In Which Mackenzie Goes Around In Circles

After Amaranth left, I wasn’t sure what to do with myself.

I was pretty wide awake. I maybe could have continued with my nap, but I didn’t want to set a precedent that this was what I did with boundless free time… also, I couldn’t convince my brain and body that I didn’t have somewhere to be by and by.

As jazzed as I’d been by the prospect of having my afternoons completely free, I just couldn’t make it sink in that no, I didn’t actually have any class to get to.

It wasn’t like an ongoing source of anxiety, but every time I tried to relax a bit the voice in the back of my head would prompt me to check the timepiece on the wall to see how much time I had left or look at my schedule to remind myself when my next class would be.

Because surely I had another class…

If it had been a nicer day, I would have taken a walk around campus. It looked nice enough through the window, but I only had to look down to remind myself that the ground was still white and in many places several feet higher than it usually was. The campus had been hammered over the break. The roads and paths had all been cleared in time for classes to resume, but it was still cold as balls.

I stayed at the window a minute, looking everywhere but down. The sun was out and the sky was the clear, bright blue that it could only be in winter, when even the clouds didn’t want to go outside without a compelling reason. Winter sun was the worst. It promised everything and delivered nothing. No warmth, no green growing things.

I would be the first to admit… after I’d finished grumbling about the cold, and everybody for whom it wasn’t an admission had said so… that falling snow could be very pretty in its own way. I wasn’t a fan of the low gray skies you got an overcast afternoon, but at least they were honest.

Cold sunshine, though?

It could go fuck itself.

Hard.

With nowhere else to go and nothing to do, I decided to take a walk around the building. This was the biggest difference between the way I’d been when I’d first arrived as a freshman and being halfway through my sophomore year…

…well, okay, the biggest difference aside from being openly bisexual, kind of kinky, polyamorous, able to do magic beyond simple detection and analysis, being able to stomach being the center of attention, sometimes not wearing the same shirt two days in a row, wearing nicer shirts, and all of the other stuff that had changed, outwardly and inwardly…

A big difference between the way I’d been when I’d first arrived and the way I was now was that I’d struggled to feel like I had a claim to my own room that first year, but now I felt like the tower in which I’d lived for the past several months was as much mine as it was anybody else’s.

Why not? There were probably some freshmen in it, and definitely a lot of sophomores.

More than just coming to feel like I belonged there, though, I’d begun to internalize what I felt was the great secret of life: realizing that no one else felt like they belonged, either. Okay, maybe that wasn’t one hundred percent true across the board, but it was close enough that it might as well have been.

There might have been exceptions, but in my experience the people who were sure that everything they had access to was meant for them were usually assholes. So if someone seemed at all cool… I mean really cool, not the kind of edgy and aggressive that seems so impressive when you feel completely lost and worthless… then they were probably just as insecure as you were.

This meant that not only was there no reason to be intimidated by them, but that they might be intimidated by you… which meant that a kind gesture, like a nod or a smile, could make their day, the same way it would make yours if they did it for you.

I nodded at people as I passed them in the hall. Smiling on command wasn’t a skill I had mastered. I couldn’t even try it without feeling like a phony. I could nod sincerely, though.

A bunch of people said my name… sometimes Mack, sometimes Mackenzie… in response. I always felt vaguely bad, because I never knew if they knew my name because I’d managed to become infamous a few times over, or because we lived in the same dorm, or because we’d actually had a class together or conversed or something.

I didn’t know if it was something about the socialization I’d missed out on during my formative years, but I just had no knack for matching names to faces, or even really retaining faces.

Living in Harlowe Hall had been a little easier in that regard. I’d had trouble telling the two gnomes on the floor apart at first until I’d figured out how different their personalities were, and then Hazel had started dressing less traditionally. Other than that, though? There had been one half-ogre, one lizard woman, one triclops…

Okay, was I really nostalgic for Harlowe? I think maybe half the people on my floor had either attacked or viciously teased me at some point, and the only reason that was “I think” and “maybe” is I was afraid to start counting in case it was more.

Still, it hadn’t been all bad… it was just that I’d brought most of the best with me when I moved out. Amaranth, Two, Two’s roommate Dee, Hazel the gnome and her kobold friend Shiel…

Well, okay, it wasn’t just the presence of those few people that had been good about Harlowe. My second semester there had actually been a ton better than the first one. Everybody had sort of pulled together and decided we weren’t going to be treated as the freak dorm or let the school turn us against each other, and things had just been sort of better all around.

