership. Some of them are bound to be artists. Maybe they can create designs for Tales of MU posters/bags/magnets/mugs/t-shirts?

    Current score: 6
  7. Order of Chaos says:

    I wish life gave me enough money to help, I promise that Tales of MU is right after family if I win the lottery or something but the odds aren’t looking good.

    Current score: 0
  8. Lost Prophet says:

    I’ve enjoyed your writing for a few years now.
    I think I’ve gotten a lot for nothing and I felt the need for a long time to give back.
    Hopefully others will be inspired to give just that little bit, especially the patreon.

    Current score: 1
  9. A Person says:

    Hi Alexandra,

    I just wanted to remind you how many people like me there are out there who really love your work and have just been too accustomed to awesome free stuff / disconnected from the reality of the creative process / ‘bystander effected’ to ever think about actually contributing. I know that doesn’t help your financial situation at all, but you deserve that it at least help your confidence in your work a little…

    That said, I have now realised that the least I can do is spare a few quid now and then for someone who makes me happy without any thanks. You sure deserve to make a decent living more than a lot of the people who end up with my money.

    Anyway, I’ve really not started contributing a whole lot, so I’m not gonna try to make a big deal out of it or anything, I just wanted to A: remind you that there are a lot of people out there who think you’re amazing even if most of us probably usually stay quiet about it or can’t help much, and B: maybe add another small voice of encouragement to other fans who might be thinking about contributing a bit.

    After all, Patreon makes it so danged easy, you guys! You should totally do it!

    Anyway, I really hope you can keep this up. For the most selfish reasons, of course. You know, so I can find out what happens.

    I also just now recalled that you may have said recently that you don’t read these comments yourself and have someone else moderate them… And I feel a bit silly… Err, well if you do happen to see this, or if the nice moderator (!) passes the odd positive comment along, good luck!

    Current score: 2
  10. Jam says:

    I go here most every day just to see if you’ve posted something by surprise. And maybe because I don’t remember your schedule well. But point is, every time I see something new? I enjoy it.

    So to hell with depression. Kick its ass, keep it down, and focus on putting one foot in front of the other until you realize it’s natural.

    Current score: 1
  11. Alurnian says:

    AE, your Patreon link is broken! The one at the bottom of each chapter that says Ongoing support has an extra quotation mark. Your link goes to the profile of AlexandraErin” instead of AlexandraErin, and Patreon ends up redirecting to it’s homepage.

    Current score: 0
    • Oh, wow, that is both embarrassing and actually kind of a relief to know… thanks for pointing it out.

      Current score: 1