In Which Dee Puts A Suggestion On The Table

Dee’s voice preceding her into the room wasn’t that unusual. The weird thing was that this time, she followed it.

I’d gathered that privacy was mostly a polite fiction among the underelves. Her well-developed elven sense of hearing meant that she could hear everything that was said in our room. Her well-developed elven sense of decorum meant that she would ignore everything she heard, unless and until someone addressed her.

I honestly couldn’t remember the last time she’d bothered to come into our room for a conversation. It was unusual… unnerving, even… to see her of all people come gliding into a room without invitation or apology for the intrusion, her long white hair streaming behind her.

The slip-like garment she wore was technically decent by most standards, though I knew it was actually an undergarment. It would have looked black if it had been hanging up by itself, but against her shining onyx skin you could just make out that it was a very dark green. Typically she would have worn a voluminous, all-concealing robe over it, and then an even more voluminous, even-more-all-concealing cloak over that.

Her standards of modesty had little to do with body insecurity… of all the people I knew who habitually wore clothes, she was the one most comfortable with nudity… and more to do with what she believed was proper. It struck me as unusual for her to have swept into a room containing a man while in her underthing, though.

“Mackenzie, what did this man say to you?” she said. “What exactly?”

“Um… well, I think it was like, ‘You can’t read my mind?’,” I said. “I mean, he didn’t actually say that he thought I could, but he said I couldn’t like it was surprising or confusing to him.”

“Lots of people have weird ideas about demons,” Ian said. “I mean, other than the basic preys-on-humans, hurt-by-holiness stuff, I was way off base in what I thought.”

“Yeah, remember how many people expected you to have horns and wings or something,” Amaranth said. “He probably picked up the idea from a scary story or something.”

“Do you believe this to be the case?” Dee asked me. There was something steely and insistent behind her eyes. “Please, think hard.”

“I don’t have to… he actually said it wasn’t a demon thing,” I said. “But it’s not like we had a long, in-depth conversation about it, you know? I thought it was weird. I didn’t think it was significant.”

“That seems an odd distinction to make,” Dee said. “I cannot believe you would not have pursued clarification following such a remark.”

I was a little unsettled by this remark, though I couldn’t say why. It didn’t exactly sound like an accusation, but somehow it stung like one.

“Well, weird is relative, you know?” I said. “People thinking stupid, baseless, random stuff about me is pretty much the baseline state of my existence, to the point where I have to actively not pay attention to it in order to get through my day. I’m sure you know nothing about that.

“Your point is taken,” Dee said, and she visibly relaxed, then bowed slightly. “I apologize for my outburst.”

“Technically, it was more of an in-burst,” Steff said.

“It’s okay,” I said. “We’ve taken advantage of you being next door often enough… it’s not a big deal that one time you overhear something interesting and decide to chime in. Otherwise we’re just treating you like a complicated magic item waiting to be invoked.”

“Nevertheless, I could have been more respectful in my approach,” Dee said.

“If you’re worried that someone in the building has it in for telepaths, I don’t think he was afraid,” I said. I’d been wracking my brain for a reason she’d been so concerned, and this seemed like the most likely culprit. “Actually, he seemed to treat me not being a mindreader the same way he reacted to me not knowing him. Like he was hurt and slightly disappointed.”

“Why would someone be hurt that you couldn’t read his mind?” Ian said.

“Spoken like someone who hasn’t dated much,” Steff said.

“I see,” Dee said. She kept her composure, but now that the wild alarm had passed, I could tell she was genuinely… and deeply…interested. “You did not remember this boy at all? Possibly from before.”

“No, I really didn’t,” I said. “I told you, my high school wasn’t that big, and people don’t change that much in a year or two.”

“Mack, baby… what about ten years, or more?” Amaranth said. “What about elementary school? Your whole life was uprooted when you turned, and the change from childhood to adolescence, and then to adulthood… I’d think it wouldn’t matter how distinctive someone looks, with that kind of time difference.”

“I guess that could be… the way he was peering at me, it was almost like he didn’t quite recognize me and was looking for something familiar,” I said. “But the thing is, I don’t remember a kid with a kind of weird face, even one who was short and pudgy instead of all gangly. I certainly wasn’t friends with anyone like that, on a level where he’d be disappointed that I don’t know him now. And also: Rowan Hartley. Maybe that name wouldn’t have stuck with me after the change and the move and everything else, but I can’t believe it wouldn’t ring a bell. Can you?”

“I’m going to go out on a limb and guess that if Rowan Hartley has a middle name, he went by it,” Steff said.

“I’m going to go out on a limb and guess that if Rowan Hartley doesn’t have a middle name, he still went by it,” Ian said. “True story: in second grade, I was Bruce.”

“Well, I think Ian and Rowan are both lovely names,” Amaranth said.

“Guys, I’m still pretty sure I didn’t know him,” I said. “I mean, I don’t really remember any boys that I was friends with.”

“Mackenzie,” Dee said, her calm, quiet voice cutting right through the general atmosphere of banter. “Do you remember friends from before you turned, of any gender?”

“It… it was a long time ago,” I said.

“If that is your answer, then it does not rule out having known this Rowan Hartley.”

“Well, I was a pretty solitary child,” I said. “I who I went to school with, I just wasn’t friends with anyone. I mean, you know… well, you might not know, but when you go to school as a kid, you’re kind of friends with everyone by default? And then you get older and you start… sorting yourselves off into little groups. I was a group of one.”

“Yes! Weird loner kids, represent!” Steff said, holding out her hand for a high five.

I looked at her in confusion for a moment, more because I had never grown used to people offering me high fives than because of the specific thing she was offering it for. She lowered her hand, and then put it behind her back.

“Can you picture your classmates?” Dee said. “From your school before your change?”

I could… I did. It was a jumble of faces in sweaters, oversized coats, t-shirts, jeans. Backs of heads sitting in desks. Children sitting in circles and semi-circles. School stuff.

“I don’t think I could paint a picture of them or anything, but it’s been awhile,” I said. “Remember, I haven’t seen them in literally a decade at this point.”

“Did you think of them often, in the years following your move? Did you miss them”

“Not really, no,” I said. “I missed my mother. I missed our life together. I guess I missed the town and the school, but… I was a solitary child.”

“Perhaps I should not be judging your experiences against my own,” Dee said. “As a daughter of the line, I was raised in relative isolation from others in my approximate age group, and when I was admitted as an acolyte I was still kept largely apart from others undergoing the same lessons… but even viewing them remotely, I grew accustomed to their presence. There are young women to whom I have never spoken a word outside the dictates of manners and ritual whom I have found myself thinking of during my sojourn on the surface.”

“Yeah, well, I guess it’s different for me,” I said. “People are different. Like I said, I was a…”

“Solitary child,” Dee said. “Mackenzie, can you tell me how your mother died?”

“What the fuck does that have to do with anything?”

“Easy, baby,” Amaranth said, putting her hand on my shoulder.

“I’m not going to fire off here,” I said, though obviously I was angry enough to. “But that’s just… that’s not cool, Dee.”

“Mackenzie, please listen to me very carefully,” Dee said. “Can you tell me how your mother died?”

“You think this Rowan Hartley guy has something to do with that?” I said. “It wasn’t my fault, but I don’t see what that has to do with the mysterious creeper. Especially since I don’t actually know him.”

“Mackenzie, forgive me, I know this is a painful subject, and would be even if what I suspect to be true is not,” Dee said. “But you must understand, I am not asking you how your mother died.”

“Then what the fuck are you doing?”

“I am seeking to ascertain if you have the ability to tell others”

“Tell others what?”

“How your mother died.”

“It wasn’t my fault, okay?” I said. “Fucking kheez, can we drop it?”

“Baby,” Amaranth said. “I’ve never pressed you on this because I don’t need to know, but you know… you never have told me how your mother died. Do you… do you know how she died?”

“It wasn’t my fault,” I said.

“Holy fucking shit,” Steff said. She… and I noticed, now that I wasn’t looking at Dee anymore, everyone else… was staring at me with something kind of like sympathetic horror on their face.

“You think I’m overreacting?” I said.

“Mackenzie…” Ian said.

“What?” I said. “You think I am? Seriously?”

“No, I think… I think… Dee, what do we think?” Ian said. “I want to say ‘geas’, but…”

“I do not believe Mackenzie is under a geas, no,” Dee said. “The ridiculous owl-turtle thing has long been of the opinion that her memory was tampered with at some point in the past, and I believe we may consider this to be confirmation.”

“Dee, are you listening to yourself?” I said. “You are quoting something called the ridiculous owl-turtle thing. You’re literally talking about a figment of your imagination.”

“In point of fact, I am literally talking about a figment of Two’s imagination,” she said. “Given structure and weight by her unusually orderly and rigid mind, and presence in the world by my own telepathic abilities and possibly the unknown influence of an extradimensional mind of great power in the form of what you termed the fish-beast. The owl-turtle thing is an anomaly. It is irritating at almost a fundamental level, but it is not a thing to be written off lightly. Yet it reports you were singularly disinclined to take its advice regarding the state of your memories, even when you were otherwise seeking aid from it.”

“Yeah, well, it had some dire hints about something or other hinky going on, but there were more important things going on at the time,” I said. “And anyway, that’s how it works, isn’t it? It needs a living mind to dwell in, so it’s always got to dangle some carrot or another to keep you interested.”

“You… may not be wrong about that,” Dee said. “Nevertheless, its unusual habitat gives it a unique vantage point.”

“Like fish have a unique vantage point of water?” I said.

“Babe,” Ian said. “The fact that you’re so dismissive of this is kind of scary… if someone suggested to me that my brain had been tampered with…”

“Mind, not brain,” I said. “I sat through enough lectures about the difference. And anyway, what are you saying? The fact that I recognize it as ridiculous is proof that it’s not? So if I thought it made perfect sense, would you decide my mind hadn’t been tampered with? Or is this a case where no matter what I say, it proves Dee’s stupid theory right?”

“Language!” Amaranth said. The word stupid was a pretty hard no for her, and I blanched at having forgotten it.

“Sorry, ma’am,” I said, ducking my head.

“A person who feels certain of a thing because the idea was implanted in her mind that she should feel certain of it is not distinguishable at the surface level from a person who feels certain of a thing for any other reason,” Dee said. “This is not a question we will answer through verbally sifting through the qualia of one person’s existence.”

“Yeah? So how exactly do you propose to sift through my ‘qualia’?” I said. “You can’t touch my mind safely, Dee. No telepath from this plane of existence can. That kind of direct connection would fry you… the last person who tried wound up in the infirmary with memories surgically excised for her own protection. And if you think I’m going to take the owl-turtle thing as an objective judge…”

“I do not propose we seek the answers within your mind at all,” Dee said. “By your own accounts, you seem to take this Rowan Hartley at his word that he knows you, or knew you.”

“That’s going a bit far,” I said. “I mean, it seems more likely that he knows of me, from somewhere, and is just… I don’t know, projecting something on me.”

“That is the conclusion you come to, based on your own certainty that you do not know him,” Dee said. “But I hear it plainly in your voice. You know that he knows you, and this is what has you so rattled.”

“Okay, I take it as given that he thinks he knows me, and that bothers me,” I said.

“He thinks you should know him.”

“However you want to say it, I accept that he believes it should be the case,” I said.

“Very well. You were already intent upon reaching out to him and learning the truth of the matter,” Dee said. “I do not propose you do anything different.”

“Then why was this worth kicking the door down and busting in?”

“That’s a bit of an exaggeration, baby,” Amaranth said.

“Because,” Dee said, “based on what the owl-turtle thing has said to me and what I have surmised from hearing the conversation before I entered, I expect the results will be quite inexplicable and even upsetting if you do not have an explanation. Therefore, I am proposing one to you: your memory has been altered.”

“That’s kind of a stretch,” I said.

“Understand, I am not saying the expected results would prove my supposition to be true, merely that my supposition would provide an explanation for the expected results,” Dee said.

“And then what?” I said. “Dee, you understand what you’re saying? If you think my memory was altered, and my memory tells me it wasn’t my fault…”

“This does not necessarily mean that it was your fault,” Dee said.

“No? You’re saying it’s an implanted memory. Why would someone bother to implant a true memory?”

