Chapter 316: Office Hours

on June 16, 2016 in Volume 2 Book 10: Lucky Thing, Volume 2: Sophomore Effort

In Which Mackenzie Goes To The Head Of The Class

Professor Bohd sat down behind her desk, and gestured for me to take the seat across from her. It wasn’t the same office she’d had previously.

It was smaller, and darker, both in color scheme and ambient light. She didn’t offer an explanation and I didn’t ask.

“I’m trying to figure out how to start,” I said.

“I have nowhere to be until three,” she said.

“I don’t think I’ll need that long,” I said. “I just… okay, I have a friend and I’m a little bit worried about something they might be involved with, and I’m just not sure who to talk to or how to proceed. And before I say anything else? I mean an actual friend, as in someone else, not me.”

“Ms. Mackenzie, I wouldn’t have assumed otherwise.”

“Thank you,” I said.

“I have met some of your friends.”

“Yeah, well, it’s not Steff Johnson, either,” I said. “But my friend has this item that’s… well, it’s clearly magical, and it seems to be affecting her behavior in ways that make me suspect it might be cursed.”

“Given that your friend is likely a university student of about your age or the equivalent, I’d start by suggesting you ask yourself if a drastic change in behavior or even outward personality is really that big of a red flag.”

“No, listen… I don’t mean she’s dressing differently or doing stuff that she would never in a million years have done when she first got here,” I said. “I mean, that would be true, too, but that’s not what worries me. It’s the way she behaves towards the item itself.”


“She’s… well, I was going to say possessive, but no one tried to take it from her, not really,” I said. “But she’s evasive about where she got it from. She lied about it, in fact, when she had no reason to.”

“No reason that you know of,” the professor said. “Have you considered that it might be an innocuous magical ring that doesn’t actually belong to her?”

“Hey, H… she’s not some kind of burglar,” I said. “And yeah, I guess if she’s not supposed to have it, that might explain it. I fully admit I don’t have any proof that there’s something wrong with the ring.” The more we talked about, the thinner I realized the whole line of supposition was. Steff was right that it had seemed like a cursed ring to those of us who’d witnessed the interaction, but it would be hard to convey that feeling to anyone who wasn’t there. “Maybe it’s a ‘you had to be there’ kind of thing,” I admitted, “but the way it called attention to itself and the way she reacted to that attention, it really felt off. I’m not the only one who thought so.”

“Alright,” Professor Bohd said. She paused as if gathering her thoughts. “If you came to me to say you believed your friend was guilty of stealing, I’d suggest you have more proof before you act. But this is not an accusation, it’s a concern. There is some risk of embarrassment and a tarnished reputation if you’re wrong, particularly if it’s mishandled… but that risk is present if you’re right, along with more serious ones.”

“So what do I do?”

“I assume you’ve already considered the possibility that the guards could be called to investigate,” she said. “And rejected it due to the likelihood that they would mistreat your friend and confiscate or destroy her potentially harmless property in the course of the investigation.”

“That seems obvious enough,” I said, because it did. I mean, I hadn’t thought of it, but it certainly did seem obvious.

“Similarly,” she said, “you have to know that I can’t solve this problem for you.”

“No,” I said. “I know that. I have an idea of who I could talk to that might be able to figure out what’s going on and offer some actual assistance, but… I kind of wanted to talk to somebody I could trust completely first, in order to sort of sound out the possible repercussions, and how to avoid them?”

“Ms. Mackenzie… that’s touching,” she said. “I’m touched. I also infer that this means you do not completely trust the person whom you have in mind.”

“I don’t distrust them,” I said. “I think they’re a great, stand-up person, as far as I know… but that’s just it. I don’t know them, not even as much as I know you. I’ve never come to them with anything like this. So I’d rather not make a mistake.”

“Well, the most important thing when you sound this person out is, you do not give away enough details for anyone to act upon them in the event that you change your mind,” she said.

“I know how to keep a secret,” I said.

“Do you? I wonder,” she said. “You’ve been tasked with keeping your share of them, but you betrayed the gender of your friend very shortly after you began speaking of her in gender-neutral terms. I took a shot in the dark by guessing you were talking about a ring, as I believe they are among the most common vessels for curses, but you not only didn’t correct me, you confirmed it.”

“Oh… yeah,” I said. “I guess I let my guard down. But like I said: I trust you more than I trust him.”

“And now you’ve given away a bit more,” she said. “Don’t make a face, it’s not as bad as all that. It would be easy enough to play the odds and guess that a friend of yours is more likely to be female than not, just as it was easy enough for me to guess it might be a ring of which you were speaking. It is not so much that you’ve given the game away, but more that if you are careless about those details you might give away more.”