I wasn’t sure if my mood at the moment counted as triumphant or morose, but at least I wasn’t thinking about how I had to get to a class that I didn’t even have, and I also wasn’t thinking about the impending relationship talk with Amaranth…

Except okay, now I was thinking about both of those things. The class thing not for very long, because it didn’t take long to remind myself that no, I really seriously didn’t have one.

Which was kind of a shame, because of the two, I would rather have spent more time dwelling on that one.

At some point I probably had wandered into a stairwell, because I didn’t seem to be on my floor anymore. I say “probably” because architecture had a way of getting wibbly inside a proper tower. Space didn’t always stack up right. It was probably slightly more likely that I had just absentmindedly wandered up or down a flight, except my track record in dealing with stairs when I didn’t give them my full attention wasn’t that good. I hadn’t fallen on my face… I was pretty sure I would have noticed.

I decided to keep my eyes out for a lift, because then I wouldn’t have to figure out what floor I was on to get back to mine. The area around them was pretty stable, too. Something about the way the long shaft ran the entire length of the building from top to bottom seemed to ground the ambient magic the tower attracted and built up.

I was still nodding to the people that I saw, even though I felt pretty sure that I knew less of them. I was practicing being friendly. My suitemate was an RA… that practically made me a role model, right? I got a few nods back, but not a lot in the way of recognition, until I saw one’s guy head whip around just as I went past.

“Mackenzie?” he said, and I stopped… more or less all at the same time, barely stumbling at all as I turned. “Mackenzie Blaise?”

“Yeah?”

“Sweet Khersis, it is you,” he said. “Wait, can I say that?”

“That’s between you and your speech therapist,” I said. I knew what he meant, but I got tired of it. If just hearing the name of a god, invoked in vain of all things, had been harmful to me then the harm would already have been done.

“Sorry,” he said. “It’s been… you don’t know me, do you?”

I looked at him. He looked tall, but I had a tendency to think of anyone taller than me as tall. I guessed he was under six feet, easily. Broad shouldered, but not very thick across the middle. Kind of gangly, with a crooked nose, a scraggly chin beard and mop of dirty blond hair, and no particular abundance of facial symmetry.

He reminded me uncomfortably of a scarecrow… not a particular scarecrow, I mean. I’d only met the one and I definitely would have recognized him. Just the general effect.

“Did we have a class together?” was the question that popped into my head, but I kept it from popping out of my mouth. He’d been about to say that it had been… some length of time. Probably more than a semester or two. If we’d been best classroom buds or something, sure, a year might have been a big deal. But I had the feeling that he knew me from outside of school, before school.

The thing was, I didn’t know anybody from before school. Literally no one.

I could picture the jerks I went to high school with… it had been a small school, and there hadn’t been a lot of transfers in or out. He wasn’t one of them.

“You really don’t know me,” he said. He seemed more fascinated than hurt. “I didn’t recognize you at first, you look… well, you would. But I mean, I saw you on TV and you looked about like I thought you would. I was surprised how little you’d changed. But your clothes, and your hair…”

“Yeah, I’m doing a little something different with it,” I said. “Also, who are you?”

His face broke out in a lopsided grin.

“You don’t know, do you?”

“No, I always ask questions I know the answer to,” I said. “It adds to my mysterious charm.”

“And… hey, you can’t read my mind, can you?”

“No, demons aren’t telepathic,” I said. “I’d say that’s a myth, but… it’s not even a myth.”

“No, not because… you seriously don’t recognize me?”

“Okay, look,” I said. “You said you saw me on TV. If I’m supposed to know you from there, I should tell you I haven’t exactly been keeping up with many shows lately. Otherwise, I don’t know you from college and I don’t know you from high school, so I’m guessing if I ever have seen you before, you’ve changed by more than a haircut. So, no, for the last time I don’t know who you are.”

“Rowan,” he said. This meant about as much to me as it probably means to you. Seeing this, his grin faltered. “Rowan Hartley?”

Because I was trying so hard to be sociable and because I really wasn’t the best at… people… I didn’t answer him immediately. I tried to keep my face neutral while I racked my brain, but there wasn’t much there to rack. I mean, not because I don’t have a lot of brain, but what it’s most not filled up with is people. When it came right down to it, the list of people I actually know has never been that long, and there wasn’t any Rowan Hartley on that list.

“Sorry, dude,” I said.