“First, I would not say that it is an implanted memory. It is an implanted suggestion,” Dee said. “I believe the true memory has been obliterated or blocked, and the idea that it wasn’t your fault… along with a corollary idea that you shouldn’t think about it… was left behind.”

“False memory, suggestion… the point is, why would anybody have bothered to leave it there if it was true?”

“For one very simple reason: to make certain you would always believe it.”


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163 Responses to “Chapter 300: Stumbling Blocks”

  1. Sorry for another wobbly week… I thought I would be prepared before we had to leave for WisCon, but I screwed up my travel schedule for the week, and this threw off everything else.

    Current score: 10
    • N'vill says:

      Your personal needs come first so no problem is seen by me Alexandra.

      Current score: 7
    • Lyssa says:

      AE, this is a moment in the story that I for one have been waiting for years to happen. I am much happier to read it this way, written with care by a healthy author, than to have you rush it.

      Current score: 26
    • Malarky says:

      You’re going to be in Madison?! Is there going to be any kind of book signing or meet and greet thing? I’d love to stop by if that’s the case…

      Current score: 0
  2. N'vill says:

    Now then, from previous other tales, I think we can assume Macs mother is actually still alive. However, someone who can do so meddled with Macs mind to make her think Mother is dead, the choice now of those most capable of that meddling without being burned is either maternal grandmother, or the demon dad himself, however what the motive is, we can only guess.

    Current score: 2
    • Evie says:

      Or Lorellon/Laurel Ann herself. Who else do we know who would take away Mack’smemory of her mother’s death/disappearance and leave her with nothing except the absolute certainty that it wasn’t her fault? Not Martha, that’s for damn sure. She’d implant a guilt so strong she’d be able to control Mack for the rest of her life. And The Man? He would probably leave room for doubt, just to be cruel. But Mack’s mother? Mack’s mother would make sure that Mack KNEW that she wasn’t to blame for L’s death.

      Current score: 24
      • zeel says:

        Wow, looks like you ninja’d me. I’m guessing you got held for moderation?

        Current score: 2
    • zeel says:

      I think the prevailing theory is that Ann did this herself before leaving. Martha either is in on it, or thinks Ann is dead – she has actually stated that she was dead, so she either lied or didn’t know.

      Of course, Ann could have actually died. This is a world in which resurrection is not only a thing, but something you can buy as “insurance” with enough money.

      Current score: 7
      • Nocker says:

        I’d bank on Martha not knowing. Her actions regarding Mackenzie indicate that she’d have killed her own granddaughter if not for not wanting to lose the last piece of her own daughter. She also only ran off to handle Aiden long after he’d already turned, so the implication seems to be she didn’t realize what he was until Mackenzie had turned too. She didn’t have any time to prepare for that or contact ahead.

        If Martha knew before Mackenzie turned and Laurel had “died” she’d have simply killed her, like she was willing to kill a human child to kill a demon posessing it. Or how she was willing to leave her squire and mount to die either to win or save her own hide. She’s not someone who believes in averting casualties after all. Shit, nobody would even have stopped her, remember that Mercy’s recent crop of four females were only the survivors of a larger group that had all their males executed, and any difficult to feed females executed as well, pretty much right as they’d turned. This is a world where killing a small child over this is considered acceptable.

        This was the kind of situation where NOBODY could know until it’d happened, outside of Laurel and The Man. Even Rowan didn’t know what she was until after the fact if his statements are to be believed.

        Current score: 5
        • zeel says:

          I would agree on that assessment for the most part. Though I’m not sure whether Martha’s big stress on honesty supports this or not. On one hand, it would seem in character for her to only say Ann was dead if she believed it to be true… But it also feels in character for her to be a hypocrite – or even to see this one lie as being so important as to be worth the sin.

          It also seems a bit odd that Ann could have faked (or reversed) her own death well enough for Martha to be fooled. If so, I’m guessing she had help. For a fake-out, she would need some significant bullshitting, for resurrection she would at the least need financial support.

          The Lurk theory below seems most plausible to me. With the addition that she may have already began working for (or been scouted by) the government at that point, and that agency felt she was too important an asset to allow a little thing like severe mental trauma or death take her away.

          Current score: 2
          • Nocker says:

            Martha’s own hypocrisy is a big part of her character, so she MIGHT know, but she was speaking to people she didn’t need to say that to and was clearly early on in things. Likewise a big point was made that Laurel never tried to use her power on her mother for fear it would backfire.

            The problem with Lurks theory is that we also KNOW Laurel knew. She and The Man had multiple conversations on the matter as the day grew nearer. So she’d have known going in that doing it at that moment would be dangerous and would more than likely have had to make her move before it happened, or else during the act itself if that would be viable, to keep everything sealed up.

            As for being “convincing”, the beauty of resurrection is that you don’t need to fake it, the subject is actually dead, no breath or heartbeat and their soul is gone. Provided the corpse can be recovered and preserved there also isn’t really a time limit provided the soul stays intact as far as we know. They could simply have dug her up again in the middle of the night months later, or even years if her coffin or burial suit were enchanted, and gone to work.

            Of course this creates the logistical hole of what ACTUALLY happened to Laurel’s body, since nobody has ever mentioned any kind of funeral or corpse. It’s reasonable to assume if demon fire was involved it could have destroyed the whole house and presumably a body though, meaning there wouldn’t have been enough to bury.

            Hypothetically if one could set triggers, then they’d simply need to set one trigger to block memories of the event to come, then another to activate as Mackenzie turns to flood the house with fire(or to be safe, give a warning signal then flood a minute later). All Laurel would need to do then is skip town and have “Lorellion” grab a ticket to parts unknown while everyone is too preoccupied with the fire and demon child to notice who comes and goes.

            Current score: 1
            • zeel says:

              Well yes, it’s either a resurrection or a cover up, or Martha knows. The issue though, is resurrections aren’t cheap, and we know Ann never had much money. That means, if Martha is out of the loop, someone intervened.

              Current score: 2
            • Nocker says:

              The Man seems to have money and resources we don’t know about, given he can afford anything he needs to. An anonymous donation or work via go-between would solve that. Given by that point they both know about and make deals involving both Mackenzie AND Aiden he was clearly involved anyway and some information may have been exchanged. It’d also explain how they’d know when Mackenzie would even turn, since by it’s nature the event is supposed to catch humans by surprise.

              If they set it up so Martha would be forced to make the call while guilt ridden and essentially watch over Mackenzie for a decade, it keeps her out of harms way while they concentrate on the one other offspring they both seem to have.

              Either it’s a ruse or a rez, but the end result is basically the same.

              Either way I doubt it was the government. Aiden fled the Imperium once he’d turned because they wanted him to hurt and kill people and wouldn’t let him be. If they knew of Mackenzie ahead of time and she wasn’t under the protection of a paladin essentially above the law they’d have simply turned her into a weapon years ago.

              Current score: 3
        • mafidufa says:

          Do you by chance remember which chapter Martha going to handle Aidan was in? I have no memory of any interaction between Martha and Aidan.

          Current score: 0
          • zeel says:

            The only possible reference is from “Son of A Creature Man”:

            “Did [Fulton Harris] know what da was? When he took him in?”

            “No, no one did,” Dell said. “His grandmother tried to take him back when they found out, but your grandpa would have none of that. He knew who his boy was long before he knew what he was, and that counted for more.”

            But this doesn’t mean she actually went anywhere to do it. In fact, since they lived on the airships, she simply would have waited for them to be in Magesteria. This wouldn’t require “running off” and it would have happened no more than a few months after his turn.

            Current score: 0
  3. Nocker says:

    *slowclap*

    FINALLY. I was beginning to think they’d never figure it out.

    Current score: 11
  4. pedestrian says:

    “qualia”

    Hot damn! I always enjoy learning new words. And this is a fascinating one in concept.

    Off to explore the wonderful world of Wikipedia.

    Current score: 6
  5. PrometheanSky says:

    If I recall correctly, Laurel was an EXTREMELY gifted telepath. Which begs the question, is there a level of ability that would allow a safe* interaction with a demonic mind? Or, would increased skill increase the danger in this sort of situation?

    *Safe-ish anyway, it’s reasonable to assume that Laurel would be willing to risk her mind for her daughter’s sake.

    Current score: 3
    • Order of Chaos says:

      She knew it was coming so she could have done it pre-change.

      Current score: 3
    • P says:

      The easiest explanation would be that Laurel did it before Mackenzie turned and that it was safe for a non-demonblood to muck about in Mackenzie’s mind at that point. Otherwise I’d guess that there’s some kind of intermediary: a device like a wand (the mockbox was able to make arcane copies of divine and infernal magic that Mackenzie could probe to learn about their effects, so why not a copy of parts of a mind?), a subtle artist golem, a demonblood subtle artist to act as a ‘server’. There’s bound to be some kind of possibility that’s only not widespread because of the relative rarity of partial demonblood people paired with the level difficulty involved meaning that it hasn’t become widespread.

      Current score: 2
      • P says:

        Okay, we’re probably going to get an update today and no one will read this, but in the archives Amaranth encourages Mackenzie to see a mental healer who has experience working with demonbloods because Amaranth was able to find a very small number of mental healers on the weave who could handle contact with infernal minds and because Amaranth thinks that the university could be convinced to hire one to come out to treat Mackenzie. Amaranth speculates that there are more mental healers like this who don’t advertise this service because it might chase away other client pools. Mackenzie is uninterested and remembers that past subtle arts contact felt like a battle, so she thinks that even if seeing one of those mental healers wasn’t dangerous that it could be very unpleasant for her. Mackenzie’s father later tells Mackenzie to think about where someone would get that kind experience anyway, the implication being that it would be institutions that exist to imprison demonbloods like Martha wants Mackenzie to go to after her death and like Mercy got some of her slaves from.

        So the short of it is yes, there are people who could mess with Mackenzie’s mind even post turning. It’s just considered a specialized skill that most people don’t get the chance to practice and might not want to practice due to the danger.

        Current score: 3
    • Nocker says:

      She probably did it pre-turning.

      But that just raises the question of how powerful Laurel WAS. I mean psychics like Dee can become more powerful with age and the only challenge Laurel ever backed off from was her mother, who was mentally powerful enough to fight an Emberies tier dragon and walk away with no ill effects. In her new identity she’s incredibly confident she’s mentally strong enough to take on psychics with far greater experience and less morals due to sheer mental might alone, and these are high level specialists who aren’t slouches themselves.

      We have no idea how strong she is compared to other high levels like Dee, but she could very well be the strongest human telepath currently living. That’s not so say there aren’t others, Deep Elves and Lizard-folk prize that power and have impressive examples, but she’s very likley on the top tier overall.

      Current score: 2
  6. peter says:

    I love how this chapter reads, how it was constructed, – and of course, love the story

    Current score: 3
  7. Dani says:

    The Laurel Anne we saw in one story is from a different timeline. In this timeline she is dead – and it’s Mackenzie’s fault. (For some reason I get very upset and defensive when anyone disagrees with that statement. : )

    Current score: 7
    • Nym says:

      Uh, no? The Lorellon Brand stories are set in this timeline and Lorellon is really, really obviously Laurel Anne.

      http://www.talesofmu.com/other/part-i

      http://www.talesofmu.com/other/part-ii

      Current score: 3
      • Order of Chaos says:

        I think it was a joke but thanks for the links.

        Current score: 3
      • zukira phaera says:

        Perhaps the Man provided the funds for a resurrection once a plan was in place after they agreed to both not be around mack.

        Current score: 0
        • zeel says:

          I have to wonder what would be so big and important that Ann would agree to their “non custody agreement” – considering that she knows that The Man can’t be trusted.

          The way she says it, it sounds like Ann and The Man both agreed to leave Mackenzie alone, that neither would raise her. However I don’t know why Ann would even consider this, or why anyone would trust The Man to uphold his end of the bargain.

          Unless someone, like Martha, were brokering things.

          Though even then, I’m not sure why any of them would find this deal to be a good idea.

          Current score: 0
          • Nocker says:

            One word: Aiden.

            He’s the one thing she could never have and this gave her a chance. Since then she’s been after him single mindedly while never bothering to help Mackenzie, and in fact made sure she would never get any once.

