Chapter 8: Prelude To Violence

on April 22, 2011 in Volume 2: Sophomore Effort
Timeline: , , ,

In Which Mockery Is Made

Magisterius University had a Skirmish team and one of the best gladiatorial programs in the interior provinces, or so I was told… and it was also a surprisingly popular school for delvers… but it had originally been a university for wizards.

Modern ideas mean that wizards tend to be more well-rounded these days… the notions that studying such base and mundane matters as arms and fighting or carrying weapons and wearing armor would actually inhibit the ability to use magic have all been pretty soundly dispelled. A robust education is seen as a good thing. This is why MU and most other modern universities all have a liberal arts approach to education, teaching mundane subjects and combat skills alongside such things as enchantment and elementalism.

But even if learning how to swing a sword or strapping on a shield wouldn’t damage your ability to use magic, my feeling was that it’s still true that time spent studying fighting isn’t time spent studying magic. You can’t study both at the same time, unless you were studying how to fight with magic.

That sort of thing might have sounded like the perfect way for wizards to defend themselves, but combat casting can take a lot of specialized training. To be able to throw off volleys of spells on demand like a siege engine or a one-person regiment of archers would require a lot of dedicated practice of evocation. Combat buffing is technically enchantment, but it’s a far cry from the sort of enchantment I was formally studying. I could use my limited knowledge of enhancement to give myself a bit of a boost before or during a fight, but the techniques for doing that well were different than the ones I’d use to better enhance an item.

In other words, learning combat magic effectively would pretty much require taking a double major, so almost everyone gets stuck taking weapon classes.

For my first semester at MU, I’d enrolled in a class called Basic Knife. Basic Knife and Basic Staff were the softest of the soft options for fulfilling the school’s minimal weapon proficiency requirements. That they existed at all was a bit of a bone thrown to the old days when the world divided neatly into categories like users of magic and men who fought.

They weren’t the only options available for people who carried daggers or staves, but they were the best options for someone who wasn’t really interested in fighting but hadn’t been able to find a way around the requirement for one weapon proficiency class.

I hadn’t realized how much of a joke Basic Knife was when I took it… it was nicknamed “Bladies For Ladies” and the major focus of the class seemed to be how to carry a dagger about one’s person without hurting oneself.

I still would have taken it, though. I had no interest in fighting, and I’d resented the fact that I was required to spend three hours a week one semester learning how to do it.

Circumstances and my friends had impressed on me that fighting was something that could happen whether I wanted it to or not… and like swimming, it’s better to have the skills before they become essential than to try to pick them up on the fly. Or on the sink, as the case may be. So, I’d transferred to a more advanced class at Amaranth’s insistence.

That class was recommended by Steff, and it was taught by her favorite teacher outside the necromancy program: Coach Jillian Callahan.

The rumors I’d heard about Callahan were the same as the rumors you heard about any tough teacher, only more… well, more. They said she’d liked to kill a few students for demonstration purposes, before the school rules were altered to prevent that.

Well, actually, she had said that, though a lot of the people who spread rumors about her rejected that as being unbelievable. Not that the things that the same people breathlessly repeated were at all plausible. Depending on who you asked, Steff’s “Jillybean” was either some kind of god-killing abomination in humanoid form, a super soldier bred by the old empire, or some sort of eternal warrior who had fought in every major war of the past several centuries.

While those things were pretty obviously not true, she had made no pretense of hiding the fact that she would have just as soon killed me as taught me anything, but as long as the former wasn’t an option she had done her best to see that I learned something in her class.

Unfortunately, as she’d pointed out, the Mixed Melee class that I’d joined was actually a bit above my level. It didn’t have any prerequisites, but it assumed a basic competence that I’d lacked. I wouldn’t have necessarily failed it, but it would have killed my GPA for the semester even if I gave it my best shot. So, we’d forged a deal: I would give it my best shot and then she’d give me a pass/fail grade, as long as I agreed to take another class of hers.

It had seemed like a good deal at the time. Well, more than that, it had seemed like a necessary deal at the time. But it really just deferred the basic problem, which was me being graded on my fighting ability. Three credit hours of a weapon proficiency class were part of the general education requirements for graduation, and a pass/fail class didn’t count.

So I’d sought out Callahan… Coach Callahan… during the second semester and asked her opinion of which of her classes I could score the highest grade in. I had counted on her being able and willing to give me an honest appraisal, because her whole motivation seemed to be to get me into the class I was best suited for. She had flat out told me that there was only one class she could see me getting an A in… and then she’d told me it was a five credit hour class.

“It’s not about pretty techniques,” she had said. “And it’s not about fancy footwork. It’s about ending fights quickly and decisively. It’s about surviving. It’s a five-day-a-week class because it’s my baby. I’d make all my classes daily if I could, but I fought for this one because I believe in it. It’s also the class you need.”

It was probably the longest thing she’d ever said to me without yelling, swearing, or calling me a name. In fact, she’d sounded surprisingly at peace as she said it. So with a little misgivings… she’d said that I could earn an A, but that didn’t mean that I would… I’d signed up for five credit hours of hitting people with a stick.

My new fighting class met in a location that was familiar to me, the memorably named Kessherrakh Salle in the fitness center. It was a long room, equipped with floor mats. The cabinets along the backwall were enchanted as mockboxes. Any weapon… any object, really… placed within them would be duplicated in phantasmal form. The mock weapons were illusions, complete with the illusions of tactile presence and heft. They could inflict illusionary pain and even wounds, depending on how the box was set.

In my Mixed Melee class, I’d been used to mocking my staff as soon as I arrived so I would be ready when class started. For this new one I thought it was better to wait until I received instructions. I arrived in the salle to find a bunch of other students… mostly human, or at least outwardly appearing to be.

There were three guys who looked like they were mostly elven… more elven than Steff, but with some traces of human ancestry. On slightly closer look, at least one of them was a slightly butch girl. Or maybe very butch, for an elf. There was a guy who looked like he either had some orc blood or a smaller proportion of ogre blood.