“You don’t know me,” he said. It was more statement than question this time, and it was a sad one.

“Look, the thing about being… kind of infamous, I guess… is that everybody knows who I am,” I said. “But it doesn’t mean I know who they are. If we crossed paths at some point, maybe it was a big deal to you, but…”

“You know what? Forget it,” he said, turning and slumping away.

“I was trying to be nice about it!” I said.

“Forget it!” he said again.

Well, that was totally a thing.


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67 Responses to “Chapter 298: Face Time”

  1. Sorry for the super late update… it was server problems on top of server problems. First my resources got maxed out when John Scalzi linked to this, so I delayed the post until midnight… and in the meantime an automatic update went wrong in a way that locked me out of the back end.

    Everything is squared away now.

    Current score: 5
    • zeel says:

      So that’s what that was all about. If I clicked on the dashboard panel I got this weird screen about a database update.

      Current score: 0
    • Hollowgolem says:

      Grats on the Scalzi bump!

      (The review is hilarious, by the way)

      Current score: 4
    • Arancaytar says:

      When they just say what they know is safe and popular, just repeat what their audience wants to hear? Well, I for one have the guts to stand up in front of an audience of people who hate that, and say that I hate it, too

      This is my favorite part.

      Demo(n)cRAT

      No wait, this is.

      Current score: 3
  2. zeel says:

    I couldn’t convince my brain and body that I didn’t have somewhere to be by and by

    This happens to me all the time, I had so many gaps in my schedule this semester… ugh. The best I can deal with it is to set a timer on my watch. If I know I don’t have anything to do until it goes off, and I know it will go off in time to get to class, I can relax – I know that I can’t accidentally miss anything.

    Now, as to this Rowan character… Didn’t Mackenzie have a summer job before college? That’s the only other thing I can think of if she is certain he didn’t go to her high school. Of course, it could be even further back. Otherwise, it might just be something we don’t know about yet.

    Or she really doesn’t know him, which is a bit creepy.

    Current score: 2
  3. Nocker says:

    Didn’t Laurel Anne mention her spending the early part of Mackenzie’s life in a compound, at least for a while?

    It’s possible whatever this “compound” was he could have been some other kid there. I’ve just kind of been assuming for a while it was some kind of weird psychic thing because it seemed kind of obvious, and these were the kind of obvious questions someone who deals with subtle artists would ask, especially if he knows Mackenzie could or should be able to do the same thing.

    Current score: 5
    • Nocker says:

      Yeah, I’m gonna go ahead and solidify this guess. Laurel and her daughter got involved with some other Psychic folks, either at this commune(Which she was only officially a part of briefly when Mackenzie was like three years old), or elsewhere. Rowan is obviously too young to do things on his own at that point so he probably had psychic parents, much like Dee or Violet inherited their power down a family line. At some point Laurel backs out and stops Mackenzie’s memories of this, which it’s confirmed possible to do and a non-turned Mackenzie would be safe to handle.

      He’s too skinny and unfit to be one of the three combat majors(Martial Combat, Armory, Delving), and not nearly stylish enough to be one of the design or soft magics, meaning he’s either SubArts or Hard Magic, and the obvious money is on subtle arts. The only real way he could expect Mackenzie to be a psychic is either some kind of firsthand experience or knowing that about her mother, which she wasn’t terribly open about even to her own family.

      Current score: 3
      • Markaslin says:

        Could you refer me to all these stories of Laurel? Only one I remember reading was about her encounters with The Man.

        Current score: 2
        • Nocker says:

          Well there’s the Lorellion Brand stuff, but I don’t think that’s really relevant. The only one with her directly I’m working from is Blessed Season, which is so old it isn’t even tagged properly.

          Most of the stuff regarding lineages was established with other characters(Dee and Violet in particular, hence why I called them out specifically), but they share that one detail conceptually between the three so some data can be extrapolated. The idea that memories can be modified came from Teddi, who has the same powers to go off and is involved more with the theory behind them.

          As another detail, I think Laurel’s specific wording, which I got wrong initially, might be significant. She didn’t say compound, she said COMMUNE. Three months in a physical location that young barely leaves an impression. If it was say, some kind of direct mental link for the same time length, it’d be a much more memorable thing.

          Current score: 2
          • zeel says:

            “First, I really doubt Mackenzie was warped or even affected by the mere three months I spent in a commune… especially as it was before she was even born,”

            Current score: 4
      • Rouninscholar says:

        He could be a divine major, except he knows very little about demons, and he took the lords name in vain.