            Aiden, for better or worse, probably matters more to her. He was the symbol of a time she believed she had a lover who cared and was smart, and of life before Martha tore that apart. Mackenzie she can rationalize as being safe or working out somehow, and was from a time she knew fucked up and had to leave home.

            Especially if Dan has his own latent powers Mack hasn’t got. Then it’d both be more urgent and be a thing that they connect over.

            Current score: 0
            • zeel says:

              I completely disagree. Anne is only interested in Aidan now because she doesn’t have Mackenzie (or for her book). In fact, when The Man mentions Aidan to her in TUDaSAoLAB she is completely uniterested.

              “I’m sure Aidan, wherever he is, has all the love and attention he needs,” she said. “He certainly has parents.”

              Thier whole conversation is about how The Man is trying to get to Mackenzie by the pretense of only being interested in Aidan – and Anne pointing out that he is full of shit.

              No, Aidan is not the motivator, Anne understands that he has a perfectly good family of his own. She isn’t so selfish as to want to disrupt that. And she loves her daughter too much to abandon her for no good reason.

              Current score: 3
  8. Lurk says:

    All right, my turn to put out an unsupported theory. I don’t know what the circumstances were, but my guess is, at the time of Mack’s turning, things were crazy traumatic. Bad shit happened. Maybe Mack burned down her house accidentally, or lit herself on fire and just flipped the fuck out, or really badly hurt someone (maybe Rowan! this is my favorite) going after virgin blood.

    Laurel Ann stopped her, or was there for the aftermath. Mack has totally lost it. So Non does what she’s always done: reaches out to comfort Mack telepathically, help her sort her problems out.

    Only Mack has a demon mind now. Laurel Ann DOESN’T KNOW, and fries her mind trying to help her daughter. Maybe she dies and is resurrected later, as zeel suggested, or maybe she’s just messed up. Whatever, as she feels her own mind crumbling from demon fire, she had just enough time to gator burn out all memories related to this event (including Rowan and his virgin blood, in my favorite theory) and leave behind the idea that none of this is Mack’s fault — it’s just her demon blood, nobody could have anticipated it.

    Now Mack has forgotten EVERYTHING about this experience — including what her mind did too Mom. Seeing Mom is horribly traumatic for Mack because it threatens to bring back the memories (and we’ve seen in this chapter how hostile Mack’s reaction is to that), and so Mom, with her own mind pretty fried, is forced to leave, even to go to the lengths of adopting a new identity so Mack can never find her and dig up those awful memories.

    If I’m right, this book will be a pretty serious mind-fuck for poor Mack.

    Sadistically, I look forward to seeing it. 🙂

    Current score: 5
    • Lurk says:

      Apologies for my Swype-inflicted typos. I am on mobile, and now apparently can’t go back and edit them. Non should be Mom, and I really don’t know where “gator”came from. I probably shouldn’t drink while commenting if I want to be taken seriously.

      Current score: 1
    • zeel says:

      This is a fairly plausible theory.

      Current score: 1
  9. Cadnawes says:

    Thought the first: how sure are we that Laurel Ann isn’t also somewhat demon blooded?

    Thought the second: Mack interacting with Emily proves that even if touching an infernal mind with precautions in place can be managed.

    Current score: 0
  10. zeel says:

    My interpretation had always been that Ann didn’t actually die, but Martha (knowingly or not) said she was dead. And that Mackenzie really never had any direct knowledge of what happened. Instead, she knew what Martha told her: “Your mother died, but it wasn’t your fault” which is probably the simplest explanation… but also the least interesting, and slightly out of character perhaps for Martha. And this also fails to explain her constant “It wasn’t my fault, that’s all I know” thing.

    Current score: 0
  11. Mickey Phoenix says:

    I’ve had significant dealings, IRL, with people with repressed memories. From literally the second time that Mack said, “It wasn’t my fault. I don’t want to talk about it.” I’ve been twitching internally, wanting to smack every single one of her friends with the clue-by-four. I’m *so pleased* that this is finally coming out!

    Also, I love the clarity and precision of Dee’s thought and speech.

    Current score: 10
  12. Yossarian says:

    Some interesting thoughts I’ve had reading this chapter:

    1) Rowan for some reason thought Mack should be able to read his mind. Is it possible that Mack inherited her mother’s telepathic talents (and was able to use them in her childhood), but they were later suppressed somehow? Also, if Mack could somehow get the telepathic ability back – what would happen if she invades someone’s mind? So far, we have seen what happens if someone tries to read a demonic mind, but what happens if the interaction goes the other way around?

    2) Whatever happened to Mack’s mother is not the only thing Mack cannot talk about. I wonder if Mack’s friends are going to stumble upon the other one while trying to figure this whole thing out.

    Current score: 2
    • zeel says:

      I would think she could see into a mind without much ill effect, but any attempt to “project” the way Dee and Violet sometimes do would probably be at least uncomfortable but potentially severely damaging to the recipient. Though I would think this would be the kind of thing one could learn to control.

      Current score: 1
    • Gordon says:

      If they were suppressed, I am sure the ROTT would have said something. Instead, he basically told her that the subtle arts are a closed book to her. That she has no innate talent. I’m not saying the ROTT couldn’t lie, but it seems unlikely given its characterization so far.

      Unless the telepathic abilities were somehow removed, if such a thing is even possible, I highly doubt Mack inherited her mother’s telepathic gifts.

      Current score: 1
      • zeel says:

        I think this one could easily be explained away by the ROTT simply not being quite as perceptive as it may think. If someone of sufficient power suppressed her abilities, I can see that being enough to hide it from a creature that would have no frame of reference for identifying such a thing.

        But, while I would love to see Mackenzie be a telepath, I have to doubt it will happen.

        The biggest nail in that coffin I think would be that we know subtle arts was not well accepted in human culture until very recently. And we know learning to control it is a big deal. Thus it seems unlikely that it’s possible for anyone short of a dragon to actually suppress it completely.

        Current score: 1
        • Gordon says:

          But the ROTT’s entire frame of reference is the mind. Its knowledge is largely intuitive. At this point it has seen multiple minds, and has been in the mind of a person with actual telepathic abilities. Surely it would recognize the abilities missing if they were supposed to be there. It may not recognize what it’s looking at, but it would recognize that something is fundamentally wrong with the picture it is being presented.

          Like, if you were to assemble a puzzle face down, you may not know what the picture is supposed to be, but you can tell when a piece is missing. Perhaps I’m giving it too much credit, though.

          I feel strongly the opposite. Mackenzie being a telepath wouldn’t be a great development for her character. The world through the eyes of a person coming into telepathic abilities would be interesting, just not through Mackenzie’s eyes.

          Current score: 1
          • Nocker says:

            Honestly I feel that if Mackenzie is ACTUALLY that mentally powerful and ever learns to fully master it, it’s probably an “I win” button on any current conflicts. Mack Daddy can’t touch her mind anymore and she can just fuck with any of Mercy’s pets before they get in striking distance, or possibly even undo some of the damage on them. She may even be able to throw off the brute force of Emberies eventually.

            It’d probably take her a while to actually get that good, but while anyone can stop an even magically powerful enchanter with prep time, a half demon telepath is the specific combo nobody can ever really prepare for. Though I strongly suspect that’d just be the que for someone even stronger who can to show up, given that they may exist somewhere.

            Current score: 0
            • zeel says:

              She could burn the mind of an attacker, which would be interesting.

              Current score: 0
            • Order of Chaos says:

              Greater Dragon>half demon telepath by a long way.

              Current score: 0
            • Nocker says:

              Hey, if a non-Telepath Martha was able to fight one and walk away, then a Telepath who’s also got demonic power to throw around should be able to at least trouble him. From there it’s just about getting the right items.

              Current score: 0
            • Order of Chaos says:

              Non-Telepath Martha was an epic level paladin if we can take what the man from Law said about her at face value Mack is a level 5 tops with an odd mix of feats and class’s.

              Current score: 0
            • Lyssa says:

              @Order of Chaos: But nobody is debating whether Mack could do it now, in her present state of skills/abilities/level. Key word here is “eventually.”

              Current score: 0
            • Nocker says:

              We have no idea how one gains “levels” however LAW measures but Mackenzie is a damn lot better than 5 in terms of standard RPG levels on LA alone. Even naked and wounded a delving professor had no doubt she could TPK a balanced party fully kitted out and able to handle infernal threats otherwise, by herself. Keegan also said that by another metric, no skirmish army can even afford to field a Half Demon due to cost of doing so, meaning that they’re considered far more dangerous that half ogres or other “monster” units. That would imply to me that she’s at least at like LA +5 starting out.

              Then once you account for things like ‘levels’ actually being gained through experience or skill she’s been training and fighting five days a week for two years, and those encounters were balanced to be constant challenge either martially or in magical skill. So if we imagine these as being class levels she’s likely got a few fighter levels and a few wizard levels on top of that.

              There’s no way that, once you stack everything she’s got together, Mackenzie isn’t above level ten. She’d be level five if she were a human but the raw stat boosts and damage reduction of that template basically double her effective level.

              This is still, clearly, not enough to actually beat a greater dragon. She’d need to be at least double her current power to even rate. But that’s what a couple of extra years at MU are for, since there are many magical and martial paths she hasn’t walked that are available even just on campus. Weather they pass that epic threshold and by how much are up for contention, but she’d get higher up there than most of her peers.

              …but, if she somehow gets some kind of vast telepathic boost, then suddenly she can probably take on her enemies right now. In addition to the raw amount of power that can be opened with that kind of thing, there’s still the fact that it’s a route almost nobody can counter.

              Current score: 0
            • zeel says:

              While what you are saying is true, she still hasn’t done anything to mitigate her biggest weakness. Just about anyone could bring her to her knees or incapacitate her with divine power, and plenty of people could do more than that.

              Her fighting prowess, while improved, is still not even on-par with human gladiators. I think we could give Mackenzie a “post improved” medal, but that doesn’t mean she is actually better than above average.

              She certainly took a few levels in badass over the fall (callahan essentially says this), but she started out so far below zero she is only recently got to the point she could be considered competent.

              That isn’t to say her demon advantages don’t mean anything. She can still blow through a skilled human fighter on muscle alone, or turn a room into a raging inferno – but those things are due to her majorly misbalanced base stats than anything else.

              She uses her combined high intellect, increased magical power, and incredible strength to make up for being a much lower “level” and still being formidable.

              But her potential? Even without subtle arts? Is certainly epic.

              Current score: 0
            • Nocker says:

              I’d say she could PROBABLY take on a human gladiator, if only due to tenacity and luck. Even without demonic strength she’s shown that she can use wind magic to move at great speed and deflect many attacks, so she’s good at evading and defending from many blows. She’s also been able to get up from shit that’d put most people on the ground magic or no. So the divine power would need to be significant to stop her.

              Her strength and power give her considerable advantage, but she’s picked up enough skills to be an actual threat to low level fighters besides that. In terms of raw fighting prowess what she needs at this point is technique, which Callahan told her where to get so we’ll see how that goes.

              I’d still put her at 10+ overall, but without the half demon stat bonuses she’s probably at 3-5. Which isn’t BAD, it just isn’t GOOD, since it’s at best middling on even the mortal scale.

              Current score: 0
      • Nocker says:

        ROTT couldn’t see what little skill she possessed at the time until after she’d exerted it. Such skills also mature well into adulthood so they could have grown somewhat between that time and now.

        Even then, keep in mind that the mental hole she had was probably contributing to the loss, since her interactions with Emily are indicative not of a regular person, or even a latent psychic, but of someone who’s been tampered with, and she was.

        It could be that closing that rift is simply allowing her to access power that was always there. Or that this block is holding back more than just memory.

        I think the one time we ever see her use these powers in a real sense, against The Man’s Demonic Shade, it’s important to note that she had a really deep understanding and was working on instinct. Mackenzie, who didn’t know how to actually fight, could attack and kill an opponent made by someone with far more experience and any help she got was clearly redundant. That’s notable in that while she’s said to be weak, with a few minutes experience she’s able to bring to bear a large quantity of force, and more than The Man was clearly expecting.

