Chapter 53: Feather And Shell

on December 16, 2011 in Volume 2 Book 3: Figments & Fragments, Volume 2: Sophomore Effort

In Which Some Sort Of Ridiculous Owl-Turtle Thing Doesn’t Know What It’s Talking About

The night after the dance, I had a dream where I was falling.

It wasn’t a nightmare, exactly… especially not at first. I just found myself within a vast, blank space and a moment later realized that I was falling through it. That part seemed very natural, since there was nothing there to hold me up. It wasn’t particularly scary, because there didn’t seem to be anything for me to land on. There also wasn’t anything around me to grab hold of, or anything to give me some frame of reference for the size or nature of the space… there just wasn’t anything at all, really.

Despite the profound lack of details, there was still a sort of clarity to the dream that unnerved me. I was seeing things strictly from my usual vantage point inside my own head, and while the setting of the dream was unusual, it was consistent… it wasn’t undergoing any weird shifts or jumps that I could tell. My experience with dreams was that when things got this concrete, there was probably an outside influence involved.

I’d just dealt with my own personal outside influence the night before: my father, the man who I’d never met outside of my dreams. This didn’t seem like his style, nor would it be usual for him to visit two nights in a row like this. He was a skulker. As a full-blooded demon, he couldn’t afford to attract too much attention.

The blankness of the setting reminded me of another dream episode I’d had, when the campus had been under the influence of an emissary from one of the less compatible nearby frames of reality. The effects of its presence had made sleeping minds bleed over into each other, and while it hadn’t actually invaded any dreams, there had been another presence… a sort of owl/turtle hybrid that had somehow cobbled itself together out of the unusually literal mind of a living golem. I hadn’t exactly cared for it.

“You take your sweet time coming to the point, don’t you?” it said, suddenly floating very close beside me.

The owl-turtle thing might have looked more turtle than owl, except for the fact that it was bipedal and used its front/top flipper-wings to fly. Actually, once I started thing about it, it might have been slightly more owl than turtle.

“If you were in a hurry, you didn’t have to wait for me figure it out,” I said.

“Actually, I did,” it said. “I needed that last little link to be made by you in order to come all the way over. After spending the last three months in a hole full of Dee’s people I won’t exactly say that your mind’s well-defended, but it ain’t a rusty sieve, either. I might not have been able to find my way in at all, except for two things, the first being that you were there the night I was born.”

“I had the impression you were around before that night,” I said.

The details of my previous meeting with the thing were really spotty… it had been a dream, after all, and it had happened in the midst of a pretty messed-up phase of my life. I knew it had originated in Two’s dreams, though. I had the dim impression that it had somehow crossed over into Dee’s mind, though I was pretty sure that had happened before the night of the fish-beast.

“Oh, I was around,” it said. “But much less real. What’s that rhyme about the golem who becomes a real boy?”

“Little Willy Tinker,” I said. “If you’re real, why are we in a dream?”

“Because I’m a real dream,” it said. “Maybe the first of a kind, I don’t know.”

“Are you saying that the fish-beast’s weird telepathy gave you a physical form?”

“No, no, no,” it said. “You aren’t even listening… I’m still a dream, but now I have a real form. Not physical. But real.”

“What does that mean?”

“It means I can go walkabout without riding Dee’s telepathy, which was always pretty dicey. I mean, if I rode her thoughts into a mind without any psychic powere, there was no guarantee that I could ever get back out of it. And of course, I could never have used her to visit you… wouldn’t have been safe for any of us.”

“But whatever the fish-beast did lets you enter my mind without being ripped to shreds?” I said.

“Kid, what you call the fish-beast is from a place with far weirder things than a little demon hunger,” it said.

“Don’t call me ‘kid’,” I said. “You were only born a year ago.”

“I was,” it said. “But Two and Dee are both older than you are, and I have their experiences and maturity put together plus bits of lots of other folks I’ve managed to pick up. You, included.”

I felt like that should have bothered me, but it didn’t… he didn’t actually have a literal piece of my mind any more than he literally possessed Dee’s. When he left Two, he hadn’t left her a vacant shell. So he was talking about something like an echo of thoughts and memories, a copy.

If it had been a person I’d be seriously concerned about what they might do with that copy or what it might contain. But the owl-turtle thing was thoughts. And on top of that, I had a feeling that it was trying to rile me and I didn’t want to take the bait.

Still, if I wasn’t going to be upset by its declaration, I didn’t really know what to say to it.

“How nice for you,” I said. “I guess everyone should have a hobby.”

“Anyway, don’t you want to know why I picked you to come and visit?” it said. “I mean, come on… this is one of the biggest dorms on campus. Lot of sleeping minds. I could have picked any of them.”

“Maybe you’re limited by proximity,” I said. “Or maybe you can only jump to minds that you have pieces of in your little collection. Maybe you didn’t want to just slink around in the background but you don’t want word getting around that you exist so you chose to bother someone who already knows about you.”

“Maybe, maybe,” it said. “But we’ve been here a week and this is the first time I’ve dropped in that you know about, so maybe you should be thinking about the timing.”

“Are you telling me I shouldn’t trust you?” I said. “Because I already kind of don’t.”

“I’m not the first visitor you’ve had recently, am I?” it said. “I could feel him, you know… feel him coming and going. That’s the other reason I could find my way in, by the way, since you never asked.”

“That’s nice,” I said. “What are you going to do with the information?”

“Lady, I’m trying to help you!”

“The last time we met, you made fun of my level of awareness,” I said. “But I’m perfectly aware of what I dreamed about last night. I don’t know what I think about it, but whatever fresh insights you’re hoping to bring me would be coming from Dee’s mind, and I already know what she thinks.”