There was also a kobold who I almost overlooked completely, she was so small… kobolds weren’t tall to begin with but this one was tiny, maybe two feet tall. My brain wanted to code her as female and it took me a few seconds to work out why. Kobolds were goblinoids, and goblinoids aren’t mammalian. There were no identifiable secondary sex characteristics I could pick out.

Oru the goblin tended to wear things that were identifiably skirts and dresses, and did things with her hair that somewhat paralleled human standards of femininity, but kobolds valued conformity. Head-shaving was expected. Shiel the kobold had been smooth-headed when she showed up, but had stubbornly and proudly grown a head of short, bristly fuzz over the course of our freshman year… she’d explained to anyone who would listen and more people who wouldn’t that kobold women were expected to keep smoothly-shaved heads while men could get away with a head of stubble to show that they were busy.

The fact that the kobold in the class had a shiny-smooth pate didn’t prove that they were a girl, as the reason for the shaving preference was that most kobolds were naturally hairless, but I’d heard Shiel give her spiel often enough that my mind associated the look with women.

Something else about the tiny kobold was tugging at the corner of my memory, but I couldn’t place her. I was almost positive that Shiel had been the only one of her kind attending Magisterius University the previous year.

The kobold girl looked so scared and out of place that I almost went over and introduced myself to her, but in the end my good intentions were no match for my own social awkwardness… while I was sure that a friendly face would make her feel better, I couldn’t convince myself that my face was friendly enough for her to welcome its intrusion before Coach Callahan arrived.

She said nothing and made little noticeable noise as she walked through the propped open door, her steps bouncy and light… but almost everyone in the room turned and looked at her, anyway. I had seen her manage to blend into a crowd of students before, but she definitely had presence when she wanted to.

Coach Jillian Callahan looked human, more or less. She looked more human than anything else, anyway, but if you really looked at her and thought human there would be a few things that would just barely register as being off. Something about the way the muscles were attached to her bones, the way they flexed when she moved… something about the shape of her bones underneath it all.

She looked enough like a human that even if you caught onto the wrongness you’d probably think that it was her dominant bloodline, but she didn’t have a drop of human blood in her body. According to Steff, she was a mixture of elf, dwarf, orc, and ogre that somehow averaged out into a mostly-human-like shape. Her typical dress was pure urban barbarian, all studded leather and with her arms and legs bare for easy movement. She carried a sword or a battle axe depending on the day… today both were on her back. Both were big, well-made, and enchanted to almost artifact-level.

I had no idea how old Coach Callahan was, but she had to be older than she looked because she could easily have passed for a student… a cheerfully psychotic student.

“Welcome to Fighting To Disable,” she said with a big, sharp grin on her face. Some people have a disarming smile. Coach Callahan’s smile would take your arm off at the shoulder. “Formerly called Disabling Strikes. Renamed when I took it over because naming an entire class after the last step in a process is fucking stupid. I am Coach Callahan. You will call me Coach Callahan. I will call you whatever name I think you deserve. I will give you whatever grade I think you deserve.

“I am the fairest fucking teacher you will ever have, because you will never get more or less from me than exactly what I think you deserve, except in those circumstances that school rules prevent me from doing so. Before you get too comfortable about that last caveat, let me remind you that you signed a waiver for this class exempting myself and the school from penalty for any healable injury you may suffer in the course of your education. If it ain’t permanent, I can get away with doing it to you. Believe me when I say that I’ve tested the limit of this thing. I don’t mind testing it again.”

She wasn’t bluffing even a little bit. I already knew of her willingness to break bones and inflict pain and damage on students who annoyed her.

“I prefer to think of this class as fighting to win. I mean, that’s how you win a fight: be the last one standing who’s still able or willing to fight. Be advised this is not a non-lethal fighting class. Our focus is on ending fights quickly and efficiently, which means removing your opponent’s ability to continue fighting, which often means killing the living shit out of them.

“If you didn’t actually read the fucking class description and just assumed from the title that we would not be using lethal force in this class, you will want to talk to the registrar while we’re still in the grace period. The class you’re looking for instead would either be Subdual Damage or Unarmed Grappling, both taught by Princess Periwinkle the Pretty Prancing Pony. But don’t call him that to his face… it’s Professor Pretty Prancing Pony. Respect is not just for your betters, kids.

“Also, be aware that even though unarmed fighting classes make up less than five percent of the fighting classes held on this campus, more students have been killed in them than all other combat classes put together. You can’t mock a fist. At least not while it’s attached to a living being. On that subject…”

She pointed to a tall, upright red cabinet near the corner of the room.

“The first thing I want you to do every day when you arrive for class is use the red mockbox, and only the red mockbox. To prevent a line, do this before class begins. That box is going to be set up all semester long for maximum realism, because all we care about in this class is what will really happen when you really hit someone. Go to it!”

I had no doubt that Callahan had my best interests at heart, as she saw them… this was the first really strong indication that the class she thought was best for me was not necessarily the class I would enjoy the most. My dislike of fighting could take on some snobbish overtones, I’ll admit, but it has always been rooted in a visceral reaction to violence.

In the years before my demonic nature manifested, I’d just plain disliked it… witnessing real violence or even strong anger had always left me shaking and queasy. After I turned, it got even worse. When my grandmother took me in, she had made it very clear to me what I would be capable of if I ever lost control, and I’d had a few glimpses that confirmed her word.

But I was already committed to the class two or three times over, so I sucked it up and dutifully got in line with everyone else. As a bright point, I realized that if I only ever had to de-shrink my staff in class then I wouldn’t have to use up any of its charges… I’d still need to periodically add a charge to stave off the drain, no pun intended, but as long I put the scaled-down staff in the cabinet and enlarged the duplicate, then I’d only ever be taking the mocked enchantment off of the mocked staff.

Coach Callahan had ambled over to the front of the line and was leaning against the wall, inspecting her students and our weapons. I kind of expected her to say something about my having what looked like a two-foot-long baton, after having done so much work with long hafted weapons the year before.

