In Which Mackenzie Gets A Little Bit Stoned

I went to bed that night doubting Amaranth’s intuition that a good night’s sleep wouldn’t be enough for the pain from my knee non-injury to vanish completely. However long an actual physical injury might take to heal, the hurt from wounds averted by my semi-invulnerability only lasted as long as the pain itself lasted. It could be aggravated while it lingered, but not after that point.

So I settled into bed and tried to find a comfortable position… and tried again, and kept trying. My knee throbbed when I wasn’t moving, and every time I inevitably did, it felt like puzzle pieces made of jagged glass were shifting around beneath my skin. Amaranth was giving me plenty of space, and while I was accustomed enough to sleeping without her comforting weight and warmth holding me down… her nymphly needs and responsibilities kept her out of our shared bed some nights… it was a bit unnerving to have her lying serenely beside me instead of flopping down on top of me.

I had almost certainly had more miserable nights since the magical moment when we first got together, but I was hard pressed to think of them that night. I was hard pressed to think of anything. It was the worst mixture of pain and tedium I could imagine. I’m pretty sure that laying relatively still in bed and resting as well as I could did was the best thing I could have done, under the circumstance, but as long as I was awake I kept wanting to get up and do… something. Anything.

I’m not at all sure that I slept, really, but I dozed in fits and starts, drifting into shallow fits of unconsciousness in which the pain never fully receded from my consciousness.

Amaranth slept like a particularly tired log. I didn’t resent this. Sleep was one of the most decadent pleasures she could indulge in without feeling even slightly guilty. It was the one time she could really put her needs in the forefront and completely ignore everyone else and not worry about the ramifications or missed opportunities to please, if only because she was unconscious and thus unaware of them.

Do you know what it’s like to be suffering both excruciating boredom and excruciating pain? I don’t know, if you’re not even slightly invulnerable then I guess probably you do. I spent I’m not sure how long trying to figure out how to cobble together a sleep spell from my magical knowledge.

I’d never studied bodily manipulation or mind-affecting charm magic, so the best I could come up with was a spell that I was pretty sure would create a bubble of vacuum around my head until I passed out, at which point it would cease to be sustained.

That seemed like a terrible idea for multiple reasons, including the fact that I’d never actually verified the fact that I couldn’t die from asphyxiation and that magical asphyxiation might very well be a whole other kettle of flopping, gasping fish. Even if it was safe in general, I was pretty sure the attendant thrashing around wouldn’t do my knee any favors.

Still, by around what I guessed was three or four in the morning, I was almost desperate enough to try it.

Almost.

I tried adapting some of my enchantment skills to my plight… boosting my pain resistance, diminishing the pain. It didn’t really take. Healing was too specialized a discipline. Investigating the properties of my own body, I found I could edge up my overall toughness, and I suspected that would increase my resistance to any further pseudodamage, but it didn’t do anything for the one I’d already incurred.

I also discovered that, nigh-invulnerability aside, I wasn’t actually very tough. I didn’t have much basis for comparison, but Amaranth’s overall physical constitution was a good forty or fifty percent higher than mine.

The last really coherent thought I had… and the last time I remembered it wasn’t the first time I had it… was that if I couldn’t somehow get a good night’s sleep, then I’d be doomed to continue the experience through the next day.

I woke up… it’s the only thing I can call it, though I wasn’t conscious of the fact that I had fallen asleep… to soft sunlight suffusing the room and Amaranth doing her minimal morning prep.

She didn’t wear make-up, she didn’t ever have to comb her hair or otherwise groom herself, she certainly didn’t have to get dressed, and she always had whatever books or class materials she wasn’t using at the moment tucked away in her personal extradimensional space, but she did sort of take a few moments every morning to get ready to face her day: a few deep breaths, a steadying look in the mirror, and a few reminders to herself spoken under her breath. I’d never deliberately tried to catch them, but what I had amounted basically to “You can do this.”

The first time I caught this, it had been almost a life-changing revelation. Amaranth had always seemed supremely confident to me, even in moments when she probably shouldn’t have been. Realizing that my literally divine girlfriend, whom I almost literally worshipped, spent even a brief portion of each day addressing her own self-doubts… it made my own easier to face.

At least, most days. After a night in which I had maybe two hours total of very shallow sleep and facing a day of more of the same, I actually found it kind of irritating, bordering on insipid.