“Okay, but, even though I don’t necessarily trust him to be discreet or place my friend’s best interests above things like laws or university rules, that doesn’t mean I think he’s going to be trying to play detective or pry the details out of me so he can find her.”

“No?” the professor said. “You said the ring called attention to itself. I believe it’s not uncommon for cursed items to inspire covetousness in others, even as they inspire jealousy in those who hold them.”

“There might be some of that going on,” I said, “but I don’t think it would work through a secondhand description.”

“Likely not. But you wanted me to help you understand… and avoid… potential consequences,” she said. “Cursed items are often quite powerful, and quite valuable. He might not need to be exposed to it to start wondering what it might be able to do for him.”

“Classical cursed items are, yeah,” I said. “I mean, the big name ones in the history books… but a lot of modern ones are only slightly more powerful than a standard enchanted item, and the less impressive the item is, the harder it is for someone to convince themselves that the curse’s consequences are worth it.”

“Well, this is more your area than mine,” she said. “I only know the famous ones. Do you have any idea what the item in question might do?”

“My friend called it her good luck charm, or something like that,” I said. “Though, you know, that much could be in her head… the ring’s way of convincing her that she needs to keep it close.”

“My impression of luck magic is that it’s only easily accomplished at very low levels,” she said.

“Yeah,” I said. “It doesn’t take much interference to do something like make sure your toast lands a certain way up, because it just has to change how the toast flips as it falls. Affecting whole big complicated chains of events, though? That takes a lot of power and finesse. A lot of magic that people assume is making them luckier is actually more like a specialized divination, guiding them to be in the right place at the right time instead of changing what happens to them.”

“So a lucky charm might change someone’s mind rather than changing their fate.”

“Yeah,” I said.

“On the other hand, a true good luck charm that goes beyond keeping jelly off the carpets would be an item of immense power and value, if it existed.”

“Also true.”

“So your friend might well have a simple trinket that does the equivalent of a parlor trick, an object that manipulates her mind into believing that she’s lucky, an object that manipulates her mind so that she actually does seem to ‘luck into’ things, or an artifact of almost unimaginable power,” Professor Bohd said.

“Or something else entirely,” I said. “I mean, if she was lying about where she got it, the luck thing might have not been anything she believed, either.”

“True, but it’s also possible that the whole incident was a vivid illusion created to fool you. At a certain point, you have to accept something as given in order to determine how to proceed.”

“So how do I proceed?”

“Cautiously,” she said. “Whether the ring is manipulating events or manipulating minds… or both… if it is indeed cursed, then it is doubtlessly not doing so solely in your friend’s interests. It likely has its own agenda, which may lead it to resist any efforts to separate itself from its current bearer.”

Suddenly, I was starting to think maybe Steff hadn’t made a strong enough case about the dangers of trying to tackle this thing by ourselves.

“I guess I’ll have to keep my eyes open and watch my back, then,” I said. “Any ideas for what tack I should take with my designated expert?”

“I would suggest this one.”


“Go to him as you did to me,” she said. “Tell him that you know this isn’t his strictly his area, but you trust his judgment and discretion, and you don’t know who else to talk to.”

“So start by lying to him.”

“It’s easier to keep a secret if you’re not strictly dedicated to telling the truth,” she said. “You and I, Ms. Mackenzie, should know better than most that people have no inherent right to the truths of our lives. I do not enjoy deception, but I did not personally arrange the world in such a way that deceptions are so often necessary.”

“Okay, so I tell him that, and I give him the detail-free bare bones outline of what’s happening… then what?”

“Well, that’s up to him. If he is indeed the right one for the job, I would assume he’d offer his help or provide you with a plan of action,” she said. “And if he starts making noises about contacting the duly appointed authorities or pressing you for details you’re not comfortable giving, you can excuse yourself and say that you’re sorry to have bothered him.”

“Wouldn’t it be hard to back out at that point?” I said.

“I’m assuming we’re talking about a college professor,” she said. “I can assure you, our powers are quite limited. He could make life unpleasant for you in his classes…”

“I’m done with his class, and not likely to need another with him,” I said.

“Then there isn’t much he can do, if you decide to leave rather than keep talking,” she said.

“Still, do you think maybe I should couch the whole thing as hypothetical, at first?”

“Ms. Mackenzie, when you told me your friend was in trouble, you felt the need to explain that you were speaking of an actual friend and not yourself,” she said. “Do you imagine if you were to drop in on a professor who isn’t even currently your instructor and pose this situation as a hypothetical, there would even be the remotest chance he would fall for that ruse?”