“Blank? Interesting choice, Frybaby,” was what she said. I really didn’t appreciate her nickname for me, but it was less obviously insulting than the one it had evolved from. “You’re an AE nerd, right?”

“Yeah,” I said. “Yes, Coach Callahan.”

“And you’re still with What’s-Her-Cunt, I see,” she said. The fact that I didn’t flare up at this was a testament to either my self-control or my memory, given that I was within casual dismemberment range of Callahan. Either way, I had to imagine Amaranth would approve of me not blasting my mouth off in response to an insult aimed at her. “You pulled off some interesting things with on-the-fly enhancements last year. That was good. You want to use what you’re good at. Don’t get all caught up in the cool factor of things like size-changing tricks. Remember that at the end of the day a weapon is for hitting and hurting people. Remember it before the end of the day, if you can.”

I nodded at the advice, which I had to admit was good… it felt a bit like a slight at my convenient repackaging job, of which I had been pretty proud, but I tried not to focus on that.

“Everybody feeling sufficiently mocked?” the coach said once the last person, one of the elven students, had finished with the cabinet. “Good… form a circle, children. It’s time to get your murder on.”


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133 Responses to “Chapter 8: Prelude To Violence”

  1. Burnsidhe says:

    Given the surprise “Oh, hey, you’re going to need to go off campus” requirement in Mack’s previous class, Mack’s lucky to have enrolled in this one.
    Even if said fieldwork doesn’t actually turn out to be hazardous, Mack’s going to need what Callahan teaches her, in the future.

    Current score: 1
    • Rey d`Tutto says:

      Which is why Amaranth wanted her to take a more difficult course than “Basic Knife”, or “how to put a knife in a sheath on a belt so as to not stab yourself 101”.

      Current score: 0
  2. Taverius says:

    As a student of filipino combat systems, I approve of this class 😀

    Current score: 2
    • Oni says:

      As a student of Okinawan combat systems, I agree.

      Note: Fort he purpose of my response, it should be remembered that the protoform Okinawan styles favored shattering the pelvis.

      I’m glad that this class is an every-day one. It means a lot more opportunity for chapters taking place in it.

      Current score: 0
  3. JZ says:

    I like how Mackenzie is completely wrong in dismissing all the rumors about Callahan.

    Current score: 1
    • zeel says:

      Ya, it’s a clever writing technique. You can add humor without having anything funny happen 😉

      Current score: 0
      • Ducky says:

        Dramatic irony: making writers’ jobs more fun since the start of the English language.

        Current score: 0
        • Rin says:

          Probably since well before that time even, although it wouldn’t have been called dramatic irony back then.

          Current score: 0
    • Lyssa says:

      Ditto. Made me snort. Especially since she had such a hard time with the whole “everybody knows…” thing last year. Good that she got rid of that idea, but this is the one place where it would almost fit.

      Current score: 0
      • Jennifer says:

        Well, EVERYBODY knows you can’t kill a god. That one is pretty understandable. I don’t know why she’s so quick to disregard the other two, though – since she’s the first one to state that Callahan must be older then she looks, and she knows the strange background and mix of her bloodlines…

        Current score: 0
        • bramble says:

          Well, the fact that Callahan has significant portions of both dwarven and elvish blood means that logically speaking, she can be assumed to be much older than she looks, in comparison to humans. I mean, we don’t know how elven blood interacts with orc or ogre blood, but we do know that people of mixed elven/human ancestry live longer and age slower than pure humans.

          That doesn’t necessarily mean that Callahan has to have done everything with that long life that the rumors say she has – if we hadn’t seen confirmation in several OTs, I’d be inclined to disbelieve the rumors, too. It’s possible, too, that Mack believes that some of the rumors might be true, but doesn’t know which ones to believe and so is taking all of them with a grain of salt on principle.

          Current score: 0
  4. Kurt says:

    I really love Coach Callahan. That balance between genuinely wanting her students to do their best while at the same time being cheerfully willing to murder the weak (who “deserve” it), is handled beautifully. Well written character, IMHO.

    Current score: 0
    • Cadnawes says:

      It always struck me, and I could be wrong, that you had to not just be a little twerp, but an ANNOYING little twerp before she’d really hurt you. She also seems to have quite the forgiving nature given some of what seems to have gone on with Steff (peppermint is an above the belt oil, kids) and that she’ll put up with Mack at all.

      Current score: 0
    • The Dark Master says:

      Its similar to why I like her so much; but for somewhat different reasons. I like her because she defies the way you would normally classify a character and comes off as a wild card you can’t predict. I also like her, because she is probably one of the two most powerful entities on campus that we know of.

      Current score: 0
      • fka_luddite says:

        Given the qualifier “that we know of”, you can drop the word “probably”.

        Current score: 0
        • The Dark Master says:

          Tricky there, its hard to fully convey what I’m trying to say. There are two levels of uncertainty, since I don’t know if there are more powerful people that haven’t been met, and I don’t know if some of the people we have met are more powerful then they seemed to be.

          Current score: 0
  5. ylistra says:

    Did Mack forget what Callahan’s clothes are made of? You’d think that point would hit home on a personal level, before shrugging off the possibility that she really is a centuries old god-killing super-soldier.

    Current score: 0
    • bramble says:

      You’re referring to her liking for dragonhide? There are various degrees of dragons, not all of which are sapient beings, and IIRC some of the less intelligent ones have only recently been regarded as something to be conserved rather than killed before they eat your livestock – probably as a parallel to wolves and wildcats in our world. Dragonhide may be commercially available, or may have been commercially available at some point in the past.

      Current score: 1
  6. TheTurnipKing says:

    “alongside such thing enchantment and elementalism”

    Current score: 0
  7. Jennifer says:

    I assume Callahan didn’t change her nickname for Mackenzie from Crybaby to Frybaby – so, typo alert. I think.