“You’re awake,” she said. “How’s your knee?”

“Better,” I said, with what I was pretty sure was perfect honesty. It had certainly hurt much more in the moments immediately after Shiel had clobbered me. I was almost certain it had hurt slightly more when I had climbed into bed the night before than it did that morning.

“But not good,” Amaranth said.

“No,” I admitted.

“Do you want to try walking on it?”

“…no,” I said. “I don’t really want to spend all day in bed, though. Or miss class.”

“Do you agree that it’s better to miss a day now than string it out, though?”

“Yeah,” I said. “Yes, ma’am.”

Somehow, as cranky as I felt at that moment, that gesture of obeisance made me feel slightly better, both in terms of my own state and my feelings towards her.

“Stay here, then,” she said. “You’ll probably feel better by tonight.”

“What if I don’t, though?” I said. The prospect of a whole day in bed had been terrible to contemplate, but now that it was here I found myself focusing on the idea of another sleepless night following it.

“I’m still pretty popular with the alchemy students,” Amaranth said. “I’ll bet I know someone who can get me a sleeping potion.”

I felt a surge of hope, which turned into another flavor of fear.

“…as much as I’d love to go out like a light, I’m not sure I want to be trapped unconscious all night,” I said. “I have too many bad experiences with people attacking me in my sleep or trying to mess with me in my dreams.”

“Well, healers make potions of restful sleep,” she said. “Those allow a deep, healing sleep that is completely consensual, and it would be my first choice… though they’re more often divine, being a healing item? Failing that, I’d think a short-term sleep potion would work. If you’re out… all the way out… for even twenty or thirty minutes, you won’t be feeling anything. Don’t you think that would be enough?”

“…I’m not sure,” I said. “I mean, usually when the pain is gone, it’s gone. But I’m not sure if there’s a difference between not feeling the pain and not being conscious enough to know I’m feeling the pain. I’d hate for you to burn a favor and use up a potion for nothing, especially since it would still leave me vulnerable for twenty or thirty minutes.”

“Well, the other possibility is a potion that just dulls the pain,” Amaranth said. “The problem there would be there are a lot of common potions that increase pain resistance or diminish pain, but ones that eliminate pain completely are rare and kind of controlled.”

“Why would that be?”

“Well, to people who have a mortal’s normal level of susceptibility to injury, they’re kind of dangerous,” Amaranth said. “Pain serves a useful function for people who can tear their skin open on rocks and trees and things. The main use for potions of immunity to pain is for soldiers and gladiators and the like, using them is not necessarily in their best interest, so much as that of whoever’s backing them. The good news is that those potions are hardly ever divine.”

“What about the pain diminishing ones?” I asked. “Because I guess after a day of not moving, that might be enough for me to actually sleep normally.”

“…about fifty-fifty?” Amaranth said. “Some are formulated for battle, some for healing purposes. Oh! You know who might have some arcane or at least non-divine ones? Coach Callahan!”

“…she’s not big on diminishing pain,” I said. “At least, not through external means.”

“Well, it’s probably worth asking her… or asking someone she likes to ask her,” Amaranth said. “I’ll see if Steff or Ian wants to do it.”

“Okay,” I said.

“…I kind of want to kiss your knee, but I’m aware that wouldn’t actually make it feel better and it seems like a good way to jostle it,” Amaranth said.

“You could blow it a kiss,” I said, and she did.

“Bye, baby,” she said on her way to the door. “I’ll bring you back some breakfast before I go to class.”

“Bye,” I said. “I love you.”

“I love you, too.”

Then she was gone.

The mention of Callahan was enough to remind me that the not-actually-shattered kneecap was not the worst pain I’d ever experienced, only the longest-lasting. In addition to various collisions with soul-searing divine energy over the years, in my fighting classes I had been phantasmically disemboweled, decapitated, crushed, impaled, and basically killed a thousand and one different ways. We’d done whole units on fighting past pain, conquering it… slaying the god of pain, as she put it.

I didn’t think that would help me actually get through a day of standing on my knee as things stood, so to speak, but remembering her training helped me push past the pain and think, helped me see the pain as something I could live with and maybe even conquer instead of merely endure.

I couldn’t heal it, couldn’t erase it… but what could I do? My major area of expertise was enchantment, but most of my mystical power was in elemental energy. I had an infernal affinity for fire, but that afforded me access to the other three elements, to varying degrees.