        Current score: 0
        • Kriss says:

          Not the lords name. A Deity’s name. Since there are so many named Gods in this ‘verse:
          Khersis, Khaele, Kharolinus, Owain, Khelaine, Arkhanos, Patros and Ana, to name a few

          Current score: 1
  4. yrroth says:

    He might be the boy who used to be the scarecrow in the maze. I think I remember he was freed after Mack was done with that ‘challenge’. I’m not sure though.

    Current score: 1
    • P says:

      I think AE is hinting that he’s not the scarecrow when she says he doesn’t look like ‘a particular scarecrow’, but having read the labyrinth part recently what happened is that when mackenzie brought the pitchfork out the whole area then turned into a regular field with a mundane scarecrow. Mackenzie hopes that the scarecrow has been freed if it’s a person and not some kind of construct, but she’s not sure.

      The scarecrow seemed to have some kind of connection to Mackenzie’s father or at least to a demon based on the questions it asked Mackenzie, so it’s -probably- not just some random student who resumed classes afterwards.

      Current score: 1
  5. Helge Moulding says:

    I was wondering if Rowan is in fact a recurring character. Does it mean anything that the only story tagged with Rowan is this one?

    Current score: 0
    • zeel says:

      Probably not. There are a few characters with only one or two chapters, and even more who get introduced with a tag, but aren’t immediately important. It probably means we will see him again, but you can infer that from the chapter.

      Current score: 1
    • Trent Baker says:

      I tried that as well, so I have to agree that this Rowan character is probably from Mack’s past before her demon half manifested.

      Current score: 4
  6. Angnor says:

    I would guess it’s someone from her High School that she never really noticed.

    Current score: 4
  7. Glenn says:

    If Mack needs to access a completely forgotten memory to figure out who Rowan is, then that sounds like a job for the Owl Turtle. And if Rowan is a subtle artist, then the Owl Turtle might be interested in Rowan as well.

    Current score: 4
  8. Zathras IX says:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rowan#Mythology_and_folklore

    Will the circle be
    Unbroken by and by? Still,
    It’s bye-bye for now

    Current score: 4
  9. Zukira Phaera says:

    With his passing familiarity with her, I’m wondering if perhaps he might not be one of her several cousins.

    Current score: 2
    • zeel says:

      That’s an interesting idea, but I believe Martha made sure Mackenzie knew the names and faces of each cousin she took blood from – so she should at least recognise the last name. But then, we don’t know that she actually got blood from all of them, or if they all even lived near enough for that to be practical.

      Current score: 1
      • Zukira Phaera says:

        Possibly, but she may have blocked out the names, and odds are, once her demonic side started to manifest, Martha probably tried to limit her contact with any impressionable young folk.

        One of the holiday bonus stories mentions a few of the cousins and step cousins by name but hints that there are a goodly number of them that pre-demonic Mack doesn’t know or hadn’t met yet.

        He could also possibly be the boy that is in the chapter where we see Martha exorcise a demon from a child. Mack gets seen, but sent to the basement.

        Current score: 0
        • zeel says:

          That is a cool theory. Unfortunately that kid was six at the time, we don’t know exactly how old Mackenzie was then, but she had to be at least nine. So even assuming the smallest gap… he shouldn’t be in college yet. At this point he would be 16. She said he was tall, and didn’t remark on him looking young… so I don’t think so.

          Cousin certainly seems more likely then, though it bugs me that he doesn’t tell her why he knows her. Most people would say if the other person can’t figure it out. But the biggest clue to support that is this:

          “And… hey, you can’t read my mind, can you?”

          “No, demons aren’t telepathic,” I said. “I’d say that’s a myth, but… it’s not even a myth.”

          No, not because… you seriously don’t recognize me?”

          Mackenzie brushes it off as a weird demon myth, but it isn’t. So why the hell would he even think that? Unless he knew her mother was a telepath, which a cousin could easily have known.

          My money is on a cousin of one form or another.

          Current score: 3
  10. Cadnawes says:

    I wonder if he said “forget it” not because she was being rude, which she kind of was, but because there is a reason she had forgotten him and he twigged to it. That makes sense to me if he’s a subtle arts guy.

    Current score: 4
    • Gordon says:

      I don’t really get how she was being rude. A random dude came up to her and started acting like he knew her. She made a sincere effort to figure out who he was(while he finding her confusion funny), but came up with nothing. The list of people she actually knows is relatively short(No childhood friends, no high school friends, no real family worth mentioning).