    And I also love the obviously ridiculous rumors.

    Current score: 0
    • Lyssa says:

      “Blank? Interesting choice, Frybaby,” was what she said. I really didn’t appreciate her nickname for me, but it was less obviously insulting than the one it had evolved from.

      Considering the sentence after calling her Frybaby, I’m betting that it’s not a typo.

      Current score: 0
      • Rin says:

        That would be my thought as well. I assume “Frybaby” is Callahan trying to make a humorous play on both Mack’s old nickname and her demonic nature. Not that it’s very good humour mind you, but given that Callahan’s idea of a good time seems to consist of beating people to a pulp, it’s pretty much what you’d expect her to consider witty.

        Current score: 0
        • Bannef says:

          Oh good – I was afraid that it was explained in an earlier chapter and I missed it. That makes sense!

          Current score: 0
        • Zukira Phaera says:

          It isn’t as demeaning either. Must be she earned a little bit of grudging respect perhaps. Asking her advice on which class to take, and not arguing about it, then following through probably helped loads there.

          Current score: 0
    • spoonybrad says:

      she did change the nickname, it wasn’t a typo…

      apparently Callahan likes her, guess applying herself all 2nd semester earned her enough points to move up a bit from crybaby

      mac did try to burn callahan. and it says “it was less obviously insulting than the one it had evolved from.” so I’m pretty sure its an evolution of crybaby to reference the demonic blooda

      Current score: 0
      • Lyssa says:

        She didn’t take her second semester. Do you mean the second half of the semester?

        Current score: 0
      • cnic says:

        When did Mack try to burn Callahan? I’ve noticed references elsewhere about it (in the story and by readers) but I don’t remember seeing it.

        Current score: 0
        • Miss Lynx says:

          When she was possessed by Pitchy. So technically it wasn’t exactly Mack that did it, but Callahan may not know that. As I recall, she thought that was Mack’s best day ever in her class…

          Current score: 0
          • bramble says:

            I wouldn’t be surprised if Callahan would be inclined to hold Mack responsible for Pitchy-Mack’s actions, even if she did know; possession by a demonic weapon seems like it might fit under the catagory of things Callahan would classify as “your own damn fault, dumbass.”

            Current score: 0
            • jc says:

              It’s also possible that her reasoning is: Mack might not have been “driving” during that encounter where the pitchfork took over, but she probably learned a valuable lesson from the incident. Everything the pitchfork did was via Mack’s body, so Mack has the capability of doing all those things. If Mack understands this, she deserves partial credit for the fight, and she may be able to use the lesson in the future.

              But we don’t know whether Callahan (or Mack) fully understands what happened, so this is all conjecture. This gives AE some leeway in the future plot …

              Current score: 0
            • BMeph says:

              I just assumed her reasoning went:
              “That day was the most dangerous I’ve ever seen the fuzzy-headed brainiac. Maybe she has potential to be more than just a whiny little crybaby. I’m keeping my eye on her…”

              Honestly, it seems more like where others may run away from danger, Coach Callahan’s response is more of a “Thank Khersis, I was getting so BORED not killing anything, I was afraid I might go the week without it!”

              Current score: 1
  8. bubble says:

    Wasn’t it said in one of the really early chapters that Callahan always ends up punching somebody in her first class to make an example (and that she killed the worst student before the uni rules changed)? Wonder if it will be Mack again, or was the whole punching thing just for mixed melee?
    Regardless, Callahan = Badass

    Current score: 0
    • bramble says:

      I bet she slugs someone, and I bet it isn’t Mack – Mack’s already got her head on straight about Callahan and her teaching style. A more subtle or less sadistic person might use Mack as an example to impress the new idiots, knowing she can’t actually hurt Mack, but Callahan knows it’ll make an even bigger impression on one of the new idiots if she hits them, instead. And hey, as she already pointed out, as long as it’s something the healing center can sort out, she’s in the clear.

      Current score: 0
    • spoonybrad says:

      it wasn’t mac last time either. remember she transfered late?
      read moar

      Current score: 0
    • BMeph says:

      I bet Coach Callahan’s such a badass she dares you to bounce a coin off of her ass…then she sees if she can punch you in the face and catch the coin before it hits the ground.

      I’d also bet that if it does hit the ground she punches you in the face again.

      Current score: 0
    • Ryzndmon says:

      Yes, and it was shown in one of the early chapters of MoreMU. Jamie reported on how Coach Callahan beat someone into a twitching pile of bloody bruises on the first day of class. Then she explained exactly why she did it, and that the only thing anyone could do about it is not give her an excuse to do it to them.

      Side note, in the OT “Pardon Me (http://www.talesofmu.com/story/other/pardon-me), Jillybean’s name was given by a government agent as ‘Gillian Gottmörder” or ‘god killer’. Did she have her name changed in the witless protection act, or did she get married to gain the surname Callahan (meaning ‘Little Bright-headed One/devotee Of The Church’)?

      Current score: 0
  9. Raemon says:

    I would be incredibly happy if this story consisted almost entirely of hearing Coach Callahan say shit.

    I’m curious what newcomers think of the “refresher” paragraphs. Right now they feel redundant to me since we just had all this information a month ago, but obviously they’re not there for my benefit.

    Current score: 0
    • Alice says:

      “I would be incredibly happy if this story consisted almost entirely of hearing Coach Callahan say shit.”

      Agreed. She’s sort of like a terrifying version of the dad from Shit My Dad Says. I think if a random student had a blog called Shit My Coach Says, that could make for a really interesting side story. But then again, you’d sort of have to fear for your life if you did that, and that rules out most students, except maybe Steph, lol.

      Current score: 0
      • bramble says:

        Something tells me such a blog would feature just enough entries to have been noticed by other people on campus, and then a long, profane rant on the subject of respect which Callahan forced the offending student to post at swordpoint.

        Current score: 0
      • Ducky says:

        I suppose that Callahan might see it as an affront, or maybe see it as undermining her teaching style, but I think she might also not care one bit. She says stuff. She knows exactly what she’s saying. And once it’s out there, it’s out there – and she has the authority and power to take responsibility for her words and actions.