“No, probably not,” I said. “Even if it was a hypothetical situation, he’d probably suspect it wasn’t.”

“You’re also more likely to get an honest answer from him if he knows the stakes are real,” she said. “Asking someone what they might do in a hypothetical situation is no way to determine what they would do when the situation actually arises.”

“That’s a good point,” I said. “Anything else?”

“You said you don’t fully trust this man.”

“I also said I don’t distrust him.”

“Don’t go see him alone,” she said. “If there’s someone else who is aware of the situation, or whom you could trust, have them go with you.”

“I really don’t think he’d do anything…”

“No, but if you back off and he decides to pursue the matter, there will be someone else there to confirm your version of events,” she said. “In the event that he calls in the guards, for instance.”

“That’s… I hadn’t thought of that.”

“Then it’s a good thing you decided to consult me, isn’t it?” she asked.

“Yeah,” I said. “Thanks… I guess I’ll let you get back to what you were doing then.”

“I suppose I should, shouldn’t I?” she said. “Thank you for the distraction, however brief… and for the trust.”

“Yeah, you’re welcome.”

I left her office with my head held high, not so much out of pride but because in terms of ways to avoid meeting the gaze of the students who were waiting to be called to account for themselves it was either that or look at the carpet, and I wasn’t about to do that in front of them.

I’d never cheated in a class, never even been tempted to do so. What I had done was work my ass off, both to learn the material and to get the grades I needed to complete my degree and keep my scholarships.

Damn right I was going to walk with my head held high.

That was probably at least half of how I wound up literally tripping over Hazel.

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23 Responses to “Chapter 316: Office Hours”

  1. Anthony says:

    Oh, Mackenzie. You should have listened to your grandmother. Pride goeth before the fall.

    Current score: 6
  2. Zathras IX says:

    Cursed items are
    Often quite powerful and
    Quite valuable

    Current score: 4
  3. pedestrian says:

    considering AE’s peradventure to inflict bondage themes upon Mackenzie…

    …Perhaps there is an inscription on the ring?

    “…and in the darkness, bind them!”

    Current score: 7
  4. undertheteacup says:

    Ahhhhhhhh, I’m touched by Bohd being touched.

    Current score: 3
  5. Laura says:

    D’aw, I loved seeing Prof Bohd again. What a great chapter. Can’t wait to see how this all turns out.

    Current score: 3
  6. Mike conner says:

    So glad to see Bogdan again, even if only for a bit. Her and Callahan are my favorite teachers so far.

    Current score: 3
  7. TogashiSoka says:

    I’m calling it now:

    Its and engagement ring.

    Current score: 0
    • elle says:

      A dwarven engagement ring was my first thought too. I don’t know why Hazel would feel the need to lie about that though? She didn’t feel the need to lie about her abortion (she didn’t really feel the need to talk about it at length either but that’s totally understandable).

      Current score: 2
    • Glenn Brown says:

      Mack was specifically keeping her nose in the air to keep from looking at the students in Bohd’s outer office. The fact that it causes her to trip over Hazel strongly implies that Hazel is one of the students waiting to see Bohd. Hazel is almost certainly going to claim that she didn’t cheat on Bohd’s test, unlike those other students who saw the answers in advance. When she’s asked how she got all the answers right without cheating, she’ll claim it’s just her lucky ring. It may be the ring manipulated Mack into coming to see Bohd, precisely to make Bohd wonder if Hazel was cheating, or if the ring Mack just told her about might really be the reason Hazel aced the test.

      Current score: 3
      • zeel says:

        I really doubt that Hazel is taking a 300 level elementalism class.

        Current score: 4
    • Nocker says:

      It doesn’t work that way.

      Humans are the only ones who really have that kind of relationship as a standard and goal. Dwarves are split by gender and can’t form family units that way, so they won’t have that kind of tradition. It’s the same on a different mechanism for elves, goblinoids, and essentially everyone else made by the “normal” gods. They’re explicitly engineered to break up relationships for population control via various means.

      The only real exceptions to this are humans, because Khersis explicitly decided that that was stupid, and presumably Gnomes, because Owain wasn’t there yet and probably missed that meeting(and that’s presumption, not explicit).

      If it’s an engagement ring it’d either be some weird Dwarf thing, which wouldn’t even be vaguely equivalent, or a Gnome thing, which I doubt simply because it’d be Gnome sized if so, or else a human thing, and have the standard enchantments it lacks.

      As a general rule I find it important to remember that basically 90% of the cast is actually cursed and doesn’t realize it, or if they do they don’t actually understand where it comes from or the nature of it.

      Current score: 4
      • zeel says:

        What curse is 90% of the cast under?