      This guy claims to know her, but his only comment as to how is that he saw her on tv. There’s nothing more she needs to do than basic etiquette.

      Obviously, from a narrative perspective, this is meaningful and it indicates that Mack doesn’t remember something (relatively, as he said he saw her on tv and she looked the same) recent from her past. But Mack doesn’t perceive her life as a narrative. This is just a weird interaction with a random dude she doesn’t have to put much thought into. She was basically polite and that’s all the situation calls for.

      Current score: 4
      • Cadnawes says:

        I can see your point. But as someone who knows she is bad at faces, she should know the glitch is on her end. The crack about her infamy is what I thought was rude.

        I can see her not picking up on it but it is also clear from his phrasing that he didn’t recognize her NOW from tv, but he recognized her on tv, from before.

        I kind of live in this world too, a little bit. I’m blind but people forget that. So they always recognize me first, and don’t announce themselves if I run into them out of context. It is a little crazymaking, so I can also see why Mack mighttt have limited patience for it

        Current score: 2
      • That other guy says:

        I agree. Random dude is random. As far as we know, as far as Mackenzie knows, the random dude (not Mack) is the impolite weirdo.

        Current score: 1
  11. Lucy says:

    What if he’s a dimensional traveller? either one Mack met in passing at the conference over the summer (and who comes from a dimension with a wildly different rate of time) or he knows Kegan and has come to this dimension for reasons

    Current score: 0
    • zeel says:

      Well that would certainly be pretty cool. The Inn could easily open into both the MU and AU worlds… The only issue is that he actually knew her name, and saw her on TV.

      Current score: 0
      • Lucy says:

        he could have been hanging about awhile, or there was a documentary about ‘Demons at MU’ on and Mack was at the end

        Current score: 0
  12. Arancaytar says:

    He reminded me uncomfortably of a scarecrow… not a particular scarecrow, I mean. I’d only met the one and I definitely would have recognized him. Just the general effect.

    I did a doubletake until I saw the rest of the sentence. 😛

    Current score: 2
  13. Lurk says:

    My guess, he’s a childhood friend. A close childhood friend, whose existence was surgically removed from her mind at the same time as, and by the same process by which, Laurel Ann removed all knowledge of what happened to her from Mackenzie’s head except that it wasn’t her fault.

    If he were a subtle artist himself and had poked at Mackenzie’s mind, it would have ended badly for him. But it’s not unreasonable to guess that, one way or another, he had learned back in the day that Mackenzie’s mom was telepathic. So he’s curious if Mack got the gift of her genes.

    But Mack herself has had her knowledge of Laurel’s gift removed. The process must have burned every mental bridge that leads to the subject out of Mack’s head, including the memory of a family friend who knew about it.

    Similarly possible Rowan is in some way related to “what happened to Laurel.” If she remembered him, she’d remember what happened, and the mind-fuck won’t have none o’ that.

    Current score: 11
    • Lyssa says:

      I like this theory the best so far because it offers the most answers long term. I guess we will just have to wait and see for now, but I think there’s a lot of merit to it. Like someone else pointed out, he didn’t think she was telepathic because of the demon thing – he had another reason for believing that. Knowing her mother was a telepath would certainly be reason enough.

      I don’t think it’s someone from high school simply because Mackenzie is so sure that it isn’t, and those people really left an impression in her mind. I think she would recognize him if he were. I also don’t believe he’s a cousin. It just doesn’t seem very likely that he’d be so cagey about that, apart from her knowing many of her cousins’ names. But if he knew her from before she was “actively” a demon, was perhaps a friend, his being coy makes sense for either the reasons you list, or even just because he could be as insulted as he seems to be. If he thought they were close growing up, and now she’s this well known person who can’t remember him, then his reaction makes sense.

      Current score: 0
    • Gordon says:

      I don’t think it’s a childhood friend. He says he saw her on tv and says she was about like what he’d expected(in the first semester of her freshman year). If he was from her childhood, it was before Laurel’s death, as I doubt Grandma Blaise was all that keen on her having friends. That (Pre-Grandma) child would have almost nothing in common with the person Mack became as she grew up.

      This all implies that Mack was in middle or high school when they met, but that they (probably) didn’t meet because of school. And then those memories were taken from her.

      Unless he saw a little girl and had really sad expectations about how she’d turn out.