        Current score: 0
        • bramble says:

          I think it might depend a lot on who does it. Callahan will put up with a lot of shit from someone she feels has earned the privilege, but a snotty newbie would get smacked down hard.

          Current score: 0
      • tannenFuchs says:

        I smell a twitter feed… @ShitCallahanSays. Or, at least a hash-tag…

        Current score: 0
  10. Kim says:

    lovin’ the referesher that we didn’t see the last time ’round…

    Current score: 0
  11. Atareus says:

    Second paragraph, last sentence is missing an s and an as. “such thing enchantment” should read “such things as enchantment…”
    There may be more, but I just wanted to fix the one that struck me first.

    Current score: 0
  12. Adam says:

    Never commented before but had to this time.
    “Good… form a circle, children. It’s time to get your murder on.” is the best quote…ever. That is all.

    Current score: 0
  13. bramble says:

    I had my suspicions from Mack’s description of that kobold she couldn’t quite place, and then I checked the character tags… iiiinteresting. I wonder if enrolling was Nae’s idea, or Caron’s?

    Current score: 0
    • Alice says:

      Wow, good thinking. I didn’t even consider looking at the character tags!

      Current score: 0
      • bramble says:

        Well, to be perfectly honest, I had my suspicions, searched the site using character tags, and felt a little silly when this chapter popped up at the top of the list.

        Still, very excited! I’ve liked Nae from what little we’ve seen of her.

        Current score: 0
        • packrat says:

          But this must mean that Nae is officially free now, since slaves can’t enroll. I wonder if finishing her education was her idea or Caron’s… could they be preparing to go public?

          Current score: 0
          • ShadowKat says:

            maybe it’s something along the lines of the Neko girls? Sooni definitely has slaves, but they attend school there.

            Current score: 0
            • bramble says:

              I was under the impression that the Nekos get off on a technicality – the caste system in their home country isn’t quite equivilant to the system of slavery used in the Imperium, so unless someone makes a stink about it, the school can just pretend that Suzi, Maliko, and Kai are actually the underprivileged scholarship students that Sooni’s family claims they are.

              On the other hand, Nae’s slavery may be in some question anyway; remember, Caron kept trying to free her but Nae would have none of it.

              Current score: 0
            • Zukira Phaera says:

              I always got the impression the Neko girls are more like serfs (peasants), so they have rights within a limited scope of rights (one of those being that they cannot be sold and must be cared for within reasonable humane standards, whereas slaves don’t.

              Current score: 0
            • Burnsidhe says:

              It depends on the system of laws around slavery. In some cultures, slaves were just property. In others, they had clearly defined rights and privileges, and owners could be punished for not taking care of their slaves.

              Current score: 0
            • Cadnawes says:

              Except we know Kai was actually bought. I was under the impression that the school did not know this.

              Current score: 0
            • beappleby says:

              It is quite possible that the money was a gift, an incentive for her family to allow Kai to go live with her new Best Friend… Just because everyone knows she was bought, doesn’t mean that’s what officially took place.

              Current score: 0
            • bramble says:

              Or she could be more along the lines of an indentured servant than a slave – technically not owned by Sooni, per se, and earning a very small wage, but with her living expenses coming out of and probably exceeding that wage so that she’s completely financially dependent on Sooni’s family and with very little chance of ever being able to pay off the debt incurred by her family on her behalf when Sooni acquired her. Functionally, she’s enslaved, and that might cause a problem if anyone ever brought attention to it, but her paperwork has her listed as an employee rather than chattel.

              Current score: 0
        • Oni says:

          I was pretty sure it was Nae, wasn’t positive until I got to the tags.

          I’m more than slightly interested in seeing what C.C (“For the Beating Impaired”?) is going to do with a 2′ tall kobold in her class.

          Current score: 0
    • ShadowKat says:

      ah! I thought it would be the post office girl/kobold/goblin who was jealous of Mckenzie because that male kobold/goblin liked her. Nae would be good too! 😀

      Current score: 0
      • bramble says:

        Uh, do you mean Oru (who is a goblin), who was jealous because Moeli (who is a hobgoblin who worked at the front desk in Harlowe sometimes) liked Mack? Mack knows Oru pretty well; I doubt she would have had any trouble identifying her.

        Current score: 0
  14. Angnor says:

    Typo:
    I had no idea how old Coach Callahan was, but she had to be older than she looked because she easily have pass for a student… a cheerfully psychotic student.
    Maybe
    …she could easily have passed…
    or
    …she could easily pass…

    Great story. I love seeing Coach Callahan, even though I’d probably hate having her as a teacher. Very interesting character!

    Current score: 0
    • Thane of Eurmal says:

      Hmmm. I had a martial arts teacher in University that told amazing stories of Japanese dojos, lancing competitions in the Middle East, and had some kind of infection from river water in SE Asia. He walked completely quietly, and just made the class that much more incredible.

      People like Coach C, if you stop and experience them, really add to the lesson. “Jillybean” rocks.

      Current score: 0
    • Rey d`Tutto says:

      Dang it, I hoped I was the first to catch that one!

      Current score: 0
  15. Iason says:

    I am really liking the characters from chapters past and parallel stories popping up.
    Also greatly appreciating the flow of chapters. I find myself returning on a regular basis instead of “saving up” chapters and reading them in one long sitting. MU and morning tea goes well together.

    Current score: 0
  16. cnic says:

    “Everybody feeling sufficiently mocked?”
    I love the double entendre of how Callahan was mocking people (at least Mack but I bet more) on their way to the mock box.

    Current score: 0
    • Zukira Phaera says:

      My favorite line in the chapter. Made me giggle.

      Current score: 0
    • JN says:

      It’s soooooo not Mack, but I found myself wanting to read something like…

      I surprised myself when I started laughing quietly.

      “Something funny Frybaby?”