        Though on the OTHER hand, it’s also mentioned that demons often have non-standard mental powers, though rarely telepathy in the true sense. So She may have inherited some other power from The Man that’s cancelling out any hypothetical regular powers, similar to how he was able to stop her and Sam from being able to wake up.

        So if Mackenzie has any more latent powers, there could be a host of reasons they haven’t manifested until now, which would all be so unique to her nobody could think to check for them. Even in that context ROTT says he can only check for things on the forefront of his mind, so if it never occurs to him he never would know to check for any of them.

        Current score: 0
    • Iain says:

      What’s the other thing?

      Current score: 1
      • Yossarian says:

        It concerns the dietary habits of a certain local super-predator.

        Current score: 1
        • Nocker says:

          You know, it says something that it took me a second to figure out which one you meant.

          Current score: 2
  13. Zathras IX says:

    This particular
    Quale makes Mackenzie Blaise quail
    Until she has to grouse

    Current score: 4
    • Iain says:

      NICE pun there, but the final line has 6 syllables. 😀

      Current score: 0
      • Brenda A. says:

        Try “must” instead of “has to”.

        Current score: 1
  14. Thinker of Thoughts says:

    I am suspicious that Mack may have inherited mental abilities from both her parents (she certainly got her grandmothers defenses). It is also possible that she could theoretically be the product of what amounts to a psychic and genetic arms race between the Khersian paladins and demonkind. In such a case she would have likely been living at least as much in other kids heads as her own, thus when she turned she couldn’t stop. She probably didn’t know how. As a result (and in order to prevent her from damaging the psyches of anyone she passed) Mack’s mother had to remove all the memories gleaned from others and all memories of personal interaction with Mack’s classmates to avoid triggering her memories and her inextricably linked abilities. The fact that Mack gets lost in thought wouldn’t be considered unusual and might be a symptom of having been used to getting lost in other people’s thoughts but is now literally trapped inside her own head.

    Now somebody mentioned financial backing for disappearing Mack’s Mom possibly via death and resurrection and now part of me can’t get past the idea that her birth was at some level government sanctioned by what amounts to a Black Ops unit. We know that some forms of genetic super soldier programs exist, after all Calahan is the product of such a program. My brain insists that Mack was concieved by her dad (who would be an operative of the empire) in order to be a psychic counter to other super soldiers. Incidentally that could also explain why Calahan is teaching at MU, and why Mack’s dad and Mercy are attempting to breed a half-demon army (together?). I do admit that the propose of said army eludes me at present, unless it has to do with that floating island fortress I can’t remember the name of.

    Don’t get me wrong, I certainly don’t find these possibilities likely but my brain just wouldn’t let it go until I had let it run its course.

    Current score: 2
    • Nocker says:

      I have to say I think you’re tugging on the right threads here. Mackenzie’s grandparents were related and to some extent or another Psychics are hereditary, but not in a predictable straight line sense. They were also both some form of military or another and people for whom standard morality doesn’t always apply.

      Not to mention that Mackenzie being at MU has struck me as convenient for the longest time. A school with strong reasons to be anti-infernal happens to be the ONLY one that offers her the exact kind of full ride scholarship half demons tend to need to attend and sorts her into a specialized dorm that’d minimize the odds of her flying off the handle and hurting a human she’s keyed to attack, because there aren’t any THERE. Then you have the “fierce creature” designation that’s more or less useless except in comparison to Mackenzie, with the exception of like, half a dozen other, mostly rarer cases they’d have less experience with and just as small a reason to want around, much less accommodate.

      It’s almost as if, for whatever reason, someone wanted Mackenzie to basically go through easy mode for four years instead of just being thrown in the deep end, and I’d bet money it fits into the idea of mass producing powerful half demons.

      Though the idea’s of who’s and what’s are convoluted, since we don’t know anything for certain, just negatives(I.E. Mercy and LAW both want Mackenzie, but clearly aren’t working together since they’d both like it if the other died). So all we can say is whoever set this situation up is no friend of Mercy’s nor The Man, because MU as an entity considers the first a student killing headache and the second a menace if they even know what he’s done or if he exists. Meaning that, for better or worse, whoever probably set this up is an unknown player or players.

      Current score: 0
      • zeel says:

        Mackenzie never reveals which other universities may or may not have accepted her. She went to MU because it was the best one that did. Her scholarships are academic too, and I didn’t get the impression they were from the school.

        This theory is going a bit too far down the rabbit hole. I could see some agency having a hand in Anne’s disappearance, and Law is certainly keeping an eye on her now – but I don’t think their interest started until very recently, and I don’t get any impression they are doing anything about it.

        Current score: 1
        • Lurk says:

          I don’t wholly agree. I will point out that The Man convinced Callahan to start teaching at MU, by trading three answers, and Callahan was willing to do it at great expense to herself — it literally cost her a Greater Dragon hoard. Callahan has been teaching at MU for a while now, long enough to be established before Mack got there, so this has clearly been in the works for some time; it’s just that the “agency” Nocker refers to actually is The Man, as opposed to a friend or enemy of his.

          Current score: 0
          • zeel says:

            I’m pretty sure Callahan has been at MU far longer than that. The Man made a deal with her to teach Mackenzie, she works at MU for her own reasons.

            Current score: 2
            • Lurk says:

              I don’t have a real frame of reference for that off the top of my head. I just know that instead of going through the regular channels to apply for a teaching job (which she probably could have gotten anyway), Callahan bribed a Greater Dragon with another Greater Dragon’s hoard to get her the job. It had to have been important to her, more important than a simple “I need something to do while I wait for the next war.”

              The Man’s answers to her questions might have been that valuable. I could be wrong, but it tracks as far as I can tell. They might have made that deal a decade ago, and Callahan could have been teaching at MU for half that tone, the other half having been spent slaying dragons to get the job. It just means Mack has been subtly guided toward a course at MU.

              Current score: 0
            • zeel says:

              She did apply for the position through regular channels. She was denied, repeatedly, until she bribed Embrise.

              Furthermore, we actually know exactly how long ago that happens – there is a date in the chapter: Interview With A… Dwelgrorc?.

              The year 194, ME.

              The year is now 224 M.E., thirty years later. Mackenzie wasn’t born in 194, and Anne might not have even met The Man at that point. Mackenzie would have been born in 204, I’m not certain of Anne’s age at the time, or of her first meeting with The Man.

              Current score: 2
            • Lurk says:

              I stand corrected! I don’t like being wrong, but I can admit it when I am.

              Current score: 1
            • Nocker says:

              …doesn’t that kind of strengthen the point though?

              I mean think of it this way. Thirty years ago, then accounting for a few years of denying her.

              Mack’s sister died forty years ago only a few miles away from where she lives. So Callahan would have been applying in the aftermath of that and Sam.

              Current score: 0
            • zeel says:

              This theory would only work if, at first meeting of Anne, The Man had pre-planned to have a child, who would one day need to attend MU, and would need intense fighting training.

              Plus, the questions Callahan asks aren’t “I waited thirty+ years for this” questions. She asks how many children The Man has – not very useful info – and how many other teachers he made deals with this semester – which she wouldn’t care about if not for her current relationship with Mackenzie. Her failed attempt at getting a name out of him is basically her toying with him

              Nothing about this suggests that he made the deal any earlier than maybe the previous year, though her “this semester” question implies the deal was this semester.

              Current score: 1
            • Nocker says:

              That kind of plan is to be presumed. He explicitly sought out Laurel Anne for that exact purpose back when she was still a child and groomed her for it. Why he taught her to attack with her power is unknown but it suggests he needs pawns of considerable power. Even without guessing he constantly suggests that she grow stronger for whatever reason so he WANTS her to become powerful in whatever way she can.

              MU unambiguously factors into his plans at some stage. His weapon was perfectly integrated into a maze no mortal mage can understand so he clearly has a relationship to the weird shit going on, and it’s formatting mimics his own despite AE making it clear that there’s no overriding format with internals binding them). Even before the fork and scarecrow one of his daughters passed this way before and he considered whatever was going on important enough to physically scout out the old campus himself, personally, before she’d ever arrived, so it stands to reason whatever he wants is related to the campus itself.

              Given he’s gone face to face with LAW it’s not unreasonable to assume that he or some ally was in fact setting the stage. Callahan and he have both had that experience in common and it’d be easy for someone with that degree of pull to rig the scholarships so that Mackenzie qualifies, but in such a way that MU is her best or only real option.

              From where I’m standing, it’s really kind of clear. He wants children within very specific parameters. He wants something to do with MU. He has some connection with the Labyrinth, the most mysterious and ancient building there.

              Current score: 0
            • zeel says:

              The number of assumptions you are making here is… Durkon’s Hammer please.

              You assume the pitchfork really is his, and that he put it in the labyrinth, and that he left is there for a his future child, who would *accidentally* get teleported into it.

              I’m not even sure what you mean about “format”.

              The other daughter was killed in an unrelated incident, and the main thing with Sam was that he saw him as a threat. The Man has been around the area much longer than MU has existed, so unless you want to claim that the University was his doing as well, I’m not sure how it is the key to his plans.

              Mackenzie didn’t need a rigged scholarship, she was a good student. Plus, she was accepted into multiple universities – she just went to the best one. She never says MU gave her more or extra money, just that it has the best enchantment program.

              And lastly, as I said before, nothing about the deal with Callahan makes sense for her to have been working for him that long.

              The simpler explanation is that he lives in the area of Enias river valley, which happens to have a major university. He has some plan that involves a lot of half demon daughters, born of various young human girls he seduces. If another demon blood moves into the area, he makes them unwelcome. When one daughter ended up enrolled at MU, and was a hopelessly bad at fighting, he made a deal with her less-than-scrupulous teacher to make sure she would do better.

              Current score: 0
            • Nocker says:

              Alright, let me tackle these “assumptions” one by one.

              Firstly,Durkons Hammer. The Pitchfork is his on the grounds that it’s within the radius of a few miles and shares clear properties that overlap with The Mans known abilities and age. It’s a fragment of an ancient demon, the man is an ancient demon who’s known to make fragments of himself. The Man also wants it in his own hands. Unless he’s just collecting the things the only real logical idea is that it’s his, and he took it back.

              On format, three questions for a service. It’s not a demon thing, because AE made it clear demons aren’t bound to work like that. It’s a commonality shared by only two individuals in the whole world wielding similar implements that I’m arguing are the SAME implement. Shit, read the Scarecrows questions and the things it knows again. It clearly had some power in relation

              Because stereotypes aside why would a demon in any era bother with using a pitchfork as their artifact, especially a presumably ordinary one? It’s big and unwieldy and it contains less of the enchant-able materials like copper or bronze or gold than many other implements. A demon picking up any random thing will logically go for pretty much anything else barring extenuating circumstances(though another unknown demon wound up trapped in a barn recently, so admittedly it could just be some kind of *thing* with demons and farming implements, but it seems reaching to presume such a thing). I mean hell, why would The Man of any demon carry one around unless it was important? It doesn’t fit with the concealed blade or smaller weapon style associated with formal wear both in the MUverse and in general. If he wanted a simple murder weapon an off the rack enchanted knife could have done that same job, or even a regular enchanted sword. The pitchfork, or pitchforks, clearly factor in to whatever he wants. On that note, you obviously can’t dual wield the things so why would he need more than one given how few can even safely use them?

              As for Sam and our unnamed half demon, keep the following things in mind:

              The Man didn’t want Sam dead, just GONE. Not gone from his range either, just gone from the university and wherever else he didn’t care. It’s obviously not for his specific sake, because male half breeds don’t trigger the same aura reactions so if it wasn’t sensitive he could have simply left him be and left, and Sam would be none the wiser. Because Sam, in and of himself, wasn’t a threat until he was made to be one.

              The ONLY reason he’d want the campus half-demon free is if he had some use for it beyond just passing through randomly. Given that someone related to him passed through almost immediately after and if the two had met it’d have possibly triggered a lethal encounter, it’s reasonable to presume he was preventing that. Again, going by what we KNOW about Half Demons and Demons. Especially this particular demon, who carefully tracks his daughters’s movements and would know if they were planning to move anywhere by sensing their thoughts, unless somehow this one had also spawned an owl-turtle and learned to fight back.