What was the main thing that aggravated my pain, when I wasn’t trying to walk? Moving. Even when I was ostensibly laying perfectly still, I couldn’t help moving in ways small and large. I’d shift a little bit without meaning to, and that would cause a twinge that would make me move more, and there was the agony, made fresh and new.

I knew that when magical healing wasn’t available, one of the first things people did for actual shattered bones was try to immobilize them with bandages and splints. I had managed to freeze the limbs of other people in fighting class by invoking the element of earth clustered within their bones and pumping energy into the natural trait of immobility they contained. There was no reason I couldn’t do this to myself… if anything, it would be easier because I had a cooperative subject.

I knew it was working when I felt my leg and knee grow heavy. While I had a hold on the earth aspect, it occurred to me that I might be able to lower my own sensitivity to pain by way of association with a rock. This proved more fruitful than my attempts to raise my pain threshold the night before had… elementalism wasn’t healing, even if the end result in this case was very similar.

After what was for me a relatively small magical exertion, I felt like I could pretty easily make it through a normal day of class… except for the fact that I’d all but transmuted my leg to stone. I mean, it was still flesh and bone in substance, but it was currently much better at serving the functions of a rock… e.g., sitting there and not feeling anything… than it would have been at serving the functions of a leg.

The spell wasn’t terribly draining in terms of energy expenditure, but keeping it running was taking a bit of my concentration and I didn’t really love the idea of spending my day doing that, so I relaxed it and then re-wrote it in my head into a bindable, self-sustaining form that I then wove around myself. That was using my area of expertise.

Since I was enchanting myself, I was even able to direct the finished spell to replenish itself from my own pool of energy as needed. Since I was doing nothing else, I was pretty sure that I’d recover my power faster than the simple spell could use it up.

I’d just finished that when Amaranth showed up as promised, with a lemon poppy seed muffin and a green apple. I really would have rather she’d brought a plate of bacon, but fruit and pastries were among the items that the cafeteria workers were least likely to object to someone grabbing and going. I was pretty sure they had some kind of offer in place where you could buy a quantity of food to go by weight, but it was almost certainly not worth it compared to just using a punch on the meal plan for the all-you-could-eat on premises deal. The only downside to that was the need to be on premises.

Anyway, I didn’t actually need to eat food, I just enjoyed it. While it seemed like my life was better in many small, unspecified ways when I indulged my human side, I wouldn’t have wasted away to nothing or even felt physical deprivation if I skipped breakfast. So I thanked her and started in on the muffin, leaving the apple for later when I might need a diversion.

“You’re looking like you’re doing better already,” Amaranth said as I finished the muffin.

“Yeah, I figured out a temporary solution,” I said. “Elemental invocation… I just earthed up myself up a bit.”

“Hmm,” she said. “If you can get a decent nap like that, maybe you won’t need a potion?”

“I’m not sure I’d count on that happening,” I said. “The spell won’t break if I fall asleep, but… well, a stoned leg isn’t uncomfortable the way the shadow of a broken knee is, but I don’t think I’d have an easy time finding a position for sleeping like this.”

“Maybe not, but if you’re tired enough?” she said. “I’ll keep my fingers crossed for you… I’ve got to scoot, baby. Class awaits! Don’t forget to contact your professors.”

“I won’t,” I said… though it wasn’t until a few moments after she had closed the door and locked it behind her that I realized my mirror compact was sitting on the desk.

It really wasn’t my lucky day.


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17 Responses to “Chapter 323: Laid Up”

  1. Erm says:

    I spent I’m not sure how long trying to figure out how to cobble together a sleep spell from my magical knowledge.

    Experimenting with mind-altering magic on yourself while you’re tired and distracted by pain, I don’t see how this could possibly go wrong.

    Seriously, this sounds like the most dangerous thing you could possibly—

    so the best I could come up with was a spell that I was pretty sure would create a bubble of vacuum around my head until I passed out, at which point it would cease to be sustained.

    Okay, so I was wrong.

    Current score: 14
  2. Nocker says:

    I remember having leg problems that bad a few times(Mackenzie has it easy, a couple of days is nothing compared to WEEKS of your leg in constant pain). You find yourself in …interesting situations when you need to cross four feet but you physically can not stand.