      “I was just thinking that there is no way that something as negligible as us feeling ‘sufficiently mocked’ could possibly stop you from mocking us further.”

      I don’t know if Callahan would react by knocking her 15 feet backward or laughing. Maybe by knocking her 15 feet backward then laughing as she gives her a hand up.

      Current score: 0
  17. Silver says:

    The story can only get better with more Coach Callahan. She’s pretty much the only teacher I know who got away with attempted Deicide on a technicality (that it was successful), has killed multiple greater dragons, and walks around campus in dragon-hide armor. Also… “form a circle, children. It’s time to get your murder on.”

    It’s like having classes taught by Mad Moxxi.

    Current score: 0
    • Sailorleo says:

      And now you have me imagining Pandora as the far future of the ToMU world, after some disaster caused magic to go awry: the reason “Maliwan fires 40% more lightning than the leading competitor” is because they recently rediscovered the art of enchantment.

      Current score: 0
    • Erm says:

      “She’s pretty much the only teacher I know who got away with attempted Deicide on a technicality (that it was successful)”

      According to the character Q&A, she was wanted by the IBF because “a successful attempt is still an attempt”. She didn’t get away on a technicality; she was pardoned.

      Current score: 0
  18. Dave says:

    “Steff’s “Jillybean” was either some kind of god-killing abomination in humanoid form, a super soldier bred by the old empire, or some sort of eternal warrior who had fought in every major war of the past several centuries.”

    Or all three…

    Really looking forward to the next chapter. I would have hated having Callahan as a teacher IRL (I still have sour memories of our very mundane PT teacher from 40 years ago), but she’s great to read about!

    Current score: 0
    • Kaila says:

      Hmm. I can’t help but wonder if Callahan would have been kinder(her kind of long-term kindness) than some of my PE teachers when it came to making a kid in a neck-to-hip brace run around in the middle of the day. Kind of like the opposite of taking classes inside due to Mack’s slight elemental weakness to cold.

      Hrm. Callahan can be harsh, but not unreasonably so. It’s like she’s crazy, but in a completely sensible, coldly sane fashion. Or she’s so sane it’s scary.

      Current score: 0
  19. Janus says:

    Y’know, I’ve been looking at all the comments before me, and I’ve been trying to figure out how to uniquely express my appreciation of Callahan, and something felt kind of wrong the whole time.

    Then I realized what it was. Trying to use words to describe my love of this goddess among men/elves/dwarves/ogres/orcs…fuck it, just straight-up goddess of battle. <3

    Current score: 0
  20. The Dark Master says:

    I still would have taken it, though. I had no interest in fighting, and I’d resented the fact that I was required to spend three hours a week one semester learning how to do it.
    The structure of this paragraph seems off, I think it would be better if the ‘though’ was the start of the second sentence rather then the end of the first. Really disgusting the meaning doesn’t really seem to make sense to me.

    Current score: 0
    • bramble says:

      Nah. It’s “I still would have taken it, though [Basic Knife sucked for all the reasons just outlined]. I had no interest in fighting, and I’d resented the fact that I was required to spend three hours a week one semester learning how to do it.”

      The second sentence deals with an idea (Mack wanted to spend as little time as possible on combat classes) that isn’t directly related to that in the previous paragraph (Basic Knife is a waste of everyone’s time). The first sentence connects the two ideas.

      Current score: 0
      • Olorin says:

        Yep, nothing wrong with that first sentence but the comma before the conjunction is another matter.

        “I had no interest in fighting, and I’d resented…”

        Current score: 0
        • Nothing wrong with the comma, either. It’s a compound sentence: two complete sentences each with a subject and a verb, two independent clauses linked together with a coordinating conjunction. A comma is standard in that case.

          The fact that the subject of each component sentence is “I”, referring to the same person in each case, means I could very easily rewrite it as a simple sentence with a compound predicate: “I had no interest in fighting and had resented…”, but it is formally correct as it is written.

          Current score: 0
  21. 'Nym-o-maniac says:

    I am far more amused by the “Frybaby” nickname than I really should be. IDK why.

    But yes, great chapter. Yay for more Callahan!

    Current score: 0
    • Durragh says:

      Me too. There is a scene in the fantastic 4 movie where the human torch is popping a thing of “Jiffy Pop” on his hand, now i keep picturing Mack doing that.

      Current score: 0
      • 'Nym-o-maniac says:

        Damn it. Now you’ve got me picturing that, too.

        Current score: 0
  22. Krista says:

    Oh how I love this chapter! And the next one is going to be simply epic! Loving your work AE!

    Current score: 0
  23. Tomo says:

    I was really starting to like callahan once she stopped being a pointless bitch, and this chapter was glorious.

    also, found a typo:

    “because she easily have pass for a student… a cheerfully psychotic student.”
    weird tensing with “she easily have pass”. probably should be could have easily passed, or she easily passes

    Current score: 0
    • Mickey Phoenix says:

      With all due respect, I think you may have fallen into the trap of accepting Mack’s inner dialog as unbiased. I don’t believe that Coach Callahan was ever being a bitch, much less a pointless one. And while I might accept an epithet like “hardass” (i.e. the kind that tends to get assigned to male characters in the same cases where female characters get “bitch”, he said pointedly), I think you’d have a hard time convincing me that Coach Callahan has ever, or will ever, stop being a hardass.

      On a completely separate topic, I seriously wonder whether any gods would have the cojones to call her on it if Callahan started requiring everyone to refer to her as Coach Khallahan. Given the successful deicide in her past, I can actually see two reasons why the other gods might prefer to let her join the pantheon:

      1) It’s both less embarrassing, and less likely to incite copycats, if a god kills another god than if a mortal does, and
      2) Speaking of cats, “but…who shall bell the cat?” remains a real question in the case of Gillian Gottmorder.

      Third note, regarding that name: “but you f*ck one lousy goat…” In my own, twisted little head-canon, I will now forever hear Callahan respond to “Gillian Gottmorder?” with the above. It delights the shabby little thing I use for a soul.