              What I think his ultimate goal, in relation to the campus is though? I’d say it’s not the campus itself, but something ON the campus. The Labyrinth to be specific. That structure IS older than campus, and possibly older than him. It’s older than the Imperium and is close to some ruins we see in MoreMU that are populated by unique and aggressive monsters even the delving department hasn’t wiped out despite them being right there and on the surface level at a fixed point, due to their strength and speed. Previous civilizations with unknown inhabitants, capable of building mega-structures and for some reason turned undead by unclear forces, inhabited that area.

              One other point, that you’ve got wrong, is The Man’s RANGE. He’s not limited to the valley and it’d be an inconvenient place for him to live given most of his reported sightings and stories place him farther south in the Blackwater swamps. So to do all of his work he’d need to commute through the valley and then the swamp and both are incredibly dangerous even to him given they contain magic using lizardfolk and other, stranger races alluded to. Not to mention other ruins alluded to, which may or may not contain more of the same super-undead.

              That The Man would intentionally set up shop anywhere near MU without reason is kind of ridiculous. Even in the old days it was filled with hundreds of combatants wearing enchanted swords and many priests trained in combat, and is within less than a days trip of a source of magic arms that can hurt him but he doesn’t use himself. That he would just randomly stroll about campus for any reason, putting him within stabbing distance of all these people, is also kind of silly. He is explicitly not the sort of man to expose himself to large crowds of armed men without good reason.

              Current score: 0
            • zeel says:

              Well I’m not exactly an expert on geography, the best picture of his range would be:

              in the triangle of Blackwater, Prax, and Treholme, half-demons and other part demons have been turning up once or twice a generation, sometimes more, for as long as it’s been settled. Mr. Harlowe is of the opinion that there’s a secret nest of demons that are responsible for this

              Though that’s really beside the point, which was that he lives in an area that happens to have a major university within it… that just so happens to be the setting for this story.

              Anyway, as to the pitchfork… I think there is some pretty good evidence that it may be his. Though I don’t think all of the points you made about it are actually right. The only real supporting evidence is that he had a pitchfork and it seems like a silly detail if they weren’t related. None of the other stuff means much either way.

              And you’re wrong about what The Man wanted from Sam. He wanted him out of his territory, away from his children – because he knows how irresistible female demon bloods are, and didn’t want to risk Sam attacking one of them.

              We know that the wild forest near MU are very large, covering parts of four provinces. My guess is that he lives somewhere in those woods. Hence the story of “the man in the woods” and that the pitchfork led Amaranth into the woods.

              But beyond all that, it really doesn’t matter whether or not The Man has any special interest in MU, the labyrinth, or any such thing. The theory that I have a problem with is the idea that Callahan is working at MU at his behest… which makes no sense. Not only would that be an absurd level of planning for a situation he could not have predicted, but Callahan doesn’t get enough out of it for thirty years of work. Not to mention, as stated before, that her second question heavily implies that the deal was made that semester.

              Current score: 1
            • Nocker says:

              Callahan is more than likely just happinstance. They may have known OF each other but I doubt they were co-conspirators actively, mainly because there’s not much to be active about until just now.

              My current point of contention is more that MU just happens to be a place, when I think it’s clearly THE place. Or more accurately, connected to what I think could be The Place.

              The labyrinth if not housing his own weapon so perfectly, houses an effectively identical version basically tailormade for some demon or half demon to pick it up even though dozens of people have tried grabbing it before and none but Mackenzie got any tricks to work.

              Not to mention that this is the same Scarecrow that took “THAT’S ALL I KNOW” as an acceptable answer but wouldn’t take half answers or lies even under duress.

              One trait being shared between two entities is a coincidence, two traits is weird, but three traits indicates a relationship. Two individuals with the same or similar weapon, same or similar service format, and able to work around the mind of a half demon(and her blocks) without negative effects, indicates they’re both related in some sense, even if through some circumstance that isn’t direct.

              Which I contend is also why The Man risks going to MU. The river valley system covers four provinces and is massive. It’s full of places that AREN’T chock full of would be swordsmen looking to prove their valor. He needs some motivation to take the risk. His motivation being to access or check on a site related to him in some way makes more sense than anything I can think of.

              Current score: 0
            • Lyssa says:

              I wonder. If that is his pitchfork, that implies that he may have arranged that particular scarecrow trial. Given that the labyrinth outdates MU, as does The Man, I wonder if he had any impact on other parts of it.

              If so, I doubt it would be relevant to the story or particularly important, but from a worldbuilding perspective I find the idea intriguing.

              Current score: 1
        • Nocker says:

          If The Man can influence other parts of the labyrinth, whatever his influence, is honestly intriguing.

          Those Hellhounds didn’t just back off from a show of force, they obeyed her commands without question and submitted to her utterly. Even if they were considered “smart” that implies a degree of training needed to recognize spoken commands. Someone would have needed to either train them or make mock hellhounds that respond to training.

          I doubt it was him personally, mainly because I can’t see him sneaking off to train a bunch of immortal dogs then leaving, but it implies a degree of demonic involvement beyond just random monsters.

          Current score: 0
          • zeel says:

            My assumption there was that they were real hellhounds, and that they recognized Mackenzie, with her infernal nature, as their natural master. They didn’t need any training, it was in their very nature to submit to themselves to demons.

            Current score: 0
            • Nocker says:

              That would imply that Hellhounds were made to serve demons. But if I recall right something else currently unknown made Hellhounds, and when the demons were cast out the god who made them was killed by Khersis. But that’s irrelevant. The sticking point here isn’t THAT they obeyed, it’s HOW.

              A dog doesn’t know what you mean when you say “stop”. Unless you train it to stop when you say the words. Because it doesn’t speak English, or Pax in this case. Buck Mackenzie said the words and they understood. Ergo, if they are real hellhounds, then someone must have trained them or they must’ve had some other way to understand.

              The only alternative, that I can see, is those same latent powers we keep hypothesizing on. Some form of power is reasonably common to demons, so it’s possible there was a connection forged that she didn’t notice and they obeyed that way.

              Current score: 0
            • zeel says:

              It’s actually mentioned that other things have been banished to the infernal realms, and that the original denizens thereof are unknown. But whether or not the hellhounds were created to serve demons isn’t actually important, the fundamental natures of things can be altered, or it can be a simple matter of recognizing demons as inherently “greater” on the scale of infernal creatures than they are. It’s not much of a stretch to think that hellhounds are to demons as dogs are to men – “best friends”, only more so.

              As to language? They don’t really need it, they could probably sense Mackenzies intentions without the verbal que. Though they certainly could understand pax for any variety of reasons, including implicit knowledge, training, listening to delvers in the past, or being given the knowledge through magic.

              We don’t know how or when the hounds were trapped in the labyrinth, for all we know they were centuries old and were summoned up from hell where they had learned to respect demons and were trained to answer to commands in a mortal tongue. Or it might all just be part of their nature. Or they aren’t even real hellhounds at all, and whatever magic created them also gave them some kind of directive about following orders from people who were on fire.

              Current score: 0
            • Nocker says:

              Right, but if the fundamental nature is altered to serve demons or be on the same scale, it would imply an event on the same scale as the original Blood Curse, which is no mean feat. It would require a godly or near godly force to accomplish such a thing and an actual godly force can be written out for obvious reasons at that point.

              Being given knowledge through magic and training both imply someone set them up there though. The real question there is who.

              Current score: 0
            • zeel says:

              Well, I doubt it would take nearly the same level of power to cast beasts into the pit as a race of people. And it has been mentioned that other things were banished there.

              But yes, the how, who, when, and why of their presence in the labyrinth is a big question. Regardless of the fundamental nature of hellhounds, or mock hellhounds, someone locked them up in the maze for some reason. It was a pack of them, so we can assume they aren’t “wandering monsters” which means there was some purpose – be it to guard something there, or to seal them away.

              Current score: 0
            • Nocker says:

              The delving group that found Mackenzie even mentioned this, claiming there wouldn’t be hellhounds without some purpose or object they’d be guarding. But as far as we know they never actually found anything.

              Though that’s kind of …ambiguous. Mackenzie tells the Hellhounds to stop, then they do, then they just kind of stop being referenced.

              Though this kind of implies they weren’t there to be “looted”. For some reason someone built a Labyrinth and organized it to keep people motivated to brave it for promise of gain. It’s possible that the hellhounds themselves were “loot” and meant to be collected by Mackenzie at some point. After all, it doesn’t follow the normal rules of a structured building and unless like half the stuff in there was infernal it’s too great a coincidence for the only half demon we saw go in to get what may be the only two infernal encounters. Either it’s a more strongly infernal building than we believe or whatever force controls the labyrinth intentionally sent Mackenzie into those two encounters. The odds of everything being totally random and coming up in those orders is too small to even properly consider.

              Current score: 0
            • zeel says:

              The delvers killed the hellhounds after Mackenzie orders them to stop. After she is hit with the arrow:

              There were sounds of what must have been fighting, but they were over before I had full awareness of my surroundings again.

              Anyway, I highly doubt that the hounds and pitchfork were the only two infernal encounters in the place. The delvers weren’t even remotely surprised by the appearance of what they mistook to be a full demon in the maze, nor did the instructor correct them on that.

              My impression is that the labyrinth contains a great many things, of all variety of awful. We see infernal, undead, magical, poisonous, and mundane encounters during Mackenzie’s time in the maze – and she wasn’t even in there that long.

              I also don’t think the labyrinth was built for people to go inside looking for loot, that’s just how the school uses it. I think the original intent was more along the lines of the classical labyrinth – to seal something away. And over the centuries(?), all variety of things were trapped within.

              Current score: 0
            • Nocker says:

              Except that there’s two problems with your assumption that the Hellhounds were sealed away.

              The first being that the group was clearly expecting loot. It was explicitly there with the idea that encounters lead to loot. If encounters never gave usable loot then there’d be no expectation.

              The second being that if the Hellhounds weren’t bound there, then they’d never have bothered fighting. No creature on earth naturally fights to the last man, except perhaps an insect. For the pack not to scatter through the maze at the first sign of stiff resistance means that either Hellhounds were made to act suicidal even when not ordered, or else something had bound them to that specific spot.

              Hell, why would you summon hellhounds, already bound to a whole separate plane of existence, then bind them there? It’s irrelevant unless you somehow can’t fight as well as a bunch of college students, and if you have that kind of magic(which Mackenzie says explicitly is enchantment, which also makes pretty much all magic weapons save for a few outliers), you can probably handle a couple of hounds anyway.

              Current score: 0
  15. Arancaytar says:

    “Can you picture your classmates?” Dee said. “From your school before your change?”

    Finally someone investigates Mack’s odd memory gap more closely.

    Current score: 4
  16. Anthony says:

    Does anyone else see “My mother’s death: it wasn’t my fault” and think “Tahiti: it’s a magical place”? 😛

    Current score: 16
  17. zeel says:

    So, for something completely off topic: What tower did Hazel room in last semester? Because there is this bit of contradiction I found:

    Chapter 3…

    “So where is Hazel, then?” I asked. “She’s not rooming with Shiel, is she?”

    “No,” Two said. “She and Shiel are suitemates in Paradox.”

    But in Chapter 63 (Hazel talking to Niki)…

    “You should come up to Gilcrease sometime, we’ve a nice set-up… a whole room just for gaming. It’s a bit cozy with too many tall folks, but big enough to accommodate players if not a lot of spectators.”

    And I seem to recall other instances of Hazel’s room being in Gilcrease. I’m guessing chapter three is just wrong?

    Current score: 0
    • Lurk says:

      That’s the Paradox!

      Current score: 3
    • Silverai says:

      Based on those two quotes alone, I would assume she lives in Paradox and games in Gilcrease. The second quote doesn’t necessarily states she lives there, and could be interpreted as the gaming group that Hazel belongs to having the nice set-up.

      Current score: 0
      • zeel says:

        Well the more complete description is that Hazel, Shiel, and Nae share a suite in one of the towers. They all three sleep in one room, and the games are set up in the other. This format has be described and referenced multiple times, and not contradicted. The only weird part is which tower that is in.