      Current score: 1
      • Erianaiel says:

        I’m going with the really wild guesses.
        It might be daddy demon who is pretending to be human (again?) and is miffed that his dearest daughter doesn’t recognise him. (yes, I know, technically the school wards should stop him, but those didn’t keep him from engineering another half-demon’s death the last time one happened to enter his territory).

        Or … it is the weird owl turtle thing.

        Current score: 0
        • zeel says:

          The Man is highly unlikely. Though I should point out that the new campus would be much easier for him to infiltrate were he so inclined. It’s still not really his style, and he wouldn’t have acted the way Rowan does here. Either he would stay hidden, come out directly, or just try to become her friend in a non-weird way. But it’s too big a risk either way for him.

          And the thing with Sam was a lot different, in that case an unrelated male demon blood was on his turf. Mackenzie is his daughter.

          Current score: 0
        • Lurk says:

          Haha. To play devil’s advocate with crazy theories, the ROTT makes a certain amount of sense. If it’s learned to manifest physically as a human-seeming person, it has reason to say everything it said — AND its inherent “disliked” property, courtesy of Two, explains why Mack reacted to its “unfamiliar” presence with such unconscious hostility!

          Current score: 1
          • zeel says:

            The ROTT is far too self-aware to think she would have a chance of recognizing it in a physical form that wasn’t… owl turtley.

            And that’s not even getting into how silly an idea that is to begin with.

            Current score: 1
            • Lurk says:

              Yeah, yeah. It’s just a fun idea, and when wild theories are flying around, ROTT is my favorite ridiculous scapegoat.

              After all, it’s right there in his name. 🙂

              Current score: 2
  14. Xicree says:

    Cold sunshine, though?

    It could go fuck itself.

    Hard.

    Man… I can’t help but agree with this sentiment… SOOOOO HARD.

    Current score: 2
    • zeel says:

      Truth. Though honestly, sunshine can go fuck itself. Period.

      My favorite weather is when it hasn’t been raining recently, but it’s threatening to storm really bad. It’s warm, with a cool breeze, and the clouds are hanging so low it looks like the world has a ceiling. Something about that just feels right.

      I have to think that, if nobody else, Dee would agree with me on this one.

      Current score: 3
      • Lyssa says:

        I agree with you so wholeheartedly I feel like I’ve never agreed with anyone so much. That is the best of weathers.

        Current score: 2
  15. Bob says:

    Wow, guess Mack has decided she has enough friends in her life with that kinda snarky sarcasm!

    Current score: 0
    • Brenda A. says:

      There was one line of snark, in response to a question with an answer that was obvious before it was asked. She acted nice enough here. He was the one who kept up the “guess who I am!” game and then left without giving her the answer.

      Current score: 2
  16. Trent Baker says:

    What I don’t understand is that if there is some suppressed memories swimming about in Mack’s head, then why hasn’t the Owl Turtle thing mentioned it?
    I can understand why Dee wouldn’t, but what is the Owl Turtle’s reasoning? Is it like only doing what is asked of it and nothing extra?

    Current score: 2
    • Lurk says:

      The ROTT has been in her head, but only kind of on the surface. IIRC, it respected her privacy enough not to dig too deep. Plus, it’s a young entity, however powerful, and Laurel’s binding may just be too strong for it to crack.

      Now that I think of it, though, are we absolutely sure Laurel is the one who did the binding? The Man has no compunction against tinkering with young minds.

      Current score: 0
      • zeel says:

        Okay, I really have to know: where is everyone getting this whole “Mackenzie has memories that are hidden from her” theory? We do know that on a technical level it should be possible, but I can’t recall any evidence that Mackenzie was under such an effect.

        Current score: 1
        • Brenda A. says:

          I’m assuming it’s from the encounter with the scarecrow, when she had to answer questions truthfully:

          “Whom do you love most of all?”

          “My… my mother,” I said. I knew I wouldn’t get off with Amaranth or Two or Steff. She had been my world. For half my life, she had loved me like nobody else… and then nobody else had loved me for the other half.

          “What happened to her?”

          “It isn’t my fault,” I said. “I don’t want to talk about it. That’s all I know.”

          The scarecrow stared at me. I felt anger welling up within me.

          “That’s all I know,” I said, and very slowly, it nodded.

          Current score: 2
          • zeel says:

            That is a compelling case, though it could be explained as her simply never having known. If she did not witness the event, and nobody told her what really happened.