      Current score: 0
  24. Bannef says:

    She has fighting five times a week? Damn, she’s going to be sore. But of course we’ll all be happy – more Callahan is always a positive. 😀

    Current score: 0
    • bramble says:

      Yessss – Mack suffering a little so that we can have more of Callahan’s antics sounds like a pretty good deal to me.

      Current score: 0
  25. Zathras IX says:

    Archaic notions
    That Wizards should shun the mundane
    Have been dispelled

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  26. Zathras IX says:

    There’s a (*ahem*) tense situation here:

    I had no idea how old Coach Callahan was, but she had to be older than she looked because she easily have pass for a student

    because she could easily have passed for

    Current score: 0
  27. CBob says:

    Someone’s not just a “gym teacher”, she’s a combat instructor. There’s a whole “sense of humor” that goes along with that, esp the one’s with combat exp.

    Current score: 0
    • Dan says:

      You sure you’ve been reading about the same Coach C the rest of us have? Or Mur-Si? Sense of responsibility, maybe. To an extent. But not honor, surely?

      Current score: 0
      • bramble says:

        I believe Cbob said “sense of humor,” not “sense of honor.”

        And Callahan has a sense of humor! At least, I don’t want to be the one to tell her she doesn’t.

        Current score: 0
        • fka_luddite says:

          Actually, Callahan has a strong sense of honor; she just doesn’t apply to settings, like warfare, where it doesn’t belong.

          Current score: 1
      • Burnsidhe says:

        Callahan’s honor currently lies in preparing her students to fight, survive, and win, as best she can.
        The notions of ‘chivalric’ honor, of direct open confrontation on a level playing field, between equally matched opponents, are.. well, there’s a place and time for it, and that’s not most of the time.

        Current score: 0
        • Zukira Phaera says:

          indeed, and she makes no bones about making sure that her students are aware of that. Even if it means taking it to the extent of breaking a few of their bones. (go ahead and groan, I did writing that)

          Current score: 0
  28. Erm says:

    “Some people have a disarming smile. Coach Callahan’s smile would take your arm off at the shoulder.”

    😀

    “Everybody feeling sufficiently mocked?” the coach said once the last person, one of the elven students, had finished with the cabinet. “Good… form a circle, children. It’s time to get your murder on.”

    Callahan is awesome.

    Current score: 0
  29. Potatohead says:

    “That they existed at all was a bit of a bone thrown to the old days when the world divided neatly into categories like users of magic and men who fought.”

    Fighting Men and Magic-Users…Sometimes the best part of reading this story is the subtle (and occasionally unsubtle) digs at D&D. 🙂

    Current score: 0
    • Nony Mouz says:

      No such much a dig as an homage.

      AE plays D&D, donchaknow…

      Current score: 0
      • Cadnawes says:

        People who love something are the most well equipped to make fun of it. 🙂

        Current score: 0
    • drudge says:

      Well if you’re willing to shill out fifty bucks for some kind of splatbook, that division pretty much ends anyway.

      Current score: 0
      • bramble says:

        If you’re playing any rule set written in the past 35 years, that division at least begins to dissolve. The original box set of Dungeons and Dragons, back in the mid ’70s, had three classes – “Cleric,” “Fighting-Man” and “Magic User.”

        Current score: 0
        • Sailorleo says:

          The division was already a dying one when they started organizing the rules into a format that was readable and playable without the rules to a second game.

          Current score: 0
          • cnic says:

            I mean look at the good old red box set of D&D I grew up with in the very early 80s. The Elf class (yes class) was basically a fighter/magic-user.

            Current score: 0
  30. readaholic says:

    That red mock-box has me both worried, and verry interested. Yes, if you want to learn survival skills, Mack seems to have picked the two best teachers for it.

    Current score: 0
  31. Lunaroki says:

    Typo Report

    but she had to be older than she looked because she easily have pass for a student…

    Perhaps that was meant to read “she easily could have passed”?

    you will want to talk the registrar while we’re still in the grace period.

    Missing a “to” after “talk”.

    Current score: 0
  32. John says:

    A nice solid chapter, and I wonder how Mack will cope when facing off against elvish reflexes.

    It seems like there is a tense issue with the second and third paragraphs, though. They’re in present tense, and it is a bit jarring.

    Current score: 0
  33. Pahan says:

    Just a minor nitpick: from Callahan’s monologue, the “or” in the sentence “I mean, that’s how you win a fight: be the last one standing who’s still able or willing to fight.” should be an “and”, I think: either one without the other wouldn’t do one much good. Or, is Callahan misspeaking here?

    Current score: 0
    • Jani says:

      Not really, if nobody else is willing to fight, you win by default (they give up), if nobody else is able to fight, you win be default (they have already been defeated).

      Current score: 0
      • Pahan says:

        But don’t you only win if you are still both able and willing to fight? (Otherwise, there is no winner.)

        Current score: 0
    • Koan says:

      Not really, in that sentence using “or” describes two separate situations in which you’d win: one, being the only person able to still fight as in you still have an arm to swing a weapon with and the opponent doesn’t or two, being the only person willing to fight as in both fighters still have an arm to swing a weapon but your opponent thinks this fight isn’t worth it anymore considering that he has lost or will lose the rest of his limbs or life if this continues.

      Current score: 0
    • SarahTheEntwife says:

      I think she meant “Be the last one standing, either because your opponent is dead or because they have run away”. So you should be both willing and able, but it will vary which quality your foe has lost.

      Current score: 0
      • Pahan says:

        I think that “Be the last one standing, either because your opponent is dead or because they have run away” is equivalent to what I think Callahan should have said. This is an example of De Morgan’s Laws: an opponent either being unable (dead) or unwilling (run away) (or both) means that the opponent is not both able and willing. Therefore, to win, you must remain both able and willing while rendering each opponent not both able and willing, therefore leaving yourself to be the “the last one standing who’s still able [and] willing to fight”.