        Current score: 2
        • Lucy says:

          Originally conceived as being in Paradox, only for that detail to be forgotten about and just shifted them into Gilcrease when it came up again later

          Current score: 0
  18. Lyssa says:

    So…I stand by my statement that I’ve been waiting for this, and that I wouldn’t want it rushed. But there was no update last week, which she mentioned on alexandraerin.com, her blog. I’m guessing there will be no update this week either given it’s already Friday and there’s been no mention of Tales of MU on said blog that I could see.

    AE, do you even want to write this anymore? :/ I’m starting to wonder, honestly. I still love the story, and I check a couple times a week at least … I don’t understand what is going on with these updates.

    Current score: 4
    • Hollowgolem says:

      Things must be hectic, OR she’s working on making sure all the ends are tied together before she works on upcoming arcs.

      Here’s hoping things resume soon, but whaddaya want for free.

      Current score: 0
    • zeel says:

      Well con last week, and this week she seems to have been distracted by AWW – which is cool, I’ve been wondering if that development would pick back up.

      Current score: 0
  19. Typha says:

    It sucks to feel this way, because I really enjoy the series and want it to do well, but honestly a lot of the last year has read like a high school essay from someone who doesn’t want to hand it in; the writing is poor, the pacing is glacial, and for every paragraph of content there are pages of filler.

    This is particularly evident since the elf cruise arc (which I enjoyed quite a lot) ended, we’ve gotten perhaps 800-1,200 words of new content sandwiched within well over 10,000 words of clumsy rehashing of characters and situations that old readers know well, and new readers could have easily met through one of the many times this has been rehashed already.

    I really like this series, and hopes the author feels like she wants to continue, but if it takes thousands of words of introspection and character re-introduction to pad the amount of new plot you feel like writing into a serviceable chapter, it might be time to bring things to a close and look for new projects you’re passionate about.

    Current score: 7
    • Nocker says:

      Honestly for a while I’ve been going “and then…” and trying to figure out where things go from here.

      Early MU was slow, but heavier on comedy to make up for it and established character stuff faster. Then Leda died and the tone never really lightened again but things happened a bit for a while and developed well. Then we timeskipped and volume 2 dropped a lot of momentum and abandoned a few threads still hanging as the author just kind of stopped adding them in. Like those lore revealing history classes that petered off or the things Acantha was meant to be actually teaching in class.

      Not to mention those fund raising OT from like two years ago that I don’t think ever got made and other stuff that never materialized.

      The end result is ToMU became less about the setting and more about Mackenzies personal drama, which is at a pace barely faster than years ago.

      Current score: 4
      • zeel says:

        After the whole Glory thing took off all the other plot threads kinda died, and few died earlier than that. On one hand… I want some resolution from those threads, nut on the other hand – this arc shows promise to resolve the oldest mystery in the story: What really happened to Mackenzie’s mother.

        It makes sense to space out big events like this over time, or else Mackenzie’s life gets too crowded with shit happening all the time. Unfortunately, this means that to get to the big interesting stuff, we have to skip things, or prolong the wait indefinitely.

        Current score: 3
        • Nocker says:

          Well there’s that, but there’s also a certain lack of audience involvement that also died.

          People seem to forget that the student questions in history class came from the audience and gave a whole lot of good setting info. But then Mackenzie evidently stopped going to those classes mid term so everything kind of died off.

          Current score: 6
      • Typha says:

        I think the decision to split every plot into its own narrative wasn’t the best decision in the world; it involves a lot of narrative whiplash as the timeframe jumps back and forth, and it’s harder to maintain pacing when you’re only writing one plot at a time.

        I think the interwoven narrative was one reason volume 1 felt like it had better pacing, and I hope she goes back to that format once every remaining arc has been tied up.

        This feels like a weird piece of constructive criticism, as introspection *has* been an element of the story since the beginning, but I think the author should consider keeping a swear jar, only instead of putting in quarters for cursing, she puts one in every time mackenzie goes on a 1,000-word introspective/philosophical loop that accomplishes nothing except chew up space. It’s easy to understand that mackenzie is an indeliberate person who spends too much time in her own headspace without having to read every single thought.

        Current score: 6
    • Silverai says:

      Here’s a voice of positive within this negative thread. AE, I love pretty much anything you’ve written for ToMU, whether fast paced or glacial, instrospective or outside Mack’s head, multi-plots or single plot. Keep doing what works for you, AE, and I’ll keep reading it.

      <3

      Current score: 8
  20. David says:

    This is such a beautiful and carefully crafted tale. I just wish to thank AE for her superb writing.

    Current score: 4
  21. Emma says:

    Hey there, I hope you’re okay. Take care of yourself first and foremost.

    Current score: 5
  22. Roadbug says:

    I hope the story isn’t dead since it’s been a bit of time since the last update or comment by AE. I’ve been hooked on this story for several years now and would like to see it continue.

    Current score: 4
    • zeel says:

      This is kinda AE’s whole income, so that seems monumentally unlikely.

      Current score: 0
      • Davis88 says:

        I am starting to wonder if something is up though. Lately this story has been updating with a good frequency, but it has indeed been a while since the last update, with no notifications as to why either.

        Current score: 1
        • Nocker says:

          That’s… kinda how it seems to go in this scene. There doesn’t seem to have been a donation in a good long while according to the site counter.

          AE can go whole weeks without updates without warning and never really builds up buffers, or else says she will then just forgets to. Then there’s a whole bunch of other stuff that gets promised in fundraisers but never delivered.

          This whole thing is notoriously unreliable. Which is a major reason I don’t really donate. I don’t feel terribly comfortable putting money down for a service that can cut off that regularly.

          Current score: 3
          • Cindy says:

            That’s my whole feelings too. I love love love the story, and right when I get some money that I can spare for donating, things seem to shut down. Extra money for things like that is a rare commodity for me.

            I really hope everything is okay with her though.

            Current score: 0
          • zeel says:

            I don’t think the counter is actually automatic, there may or may not have been any donations.

            Though Patreon is automatic.

            Current score: 0
        • Silverai says:

          This time, she was involved with a con interstate, and then was sick, and then had a family thing crop up. There’s usually something up when updates don’t happen for a while, and AE usually says such things in other media – I get my info from Facebook, but I believe there’s also twitter and Dreamwidth/Livejournal.

          Current score: 0
  23. Roadbug says:

    Over 3 weeks now since anything, even a comment… Makes you worry.

    Current score: 1
  24. zeel says:

    For those who do not follow the blog:

    Alexandra Erin, 5-13-15:
    […] Between scrambling before WisCon, being at WisCon, being sick after WisCon, and dealing with the above, it’s been a few weeks since I’ve had the time, energy, space, and spoons to do any substantial writing, and this shows every time I sit down and try to do some substantial writing. The muscles are atrophied, the well is dry, everything I’ve tried to do in the area of creative writing is painful and slow.

    So my plan for the next week… to the extent that reality is susceptible to plans… is to run myself through a little creativity bootcamp to get the juices flowing: a mix of free writing and focused writing exercises, mixed in with relaxation techniques, with the overall hope of getting my actual writing projects back on track by the end of the week, but the only actual goal being to write, just write.

    Current score: 6
    • Nocker says:

      …which isn’t exactly the whole truth. There’s been plenty of short stuff on Livejournal. It’s just not the stuff that’s actually put elsewhere for people to see.

      Current score: 2
    • Lyssa says:

      Well, I will keep checking, but I wish she would say something on here instead of making me search her blog, which she updates multiple times a day.

      My frustration is because I enjoy this story a great deal and would like it to continue. I can’t help wishing it was reliable, but I absolutely do sympathize with her being ill.

      Current score: 5
  25. Hati says:

    Is this story dead?

    Current score: 1
  26. Readaholic says:

    Love your work and this story, Ms Erin. Sorry to hear about your health and family emergency. My best wishes to you and your loved ones, and will wait patiently for an update. I do understand that an author with vulnerable health status will probably have a sometimes erratic update schedule.
    Maybe place a short update section at the top of the page, regularly updated , for example “Next regular update: on schedule” or Next regular update: behind schedule, expected time to next update is x days, with maybe a reason if there’s a long delay eg “family emergency”, “health issues”. You can then update the update notice regularly as progress dictates.

    Current score: 10
  27. zeel says:

    Well, it has been over a month with no update. This might be a record.

    Current score: 3
    • Nocker says:

      I’m actually counting the days. Not so much in anticipation of an update as trying to see if this really is a record.

      Current score: 2
      • zeel says:

        Of course, confirmation would require actually going through and finding the largest gap in the archive. It wouldn’t be difficult to write a script that could do it… but I’m not sure there is actually any benefit to knowing.

        Current score: 2
        • That Dave says:

          There’s been a few 3-4 week gaps over december-january. If one refuses to count the “OT” as content, then there was one big gap from Dec 18, 2012 to March 1 2013.

          However, that had regular “I’m alive here is related content” creation, so I suppose this can be a record.

          Current score: 2
        • Nocker says:

          At this point there’s a kind of hilarious irony to it.

          The story spends so many years dodging the most obvious plot elements it’s ever had, and now that it’s forced to actually address them, it goes in infinite hiatus.

          Current score: 6
          • zeel says:

            I think the word you are searching for is “indefinite”.

            Also, not true anymore…

            Jun 29, on Patreon
            Tales of MU will resume late next week. Newsletters will also resume in July.

            That was Monday, so I am guessing Thursday or Friday next week. So by July 10 I would expect something.

            Current score: 1
            • Lyssa says:

              Interesting. Guess we’ll see how/if this goes.

              Would be nice if she actually kept her readers in the loop on her own damn website, though.

              Current score: 5
            • zeel says:

              Advantages of being a supporter?

              Current score: 0
            • Nocker says:

              It’s more accurate to call it “reasons not to become a supporter”.

              I’ve CONSIDERED financial backing, but never gone through. Mainly because I’ve been here long enough to know that payment doesn’t imply service. Patreon aside it takes over a year for fundraising stories to come through in some places and something always comes up to halt this for weeks whenever a momentum is built up anyway.

              I consider any relationship where money changes hands for a service, even without a written contract, to be a professional one. But the professional/professional dynamic gives WAAAAY less leeway than the reader/author one.

              Current score: 8
            • Lyssa says:

              I was a supporter. I stopped contributing when she stopped communicating/updating.

              I don’t want that to come off as snarky, but I really thought she was probably done with this. I hope she is indeed not, and that the story continues soon.

              Current score: 9
            • zeel says:

              Well, from one view that certainly makes sense.

              But from another view: AE has, for a very long time, provided her work free for all to enjoy. Support does not constitute some contract of obligation, it’s a “thank you” for all the wonderful content she has given us.

              Now, when she goes through a rough patch how is withdrawing support going to help? If anything that’s going to make it rougher.

              This story has helped me grow as a person to an incredible degree. For that, AE has already earned my ongoing support for as long as it is financially viable for me to give it.

              Current score: 2
            • Nocker says:

              If this were a one off I’d agree, but “free” doesn’t quite cover it and this isn’t a one off rough patch.

              For the years I’ve been following this story, basically every other month winds up having a lengthy hiatus or many chapters that don’t launch on time. AE has made repeated promises to create a cache of future chapters to stop this from happening, but it never happens. For that same length of time, crowdfunded chapters or services are basically always late and often dubiously delivered.

              AE describes this as her “flagship series” on Patreon and it’s the major selling point therein. But if the flagship series winds up having no updates and no communication to this degree, and it’s far from the first time, that’s not really indicative of somebody you want to handle money with.

              My money is a very limited resource and there are dozens of others I want to support, and projects of my own that need time and money. Ultimately I need to make the judgement call, and I’m inclined to use it in a way that has the maximum yield.

              Current score: 9
  28. Typha says:

    I want to still like this story, but I just don’t think she cares anymore. Ignoring for a moment the fact that she feels okay abandoning it for almost two months with no notification, the last year to year and a half of story is very poorly written from a technical standpoint. The pacing is glacial, characterization is incredibly inconsistent, the pointless introspection and circular thinking has become her default source of filler, and chapter after chapter comes rife with typos and entire repeated paragraphs.

    If you want to tell a story, please tell it well, or at least spellcheck and edit it.