            Current score: 0
            • Lurk says:

              The scarecrow is just one of several identical instances, though. If it had just been the scarecrow, I would probably think it was at least possible she was lying to herself, repressing, hiding the awful truth behind the idea that she had her eyes closed at the time so technically she doesn’t KNOW what happened.

              But it also happened a few other times that I don’t feel like looking up. I think it happened with Teddi, maybe Amaranth, and I think the ROTT. One of them would ask about what happened to her mom, and she would respond instantly with exactly the same words: “It’s not my fault.”

              That is telling of more than simple repression. Something tampered with her mind to actively hide the memories from her. I always assumed Laurel did it to protect her from guilt (as did most of us, I think), since her subtle arts have been so pointedly noted. But when I think about it, it could have been anyone.

              Current score: 1
            • zeel says:

              You aren’t wrong, she does do that a lot. And since Laurel Ann isn’t really dead, it’s all the more likely.

              The issue that I’m seeing though is that all signs point to Ann’s disappearance happening at the same time as Mackenzie turned. However she wouldn’t have been able to touch Mackenzie’s mind after that point. Though, it’s implied that Lorellon knows how to do that, this might be why.

              Current score: 0
            • Nocker says:

              Not only that, but the way Mackenzie’s memory “works” is kind of suspicious. Outside of a few things everything before she turns is pretty much gone, and even those aren’t super detailed. But she can describe stuff from that day forward in far greater detail. A few of the things Mackenzie DOES remember are related things “Brand” has mentioned elsewhere(like Gnomes, which clearly have their own secrets). It’s basically as if someone just ripped out everything non essential, and probably did so quite hastily.

              If she did so, Laurel obviously wouldn’t have had much time to plan. She only even learned what was going to happen a very short while before it did.

              Current score: 0
            • zeel says:

              How much detail do you remember before age 9? For me at least, it’s only significant events, and some random junk. Most of what I recall is sorta concepts of the way things were, not specific instances. If I focus on something I can think of more detail, but it’s not very solid.

              I doubt Mackenzie has much missing, she simply doesn’t think about her past much. It’s the specific instance of what happened to her mother that sticks out.

              If Ann did do anything, I would bet it wasn’t very big. Just a compulsion that whatever wasn’t Mackenzie’s fault. In fact, she wouldn’t even necessarily have needed to hide the memories or details – just keeping her from really looking at those memories would be sufficient.

              Current score: 0
            • zeel says:

              And for even more evidence; this comes from chapter 423, while Ian, Mackenzie, and Amaranth are talking about Martha’s fan site:

              “She died,” I said. “It wasn’t my fault.”

              “You say that and I do believe you,” Amaranth said. “But what I’m not really sure of is how much you know about what really happened.”

              “You’re being ridiculous,” I said, and she was. “I know what happened.”

              Of course I knew. Of course I did.

              “Would you like to talk about it?” she asked.

              “No,” I said. “She died. It wasn’t my fault. That’s all I know.”

              “Of course I knew. Of course I did.” was italicised in the text.

              She actually contradicts herself to a degree.

              Current score: 0
          • Brenda A. says:

            Zeel – to me that reads like she is trying to convince herself.

            Current score: 0
  17. Zdawg says:

    Rowan was obviously one of the ignored classmates in intro to circle magic.

    Current score: 3
    • zeel says:

      That would be a hilarious subversion of dramatic tension.

      Current score: 1
  18. C8H9NO2 says:

    My thinking here, is that this might be someone she’s bought virgin blod from, or encountered in the aether, or in any case, someone who hasn’t physically met her before (as he mentions seeing her on TV it seems unlikely that they met before), but who feels she has a reason to recognise his likeness or name.

    Current score: 0
    • zeel says:

      He expects her to recognise him, then again to recognise his name.

      And Zdawg’s idea, while hilarious, is also ruled out by his “surprised how little you changed” comment.

      A classmate wouldn’t be surprised by her not changing, nor would a blood “donor”. Someone she knew from the ‘net wouldn’t expect her to recognize him unless he told her his screed name. Also, wouldn’t have any frame of reference for her having (failed to) change.

      Current score: 0
      • Lucy says:

        To be fair, Meck-Blaze isn’t subtle, especially not when she gets plastered over the news as Mack Blaise

        Current score: 0
  19. zeel says:

    So, I’m going over this conversation with a fine toothed comb…

    “Mackenzie?” he said, […] “Mackenzie Blaise?”