        Current score: 0
        • Mickey Phoenix says:

          Tell you what–you correct Coach Callahan’s logic and/or grammar, and I’ll pop the popcorn. 🙂

          Current score: 0
  34. Faraway says:

    You know, in the previous chapters Mack was musing how her using a parallel charge of basic disenchant has more merit that enlarging spell, because it has other combat capabilities. So, can her shrinking spell be used on anything other than the staff? Like giving a dagger instead of a sword to the enemy, or making someone’s pants way too tight?..

    Current score: 0
    • Seeker of Spicy Food says:

      Methinks that if there were a way to make pants/other clothes too tight, Steff would be all up-on that.

      …probably literally, knowing her.

      Current score: 0
      • bramble says:

        Well, except that Steff is a necromancy student, not an enchanter like Mack. She may not have the technical skills to pull off something like that.

        Current score: 0
  35. Null Set says:

    I was wondering, where is the best place to discuss stuff like Gift of the Bad Guy or the newsletter content?

    Current score: 0
  36. Month says:

    Oppinion:
    I had no idea how old Coach Callahan was, but she had to be older than she looked because she easily have pass for a student… a cheerfully psychotic student.

    Now, as the others say, the use of “could have passed for…” is the best use of language. But we know that Callahan HAS been mistaken as a student by imps (or was it LAW? I am not certain). I think it HAS been witnessed by Mack. IF that is so, then it is more appropriate for “because she easily have pass for” to be changed into “because she had easily passed as a…”

    Current score: 0
    • Claire says:

      I think “could [easily] pass (for/as)” is the best, because it’s the past tense of each of these two things:

      “Callahan can easily pass for a student…[but she’s older than she looks]” (i.e., we know she can, because she has).

      “Callahan could easily pass for a student…[but she’s older than she looks]” (i.e., because she looks like she totally could).

      I agree that “could have passed” sounds more contrary-to-fact-ish than necessary.

      Also, this is a slightly weird typo report, but I don’t think the above is the only way that the name of the salle has been spelled in the past…

      Current score: 0
      • Null Set says:

        Sweet catch, archive search proves you right. It has only been spelled “Kessherrakh” previously.

        Current score: 0
  37. CB says:

    “I had no idea how old Coach Callahan was, but she had to be older than she looked because she easily have pass for a student… a cheerfully psychotic student.”

    Should be “could easily pass” or “could easily have passed,” perhaps

    Current score: 0
  38. Daez says:

    “So with a little misgivings… she’d said that I could earn an A, but that didn’t mean that I would…”

    Seems like the first part of this sentence should perhaps read something more like,

    “with a few misgivings” or “some” instead of “a little.” I think it’s the plural on misgivings, when paired with “a little.”

    A, nywayhope you had a lovely “hunt for chocolate” day, can’t wait for the monday update!!!

    Current score: 0
  39. Matthew says:

    I didn’t see if anyone else said it, but one of my favorite parts in this chapter is when Callahan said, “…which often means killing the shit out of them.”

    I don’t like hurting people, not in real life. But I love “killing the shit” out of people, inanimate objects and everything else as long as it’s not real. I love violence and destruction, long ago I was able to manipulate myself into enjoying it only if it’s not real. So I don’t take to hurting people.

    Current score: 0
  40. DASHEL says:

    –Callahan reads like a psychotic but retired combat instructor…aka Richard Marino or a couple others that have been documented.

    –interestingly enough, its nice to see how other characters have evolved. Good job, AE.

    –a blog about from a researcher ‘discovering’ the impossibility of Callahan, observing her or even doing an autobiography would be fun. Almost wish I could do that. Fanfic 😉 maybe?

    Current score: 0
    • Zergonapal says:

      Perhaps from the point of view of some incomplete research notes that end abruptly…

      Current score: 0
    • Zia says:

      Dashel — Marino, or Marcinko (SEAL)? I may have more research to do!

      Current score: 0
  41. Bov says:

    we need a “Callahan Body Parts” t-shirt i feel…

    Current score: 0
  42. Oitur says:

    AE: I don’t usually call a typo report on anything other than misspelling. I figure it’s your story & you don’t need my opinion on style or sentence structure or whatever.

    That said, the following sentence jars me a little:
    “I had seen her manage to blend into a crowd of students before, but she definitely had presence when she wanted to.”

    I say so b/c the previous 2 paragraphs were about Mack’s inability to place the student in question–but now Mack’s familiar with her (the kobold’s) ability to blend in? Maybe it’s the “tugging at the corner of [Mack’s] memory”? Maybe it’s just me not catching on.

    Again, I ordinarily hesitate to jump in except in clear-cut cases like spelling errors. I hope to remain your faithful reader & humble servant,

    Oitur

    Current score: 0
    • mafidufa says:

      The ‘her’ in that sentence is Callahan. The transition from the kobold was pretty clear to me, go back and read it again and see if you are still confused.

      Current score: 0
  43. I was going to cut and paste the bits I loved the most, but it ended up being pretty much the entire chapter.

    If I had to pick my doubleplusfavorite bits,
    “Some people have a disarming smile. Coach Callahan’s smile would take your arm off at the shoulder.”

    and

    ““Everybody feeling sufficiently mocked?””

    I <3 Jillian SO MUCH ^_^

    Current score: 0
  44. Kytt says:

    “You’re an AE nerd, right?”

    Why yes I am 🙂 :-L

    Current score: 0
    • Ryzndmon says:

      Self referential PUNishment for the win.

      Current score: 0
  45. HollowGolem says:

    As a sort of stubborn teacher myself, I have to say I love Callahan’s obsession with challenges. Perhaps not the sociopathically violent means she prefers to utilize to overcome most challenges, but her drive to overcome is something that is very likable in the character.

    Current score: 0
  46. sengachi says:

    “Almost” artifact level weapons?

    Current score: 0
  47. Sher says:

    Whats-her-cunt. Funny shit. Love Callahan.

    Current score: 0