    Current score: 12
  29. Sharra says:

    Ok… I’m not inclined to post anything most of the time, even when the whole comments section seems completely ludicrous, but this is getting out of hand.
    I’m one of those readers who enjoyed your work for free miss AE, and i have to say that i probably could have helped via patreon or something else. I was always telling myself that as soon as i was done with my projects, i’ll donate or check out your patreon. I knew the financial situation you were in was far worse than mine, not even accouting in your health, living arrangements and i don’t even dare to imagine what else. You still managed the incredible feat that is this story. There are, it is true, some chapters who lack in quality. But this story as a whole is incredibly well written. And you created all that while trying to sort out all your issues.
    If you now can’t handle it anymore, if you need to do something else entirely to live and not survive anymore, that’s ok. If you have to take a break, take it. If you have to cut the story short for ever, do it.
    You do not owe any of your readership anything, not even a word. You gave us plenty as is it.
    Thank you.

    PS : i’m sorry if the point i’m trying to make seems a bit lost amid all this. English is not my first language and shaping my thoughts in it can be kinda hard.

    Current score: 4
    • P says:

      the judgmental comments in this chapter have really been bothering me and I’m glad you wrote this. people really don’t seem to understand what it’s like to be a disabled person.

      Current score: 0
      • Nocker says:

        At least to me, it doesn’t look like the disability is the problem. AE is comfortable enough to blog pretty regularly and write other stories on those blogs, but never says a word to her general readership. If time needs to be taken for health reasons, that’s perfectly fine, but that doesn’t look like what this is. What this looks like, to me, is a total lack of communication by choice with the pool of people one generally takes patreon subscribers for and paypal donations from.

        To cut out the general readership who isn’t currently donating, which is the body that’s already donated a lot in the past when fundraising was needed, while still keeping things regular elsewhere, doesn’t exactly indicate someone being disabled and unable to update.

        I’m willing to wait, I’m still here after all, but being expected to wait in silence for no real reason seems just a wee bit unreasonable.

        Current score: 8
        • Silverai says:

          I am currently going through a rough patch. I am also the treasurer for a group that runs an annual event attended by thousands. This event happened about a month and a half ago, after which many people needed paying. Due to many life factors and also hitting this rough patch, I just wasn’t able to do so for weeks, and not only that but I simply couldn’t even dash off a couple of sentences to let them know. The guilt ate away at me, and I objectively knew that a few sentences were all it would take and that it wasn’t even a lot of effort to do so, but I just _couldn’t_. Even then, I still interacted with the group in other ways, so it wasn’t really apparent to the group that I was having real difficulties. Thankfully, things eased enough for me to pay people and apologise for not being able to fulfil my responsibilities earlier. Things are still bad for me, but at least that’s one part no longer hanging over my head.

          Point is, mental health manifests itself in a myriad of different ways, and while it seems like a simple thing to let people know what is happening, sometimes that wall is simply to big to climb over.

          I am a monthly paypal subscriber, and haven’t received any more updates than other people. Regardless, I am inclined to be very forgiving of this hiatus, and I especially sympathise with AE currently, given my own mental difficulties.

          Current score: 5
          • Zukira Phaera says:

            with mental health, its like you get stuck on an endless mobius strip sometimes. been there.

            currently I’m going around and around on the “I need to see my psychologist… I haven’t seen him in a while, I feel guilty about that…. I should have seen him a long time ago, I should make the appointment, what is he going to think that I let it go this long, I don’t deserve to go, I shouldn’t, …. I need to go…” rinse, repeat.

            Current score: 2
        • P says:

          ‘At least to me, it doesn’t look like the disability is the problem. AE is comfortable enough to blog pretty regularly and write other stories on those blogs, but never says a word to her general readership. If time needs to be taken for health reasons, that’s perfectly fine, but that doesn’t look like what this is.’

          you’re coming in from the perspective of someone who doesn’t have the same disabilities and who, by the sound of it, isn’t disabled.

          once upon a time there was a webspace i was getting a lot of hostility on because my issues ‘didn’t look like the disability is the problem.’ i’m autistic so a mother shared an anecdote about her autistic child: he had a history of being able to use toilets in one context but then had started refusing to use them. the school decided that this was therefore a behavioral problem, not a disability problem. eventually the mother figured out that her child had been using a bathroom with older toilets but was now expected to use a newer bathroom with toilets that flushed much more forcefully. her kid had been okay before, but these new toilets were just too loud for him given his sensitivity to loud sounds and he couldn’t comfortably use them.

          my response at this point was, ‘wait, isn’t it incredibly obvious that newer toilets are a lot louder? they make me very uncomfortable too.’ she told me that it hadn’t been obvious to the school because both situations were ‘using toilets’ and were therefore seen as the same situation.

          so what a lot of commenters are saying is, ‘these two situations are the same TO ME, so they must also be the same for her. she’s therefore just choosing to do this [and maybe needs to be reigned in with criticism too],’ but this reasoning is just as faulty as what the school did to that child.

          Current score: 4
          • Nocker says:

            It’s the exact same activity. Posting “hey, I’m sorry about there being no updates, they’ll be back on X date” on one site isn’t significantly different from the other. Unless this specific site has some weird quirk that Livejournal, Dreamwidth, Patreon, and elsewhere all don’t have.

            Current score: 8
    • zeel says:

      I’m with you Sharra. The negativity bothers me. It’s one thing to think or feel that way… but do you need to post it here?

      What is really depressing, is to see those little heart things on posts. Looks at the supportive posts, look at the negative ones. It’s distressing to see what the quiet ones are voting on.

      Current score: 4
      • Nocker says:

        That’s not really in the spirit of the comments section though.

        For years the entire relationship we had with the author was that if we point out an error in the story, it could be fixed due to us essentially providing free editorial. Up until this happened that was still out job. Pointing out an issue we have is kind of a big recurring thing that’s both encouraged and expected because AE always understood that that’s how problems get stopped, and the system has always worked without flaw.

        It’s just that recently, even before this, a lot of problems have been recurring and more frequent. So obviously if you’re going to encourage people to point out problems for years, they’re going to point them out even when they aren’t pretty or simple.

        Current score: 9
        • zeel says:

          There is a huge difference between “hey, I found a typo” or “I found a continuity error” and getting all bent out of shape over the lack of updates. Pointing out flaws is constructive, it leads to flaws being fixed.

          Complaining about the down time, criticizing the writing, and being all around judgemental though? That isn’t constructive.

          Current score: 5
          • Lyssa says:

            It might not be constructive, but where else are we going to vent? I love this story, you love this story, who else even really knows about it? It’s not like there’s a subreddit for it. Maybe there should be! Is that old forum still around?

            Look, it might not be nice, you might get offended by it, but I am feeling alienated by one of my favourite authors online, and this is the only place I can talk about it with other readers. The least she could have done is say something on the blog she’s already been updating. Claiming she can’t communicate with us because she’s disabled is pretty insulting, and that’s the only explanation I’ve read so far. I came here hoping for answers and insight.

            Now, if her mental health has driven her to the point where she can’t write creatively, I understand that. I’ve been there, and I would be elated to support her if she would just communicate! I can totally understand a couple weeks going by without word, but until you said she’d be back later this week, I was starting to get the impression that this was simply too much for her and she was moving to other projects (like the ones she does talk about on her blog).

            Another factor is the momentum she’d just built up in the story. We’re finally getting answers to questions we’ve all wondered about for years. Her health comes first, I stand by that 100%, but it would be nice if communicating to us came at least second.

            Current score: 11
            • tessa says:

              For me at least it’s less about this particular gap in updating and more that this story doesn’t feel like much of a priority to her anymore. Hasn’t for months now, maybe even a year. It and the readers are less and less of a focus, to the point where it’s starting to feel like we’re an embarrassing thing she doesn’t want to be seen talking about.

              If it’s time for her to move on, then I wish she’d go ahead and do that. I like this story, but I don’t want to read more of it if the author doesn’t want to write it, you know?

              Again, I’m not even really “upset” about this particular accidental hiatus. Shit happens, and it can be a real trial to dig yourself out enough to get back on track. But even when she IS on track, MU feels like a dirty secret lately and not in a fun way.

              Current score: 1
  30. C8H9NO2 says:

    I don’t mind the hiatus, but I do think the lack of non-story posts on the site about it is a big problem, as well as the site text telling us that it updates regularly twice a week remaining instead of telling us it’s on a hiatus, which is sonething I think should be addressed.

    Current score: 4
  31. Nighteyes says:

    Just wanna say: I’m still here and won’t give up on her!
    Because reasons ;p

    (seriously, AE, you are, were and forever will be the most awesome storyteller for me.No matter what, even if you were to stop right now!)

    <3

    Current score: 5
  32. Silverai says:

    UPDATE for those who don’t follow AE in other places. This amalgamated cherry-picked info is from several of her Dreamwidth posts yesterday (which was crossposted to Facebook). Dreamwidth journal is here: https://alexandraerin.dreamwidth.org/

    “This week, I am back from a busy week and nigh unto miraculous week of family-ing in Nebraska. Yesterday I’d intended to throw myself back into it, but my main work computer died on me. It froze up completely while I was downstairs getting lunch, and would not finish booting after that.”

    Household emergency funds were then used to purchase a new computer, after which:
    “I’m writing this on my brand new desktop, so I can testify that it’s working fine. It’s not quite work ready yet. I’m going to be installing my programs on it and then syncing my cloud folders and stuff this evening so that tomorrow morning I can get up, hop on, and get to work exactly like I wanted to today.”

    Reasons why nothing has happened lately:
    “I have been having a hard time finding my footing lately, after spending the first half of June sick and the second half swamped with outside obligations that would have been less of a big deal if I’d had any momentum going, creative or professional or whatever.

    I had this big plan coming out of WisCon that I was going to start keeping to “office hours” much more rigorously, work to a schedule as much as the muse allows. The whole being on my back for more than a week kind of took the wind out of those sails pretty quickly. We’ll see how it goes this week.”

    “I have a headache today. I did not sleep well all last week, and I feel like I am paying for that now. Separately from the physical stuff, I am going through some personal turmoil. I am resolved that it is best both personally and professionally to proceed as normal during my work day, to get in a solid block of time when my mind is occupied by Other Things.”

    Current score: 15
    • Ellieana Duncan says:

      Thanks for posting that! She’s got a couple of blogs, so I don’t think I knew about the dreamwidth page! It’s nice to know that she’s fine. I would have loved an update here, but as long as she’s updating, that counts.

      Current score: 1
    • Lyssa says:

      Thanks so much for updating us!! It’s nice to feel in the loop.

      Current score: 5
    • Silverai says:

      Relevant info from Dreamwidth today:
      “I had some very specific plans Monday, and then Tuesday, but yesterday was such an up-and-down day that there’s basically nothing left in my head after the relief. I guess I’ll try throwing myself into some random writing throughout the morning and early afternoon. In the afternoon, I’ll be catching up on some business emails. In late afternoon, I’m going to be getting myself back up to speed on Tales of MU.”

      Current score: 6
  33. Bill Bolbson says:

    I’m really confused about why there has been no information posted here on when the story will continue. I know things can get distracting, but I guess even a post of the form “sorry things are crazy now, so the story is on hold” would be nice.

    Current score: 14
  34. ArteminKhaldrem says:

    Longtime reader here (from the first days of the live journal). I read all these comments and once I got to a certain point I knew I would respond, then as I neared the bottom, and would turned into needed (or at least felt like I did) to respond.

    First and foremost. As someone who struggles with a host of mental problems of my own, I can say first hand that those that are saying that “one similar thing isn’t necessarily as easily as another, simply because they are similar” are absolutely correct. What is being left out is the largest difference between this site and AE’s personal blog. At the top of this page it says TALES OF MU. Now, that on its own is a trite statement, but hear me out. Tales of MU, the serial writing we’ve come to love means many things to our author, as indicated by her writing. It is a source of income, financial stability, self-esteem, expression. These are all positive things. It is also a source of stress, of expectations, guilt, and of criticism; this is equally evident. In a situation where she may be finding difficulty do to depression or other mental illness, the difference between posting on a blog, and posting, or hell, even VISITING Tales of MU, is astounding. I would be surprised if she has been able to even point a browser in the direction of this page since the hiatus hit about week 2 or so. The reason for that is simple: guilt. As previously mentioned about the cycle “needing to see the psychologist..etc” (Zukira Phaera said this earlier), these cycles are self-defeating and perpetuating, and feeling guilty about not posting literally makes it more difficult to post. So ask yourself whether it is easier to update a personal blog, a diary if you will, or to formally stand before an audience (because that is what we are) and give an apology speech, while trying not to have some kind of anxiety attack. Is this seriously a question? Of course the blog is easier.