    Current score: 0
  3. HollowGolem says:

    Got hit by a car a few years ago, and my left knee was the point of contact. I had to walk with a cane for a couple of months, and even to this day, walk with a slight limp, and get soreness when the weather shifts (pressure, probably).

    My leg still hurts all the time, three and a half years later. It doesn’t hurt BADLY, and most of the time I don’t notice the pain because I’ve gotten used to it, but the pulsing, throbbing ache is there on my knee all the time.

    I can feel what Mackenzie is going through. I remember the first time I tried walking without my cane, and my leg literally just fell out from under me. Went numb and betrayed me.

    All the traumatic stuff that Mackenzie’s been through, and this is, finally, the story that hits me the hardest. Huh.

    Current score: 5
  4. Chris says:

    Reading this chapter I suddenly wonder a question about Mack’s invulnerability…

    Is she invulnerable to injuries that don’t actually *damage* anything?

    Maybe her knee is just dislocated? Nothing broken, torn, bruised… just popped out of joint…

    Only thing against that theory is Amaranth’s assessment of her… but it’s always possible she could miss it because she knows she’s invulnerable and doesn’t think of it…

    Current score: 0
    • Minty says:

      A dislocation that hadn’t caused significant damage to ligaments/tendons probably wouldn’t be very painful, though. In my personal experience, sitting around with a dislocated joint isn’t very painful at all; what hurts is putting it back into place. Whether there was soft tissue damage or not, a dislocation would probably also limit Mackenzie’s range of motion (if not completely prevent her from bending her knee) and might even make her knee visibly misshapen, depending on exactly how the bones were misaligned.

      I don’t think it’s likely that Mackenzie’s knee could be dislocated without her noticing something besides pain.

      Current score: 1
  5. Drake says:

    You’d think at some point she’d wonder if her kneecap was actually shattered, which I’m still convinced it is.

    Oh wait this is Mackenzie we’re talking about, she never second guesses her own thoughts unless it’s to her detriment.

    I’m kindof loving it.

    Current score: 4
    • Erm says:

      Mack does seem to have a bit of a blind spot when it comes to her own body and its abilities (see low-light vision). Given how rarely she’s actually injured by a magical weapon, I wouldn’t be surprised if she can’t easily tell the difference between a real injury and a phantasmal one.

      But assuming it is phantasmal (and I don’t see how Shiel’s fist could suddenly become a magical weapon): I wonder if she could put a healing potion in a mockbox and fix it that way. There isn’t anything to heal, per se, so a normal healing potion wouldn’t work. But a mocked potion would get rid of a phantasmal injury, and the effect *should* theoretically be permanent.

      Current score: 1
      • Guitardrumr says:

        While Shiels fist is unlikely to suddenly become magical, is it not possible that she has something on her hand that IS magical? Given that rings are a very common magic’d item, could Shiel simply be wearing some sort of magic ring, which allowed the actual force of her punch to do actual damage, rather than just hurt?

        Current score: 2
      • Nym says:

        I had wondered that as well!

        Current score: 0
      • tigertoe says:

        I think that comes a little too close to the kind of shenanigans that the DM-y laws of the MUniverse frown upon.

        Current score: 0
    • Nocker says:

      I’ve actually been wondering about that myself. Her SKIN is invulnerable. Which is a lot. But her bones presumably are not. Enough force would probably just break the bones under the skin.

      Current score: 0
      • tigertoe says:

        another half demon (no spoilers!) fell out of an airship and suffered no injuries other than blacking out from the pain and shock of impact. her internals are equally invulnerable.

        Current score: 3
        • Nocker says:

          Right. I actually forgot about Dan when I typed that. The question is why it’s referred to as a “skin” then.

          Current score: 0
  6. euthanatos says:

    Glad to see that Mack remembers something useful from her time with Callahan!

    Current score: 0
  7. JN says:

    Now that AE is updating regularly again, time to get this wonderful tale back on the lists. You have to go to webfictionguide.com first then search tales of MU at the moment, but at the bottom right of that page will be a link to vote it onto topwebfiction. After enough of us vote, it will be on the latter for future weeks.

    Cheers!

    Current score: 4
  8. Zathras IX says:

    Elemental Earth
    Magic could rock you to sleep
    Or sleep you to rock

    Current score: 3
  9. Nym says:

    Huh, am I the first to come up with the idea that whatever is cursing Hazel and making her lucky is literally stealing luck from those around her (in this case, Mackenzie)?

    Current score: 1