    Okay so right off the bat he uses her full name. This implies he hasn’t known her personally since coming to MU, or he probably would have called her Mack. It’s also a question, like he really isn’t sure. Someone who knew her recently would just call out her name.

    “Sweet Khersis, it is you,” he said. “Wait, can I say that?”

    This reaction is pretty extreme, he is either shocked to meet a semi-celebrity, or didn’t expect to ever see her.

    Then the second part implies that he either hasn’t interacted with her heavily enough for the Khersis thing to come up, or hasn’t since before it was an issue.

    “Sorry,” he said. “It’s been… you don’t know me, do you?”

    It’s been what? Trailing off like that is weird, in certainly implies a significant time. So long that he kills off that thought as he realizes (but seems unfazed) by her not actually recognizing him.

    “You really don’t know me,” he said. He seemed more fascinated than hurt.

    If he is fascinated by it, that implies that she really should know him. Whatever their relationship, it should have been more significant to her than it was.

    “I didn’t recognize you at first, you look… well, you would.

    I’m not sure what that means. She looks how, and why would she automatically? Older?

    But I mean, I saw you on TV and you looked about like I thought you would. I was surprised how little you’d changed.

    She was on TV last fall, and at that point he was surprised by the lack of change. He had to have known her pre MU for this to make sense, and it had to be far enough back to expect a significant change.

    But your clothes, and your hair…”

    This one is interesting, a person who only saw her on TV that one time, or even a relative that only saw her a handful of times a year, probably wouldn’t be thrown by the hair or clothing. It’s as if he knew her for an extended period where they interacted daily. Classmates, coworkers, etc, would make sense.

    His face broke out in a lopsided grin.

    “You don’t know, do you?”

    Why is he amused by this?

    “And… hey, you can’t read my mind, can you?”

    “No, demons aren’t telepathic,” I said. “I’d say that’s a myth, but… it’s not even a myth.”

    If it isn’t a demon thing, why would he bring that up? It isn’t a very common trait for humans. Now if he knew anything about her mother, that would explain this. And…

    “No, not because… you seriously don’t recognize me?”

    Sounds like he has a good reason that he isn’t elaborating on.

    “Rowan,” he said. […] his grin faltered. “Rowan Hartley?”

    And now he really expects her to know his name. But nope, nothing.

    “You don’t know me,” he said. It was more statement than question this time, and it was a sad one.
    […]
    “You know what? Forget it,” he said, turning and slumping away.

    “I was trying to be nice about it!” I said.

    “Forget it!” he said again.

    This really bothers me, instead of doing what most people would – telling her how she should know him – he just acts all defeated. It’s weird.

    Anyway, it seems like all signs certainly point to someone she knew before coming to MU at all. The further back, the better it would seem to fit, accept for his remark on her clothing – why would he even notice that after such a long time?

    The mind reading remark supports the idea of a cousin, though she only would have interacted with them a few times a year, which wouldn’t seem congruent with his familiarity and surprise. Plus, I would expect her to at least recognise the last name. Possibly a middle-school classmate? Or the son of one of Ann’s friends?

    More recently, she had a summer job right? A coworker might make sense, though it wouldn’t explain the mind reading comment, and that’s too recent for him to find her lack of change surprising.

    Current score: 2
  20. That other guy says:

    Ok, I’m going to level with you. Rowan Hartley is me. It’s a paid appearance for me as a booster-level supporting patreon member to get a cameo in the story. AE might deny this, but what does she know — she’s only the author. 😉

    (At this point in time, even if you don’t believe, you have to admit, this sounds as plausible as any of the other theories presented so far, and more likely than most of the other theories advanced in these comments.)

    Current score: 2
  21. Kk says:

    My guess is that he’s her brother, and has kept tabs on her, assuming that she’s doing the same 🙂

    Current score: 0
    • zeel says:

      I can’t imagine Dan would so much as know about her, much less show up in the Imperium without any prior contact. He’s not the sort of character to creep.

      Current score: 0
  22. Jack V says:

    Oh! How about someone from mechknights fanfiction forums? He could have had his picture and real name in his profile and assumed she looked at those, but maybe she only knew him by a pseudonym. She had basically NO human contact for ages, but she DID have fanfiction.

    But I don’t believe that, I’m persuaded by the “missing memories” theory, as the story seems to be playing up that there’s a specific reason for it, not just that she was being bad at remembering people.

    Current score: 0