    The fact that nobody had pointed out something that obvious was shocking to me, so I had to comment on that, but it isn’t my primary purpose in actually posting today.

    I am absolutely shocked at what I am reading. We are united by our enjoyment of Tales of MU; if we didn’t enjoy it we wouldn’t be here, those of us who support AE financially, wouldn’t do so, and we wouldn’t have patreon subscriptions. We enjoy what we read, we follow, we comment, we have grown to enjoy this world that is uniquely AE’s. It is massive, it is exciting, and we thrive on it. For some of us, myself included, it has been a source of personal growth and even taken us through increasingly difficult times in our life. For me, it has many times helped pull me through extremely dark times, and after reading comments as each chapter goes up, I know I am not alone in that. But this wonderful world we enjoy is an expression; it is art, it is created and loved by its author. I understand the frustration, the irritation even, at not having a new update in a month or even two months; hell I experienced it. Most of my frustration was not knowing what was going on, but not because I thought I was being ripped off, or not being given some fair share of something, but because I didn’t know why AE had stopped. Was she in a car wreck? Did something happen? Was she ill or hospitalized, or worse? Without fail, she has posted at least a notice of what is going on in her life, and when I hadn’t seen any copied over from her blog, I was concerned. So when I say, I was frustrated, believe, me I was. I went down my list of web comics like I do every day, and viewed the updates, always, as usual, leaving MU for last so that I could read and enjoy the prose at my leisure, and each day found no new story. I understand that feeling. But what I’m reading here isn’t the frustration of fans when they can’t see more of a world they love. It is people, I hesitate to say fans, who for one reason or another feel they DESERVE an update, or that they DESERVE information, that they are OWED something. In the case of those that pay on patreon, or even donate, she always is catching up. We know this, but we also know she’s going to make good on what she has promised. AE has never failed to live up to a promise she makes to us (to herself is another matter, but to us she makes simple and attainable promises when she is able). But nowhere, even in patreon, much less donation, does it give us or anyone the right to DEMAND an update on a time schedule of YOUR choosing.

    I can scarcely believe I have to write this about something we are supposed to enjoy and love. DEMAND. really? I am honestly seeing words like “DESERVE” and “OWE” in this conversation?

    SHAME ON YOU.

    I’ll say it again in case you missed it the first time.

    SHAME ON YOU.

    First and foremost, you are OWED nothing. This is art. This is expression; it is beautiful, and we love it, but it is NOT ours. It is NOT for us to demand the next posting, anymore than it is for us to demand the next movie or episode in a tv series. What you get when your require an artist to produce things on a timetable not your own, is the mass-produced pop music that has some pretty face attached to it that doesn’t know their own lyrics until someone else hands them the cliff notes. It is soulless, it is meaningless, and it is NOT what we want here. You have NO RIGHT to demand anything of AE. If you love her story, then you donate, if you can’t donate, you leave a comment. It’s simple. In its most generous form, this relationship, were it to be categorized financially, could be contrived as a tip.

    Second: Let’s go back to the reason I postulated it was easier to post on her blog than on this page. I said something about guilt, expectations, stress, right? AND YOU WONDER WHY.

    —- If you are TLDR-ing this, read this part—

    When Tales of MU ends, most likely, it will be because the readers who demand content, and feel they are owed something from AE, not only out number, but out voice those of us who truly love AE’s work, and she can no longer do this for her own health and stress.

    —-

    If you love something you support it. I'm not just talking about financially, though, those of us who do I'm sure are appreciated. I'm talking about self-esteem and reassurance. The only thing talks about what you do and don't deserve do is delay the next update, because you make the problem worse. If you don't support the things, especially the art, that you enjoy, it will disappear. Those of us who are fans of this work, voice our support. In times like these where it gets hard, the LAST thing AE needs is a huge list of comments like these that are criticizing and demanding anything from her. If anything she needs reassurance that we understand, and patience for the next update. Remember, we, the readers, the audience, are the foundation for that muse that she so heavily depends on. When a story wants and needs to be written, it often comes in a torrent, but even the brightest muse can darken and die in the face of criticism and cruelty.

    Those of you who are patiently waiting and/or are voicing your reassurance and support, this rant was not intended for you, keep doing what you are doing.

    AE- If by chance you read this, please know, those of us who have been with you from the beginning, even if we aren't posting, even if you haven't heard from us in months or years, are still reading. I am absolutely sure of this; that each person that had an account with you on live journal when we had those discussions about more than just plot and development, the people who have been with you all along, didn't just stop reading. I am absolutely sure we all are here right now, silently supporting you. I can speak for myself, and I hope I can speak for all of us from that time, when I say, don't lose heart, don't listen to these "fans" that are demanding anything. We love your world; we love your work; we love your story. Take as long as you need, we'll be waiting here. You have always come back to us before, every time you have gone on hiatus, you have returned. In the years I've been reading, I see no reason to think this is different. Take care of yourself, get whatever you need in order, and I look forward to the return of that muse.

    -AK

    Current score: 2
    • Nocker says:

      Allright, let me tell you exactly where you’re wrong.

      A lot of what AE does is rather solidly not free expression, because it isn’t free. When an event flat out says “give me money, and I’ll give you this story or podcast” that’s an informal agreement on both parts. I didn’t put any money down personally, but to say that people who bought into that agreement don’t deserve what they put down the cash for isn’t exactly kosher. Especially not when AE decided the schedule months ago then repeatedly broke it off. Because again, this isn’t a one off problem or one off lack of communication, and a lot of people are justifiably pissed because of that.

      Secondly “SHAME ON YOU”, really? Are you seriously going to try to shame people with very legitimate concerns into silence? Or try to guilt trip us by saying the story is going to end because we didn’t shut up? That is seriously scummy and YOU should be ashamed for trying to resort to such cheap tactics.

      This is art, but you have a very strange idea of what art IS if you think it’s owed anything in and of itself. More or less all art from antiquity had to come from somewhere and agreements are more or less always made. That’s the reality of commercial art and making a living as an artist. If the artist isn’t showing up, the patrons reserve the right to cancel funding, as we see here with users stopping their Patreon funding.

      Current score: 11
      • ArteminKhaldrem says:

        You absolutely have a right to be concerned. I even acknowledged that. What upset me is seeing people actively arguing reasons why not to donate and not to support AE. That is crossing the line in my opinion. While my earlier post certainly was inflammatory and in some cases, I will admit, stepped across a line, and even into the realm of guilting people, which I am, myself disappointed that I did. What I want is simple; step back and ask yourself for each post on here how you’d feel if you were the author and maybe (since we don’t know) on the edge of an anxiety attack. Is the post helpful? Is it hurtful?

        I got carried away, but my point is solid. Several posts on here are over the line. (My first post included).

        Current score: 1
        • tessa says:

          wanting to get what you paid for, and suggesting that others might not want to donate at present if they also prefer to get what they pay for isn’t over the line at all

          in no other case would it be acceptable to say “oh just pay for this thing and mmmmaybe you’ll get it eventually”

          sure art is different than buying lunch, but it’s not unfair to expect results when someone says they’ll deliver

          giving someone money for their work isn’t quite the same as giving them money because you want to support them personally. it can and does overlap a lot, but it doesn’t automatically. if you’re here solely or mostly for the story and not so much the author, it’s probably been a disappointing time for a while now

          Current score: 10
          • Nocker says:

            As an artist, I always found that idea really freaking bizarre. If I were to take someone’s money then not do anything, I’d expect consequences. But then I live in an entirely separate sphere where the norm is to have contracts that say who, what, and when.

            Current score: 8
        • P says:

          i agreed with your post. i also think there’s an issue where people aren’t willing to share money OR words of encouragement with alexandra erin, but they feel entitled to come onto her blog (which AE pays the hosting costs for in the form of money and stress) to criticize AE as a person. in my opinion that is fully inappropriate. if lines were crossed, i at least don’t think you’re the one who stepped very past them.

          Current score: 2
          • Garble says:

            This is a massively unfair strawman, where you’re taking some clearly unacceptable behavior that hasn’t occurred on this site, (Coming on to her blog and attacking AE personally!) and using it to attack anybody who’s voiced any sort of complaint or criticism.

            Current score: 7
            • zeel says:

              Well no, I don’t see any personal attacks. I see professional attacks. And that’s the problem, people are being critical of her handling of both this extended down time, and the financial model she employs.

              And it’s okay if you feel that way, we can’t help the way we feel. But we can help the things we say, and where we say them. This isn’t a forum, this isn’t Reddit. This is the comment section on a chapter of a story. Not only is the conversation rude, but it’s not even on-topic.

              And no, there isn’t a forum to go to. But does it matter? Do you need a place to complain? Just because there isn’t a better place to go, doesn’t make this a good one.

              You know what they say:

              If you can’t say something nice…
              Don’t say anything at all.

              Current score: 0
            • Nocker says:

              Discussing Tale of Mu and the handling thereof on the Tales of Mu website is rude now?

              and I don’t buy the “don’t say anything” model. Mainly because if you let shit fester it just gets worse when it inevitably blows up, and this discussion really was inevitable once you consider the factors involved. It’s better to have it sooner and have it be less nasty, then a year or two from now when things inevitably go down again, then have it be even worse because suddenly we’ve got all the repressed feelings from going through this shit twice.

              It’s a question of who owes who what. AE owes us nothing, but we owe her nothing by the exact same logic. YOU are free to claim you owe her, but our silence isn’t in service to some great debt or pledge of alliance.

              Current score: 9
        • Lyssa says:

          Look, I brought up the Patreon support in direct response to zeel saying that knowing what’s going on is an advantage of being a supporter on Patreon. I didn’t mean to imply other people should stop funding her – obviously, that’s up to you. I certainly didn’t suggest that other people follow suit and likewise stop their support.

          I didn’t stop support to spite her. I didn’t stop support because I don’t love the story anymore. I didn’t stop support because I’m an evil art-hater who thinks artists should be cranking out product every 5 minutes.

          I still love this story. I hope it continues being written. Once she’s back to communicating with her audience and I have a better idea of where the story is headed I’ll reevaluate my support based on that information. For instance, if she thinks she needs time to build a backlog and wants to do a fundraiser, I’d be happy to contribute to that. If she wants to go back to weekly updates, I’d go back to monthly support. I just don’t want to be throwing money out the window to a product that isn’t there. My funds are not unlimited, and I cannot afford to do that.

          PS: This is not her blog. This is Tales of MU’s website. Her blog is: alexandraerin.com for those confused.

          Current score: 4
  35. ArteminKhaldrem says:

    Edit: (since it won’t let me edit after I’ve refreshed)

    Re-reading the comments, there are a lot less “deserving” posts and a lot more “we support you” posts. That is fantastic. If anything a lot of the posts are confused or worried. Sorry for such a long post. I just got really angry at those posts that sounded indignant. I’ll go hide back in the lurking shadows again now.

    -AK

    Current score: 5
  36. zeel says:

    Posted today, July 13, on AE’s blog:

    number one priority this week, unshakable and unbreakable, is that I resume posting Tales of MU. New chapter goes up Friday. Period.

    Current score: 13
  37. Jack Ralls says:

    Okay you guys, deep breaths.

    Yes, it has been a while. Between Wiscon, family obligations requiring travel, a creativity lull (normal in this sort of long project), and serious equipment failure (both her computer and her back up computer died), things have gotten delayed. But the story isn’t dead. She is working on it, faster than a team of speeding George R. R. Martins.

    As for donating, nobody is making you do it. And if you do, you need to understand that art takes time. Delays happen. There isn’t some sort of light switch that AE can turn on and off, but posting an MU update on Friday is her number one priority now that her equipment is sorted out.

    Current score: 13
  38. cbob says:

    So it won’t go any faster even if I beg for it?
    On my knees?
    Pleeeaaassseeee?

    And AE is wonderful even when not writing.

    Current score: 0