        Current score: 0
        • Nocker says:

          “Cursed”, not “A Curse”, it’s various curses. It was considered a curse when Khersis cast demons into the infernal plane and did what he did to the half demon reproductive cycle, so the only real word you could call every other race under similar effect for similar intent.

          Remember, elves have a dislike of actual vaginal sex. Dwarves get violent in the same way half demons do. Goblins aren’t meant to give birth more than once, and don’t survive without outside intervention(which mortals explicitly weren’t meant to have, if you check the Q&A). Ogres, Sea-Wolves(which is a more apt name, if only because they aren’t all female), and harpies have a compulsion to devour flesh in order to kill humans. Nymphs(and possibly others) trigger the same instincts when reacting to mackenzie’s half demon scent as predators in some cases so there’s obviously something going on there(though we only see it in a couple of isolated cases).

          Then obviously you have the big one of demons and half demons, which isn’t fully understood but is very clearly highly lethal since it’s the reason they can’t breed, or even be in the same room with each other for extended periods. It’s not clear what this is, since even most of the other characters don’t understand it(and in fact, I’d say The Man is the only one who really does, since he’s been observing it’s effects for centuries).

          Current score: 2
          • zeel says:

            I’m pretty sure the only one of those that counts as a curse is the one for demons. The other races had limitations placed on their reproduction by their creators for a reason. The effect on the part-demon females is a very specific curse for them in particular.

            What Khersis did there was unprecedented, just as his creation of a race with no built-in limitations of expansion was. I believe the technical term for it would be “dick move.”

            Current score: 1
            • Nocker says:

              Khersis had a reason too. Having a reason doesn’t change the end result.

              Which is the long and short of it. As far as actual practical effects it doesn’t matter to Mackenzie and company if it’s a post inception job or an inherent one, they were all born with it and have to deal with it. The practical differences are wholly academic by this point.

              Which is why I’m standing by the word curse. The methods are the same, the results are the same. Motivation does not matter in the slightest here.

              Current score: 0
            • zeel says:

              Yes, it does. Because one thing is one thing, and another thing is another thing. Words have meanings.

              It’s not a curse if it’s an inherent part of their nature. That’s like saying all surface people are cursed because they don’t have dark-vision. Or that all mortals are cursed… with mortality.

              But that isn’t the case. The gods created people, they created them with a specific purpose in mind, and instituted limitations. They didn’t want them to over breed, and they didn’t want them to live forever.

              That isn’t a curse, it’s a design. What Khersis did to the demons was a curse. He modified them from the original design.

              Current score: 1
            • Nocker says:

              If you want to get technical, what Khersis did to demons wasn’t just a simple modification, it was a from the ground up modification. Their entire base physiology is different now essentially from the ground up.

              If you want to get double super ultra technical, the gods didn’t actually invent anything. They came from elsewhere in the multiverse and then made people. It was never said they developed every race from wholecloth. For all we know there were elves where they came from and they just modified what was there, or they ran into some on the way to this world. The fact is that humans and elves and dwarves exist in other worlds independent of the gods and the rules of the setting. If you want to prove that it’s not a curse, even if it’s effectivley the exact same thing, you need to prove despite overwhelming evidence against it that that’s actually how the gods made what they did.

              Current score: 0
  8. Aged Sage says:

    OK…How did Professor Bohd, know it was a Magical Ring that Mack,was referring to ? She didn’t identify the item prior to Bohd making her statement/question “an innocuous ‘Magical Ring'”.

    Current score: 0
    • Nocker says:

      Rings are cheap, easy to make, and easy to hide. Even when Mackenzie was making her first wand she used a magic ring as a base because it was so easy to get ahold of one and then just worked out from there.

      Current score: 1
    • zeel says:

      Bohd makes a point of explaining this. She guessed, to demonstrate to Mackenzie how easily someone can get information out of her that she didn’t intend to give.

      Current score: 0
  9. Erm says:

    Hey, H… she’s not some kind of burglar

    I like that she said “burglar” instead of “thief”, mostly because of the stealthy Bilbo Baggins reference that I can’t imagine was an accident. 😀

    “What’s a burrahobbit? And can yer cook ’em?”

    I wonder if “burglar” has similarly neutral connotations among Delvers as it does in Middle-Earth – though it won’t among dwarves here (who take a very dim view on theft, on principle). Maybe they’d prefer “adventurer” – though that, in turn, is a four-letter word among gnomes. 😛

    Current score: 0
  10. Erm says:

    how I wound up literally tripping over Hazel.

    So, uh, how about that “good luck”? 😛

    Current score: 0