“The thing is… I think I could have followed him,” it said. “And I don’t think he felt me, so I don’t think he would have known he was being followed.”

“What exactly would that accomplish?” I asked.

“Don’t know,” the owl-turtle thing said. “I’m a thing that shouldn’t exist, so I’m still learning what I can do. I couldn’t pop out of his head and have a look around, because of the whole no physical body thing and there not being an actual plane of dreams for me to exist on outside of people’s heads, but I could take a look around inside his head. Chances are he knows where he is and what he’s up to.”

“You think you could do that without getting caught?” I asked.

“Don’t know,” it said again. “But I doubt he could do anything if he knew I was there. Dee has been trying to get rid of me for months, and she’s a telepath from a people who make a real study of telepathy.”

“And the man you’re talking about is a centuries-old demon,” I said. “He may or may not be older than any of the people who tried to remove you from Dee’s head, and he’ll have the home ground advantage.”

“Centuries or not, I’m pretty sure he’s never run across anything like me.”

“What are you, exactly?”

“I don’t know,” it said. “Ask me again in a thousand years and I might be a new kind of god. I don’t plan on that, in particular. I’m not aiming for it. But I could see it happening, in the natural course of things. Anyway, what do you care if your old man rubs me out? You don’t like me. Dee doesn’t like me. I’m some sort of ridiculous owl-turtle thing. No one likes me!”

“What do you care if I care? Do you need my permission to go do this?” I asked.

“I need your cooperation if I’m going to help you,” it said. “I’m not about to go risking my unprecedented existence if you’re not going to listen to whatever I find out.”

“I thought you were sure nothing he might do would get rid of you,” I said.

“Pretty sure,” it said. “But hey, even if he’s never seen the likes of me doesn’t mean that he couldn’t crush me using something he learned from other things. I mean, just because you’ve never seen a new type of bug before doesn’t mean you can’t crush it like all the other bugs.”

“So now you’re a bug?”

“Compared to him? Who knows! Maybe he’s a bug compared to me,” the owl-turtle thing said. “I don’t know, I want to find out. And I don’t mind being compared to a bug because I have no ego to speak of. If it’s true, it’s true.”

“So this is just a chance to find out how you stack up against a demon?”

“It’s a chance to find out a lot of things,” it said. “I don’t even know what all! Interesting and important things keep happening near you… maybe not always around you or to you, but you’re on the periphery of so much shit you don’t even know about. This is my way to find out.”

“What are you talking about?”

“I thought we established this: I don’t know,” the owl-turtle thing said. “But big things are coming. Trust me on that. I’ve been inhabiting the dreams of one of the most perceptive people on this campus, and she’s psychically sensitive and divinely connected, to boot. Short of an actual oracle, there isn’t a better vantage point for connecting signs and portents than that.”

“So if I said yes… would you leave right now?” I asked.

“Leave you alone?”

“Leave and follow the trail.”

“Nah, the trail’s gone cold,” it said. “Actually, that’s the other reason I’m asking you. I think for this to really work, I’d need to be inside your head when he shows up, so I can follow him when he leaves.”

“So what you’re really asking me for is permission to live inside my head,” I said.


“No,” I said.

“You would barely know I was here. When you’re awake, I mean.”

“No!” I said.

“I’m not asking you to do anything that isn’t ultimately in your best interest,” it said.

“I think I’m capable of figuring out what is and isn’t my best interest,” I said. “And even if I’m not, I’m entitled to think that I am. If you don’t get out of my head, I’ll start treating you like I treat him.”

“You mean you’ll sit and talk to me?” it said. “Kheesh. You never yet asked me to leave… said no to what I was offering, yes, but I would have left the first time you asked.”

“This is me telling you,” I said.

“And you don’t have to tell me twice,” it said. I might have said something about it stalling, but it was leaving, in a way… it was becoming less distinct. Not really less solid, just less well-defined. I supposed that was what withdrawing a presence from someone’s mind was like. He wasn’t getting farther away, just less there.

“Thank you,” I said. I made a mental note for the next time it showed up… and I was pretty sure there was going to be a next time… to ask it to leave as soon as it started irritating me. I had a feeling it might not be as accommodating as it claimed, but if that proved to be the case then at least I’d have confirmation of my suspicion.

It was hard to say why I disliked the owl-turtle thing so much. The first time we’d met, it had said something about my mother implying that it knew more about her death than I did, which was plainly ridiculous… but I hadn’t exactly been crazy about it before it pulled that one out.

“I’m sorry we couldn’t work something out,” it said as it faded from my mind. “Sorry, and surprised… I really thought you might want to know what he’s done with the pitchfork.”

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56 Responses to “Chapter 53: Feather And Shell”

  1. Aenea says:

    And I’m surprised she didn’t say yes just to move the dang plot forward…

    Current score: 1
    • erianaiel says:

      Come on, this is Mackenzie. When has she ever done the ‘deliberately moving the plot forward’ thing? She gets all stubborn, procrastinates and waffles around until things happen despite her.

      And we all love her for that :]


      Current score: 3
  2. Meeks says:

    Ooh, this could be interesting. I hope the return of the Ridiculous-Owl-Turtle-Thing means we’ll be seeing more of Dee and Two in this book.

    Current score: 1
  3. Tigger says:

    Love the last word. I expect Mack to go “wait? what? What about the pitchfork? Hey! Come back!” 🙂

    Current score: 0
    • Zergonapal says:

      No it was perfect, because I think pretty much everyone thought, or even said out loud, the very same thing 😀

      Current score: 0
  4. erratio says:

    As Elan would say… dun DUN DUNNN

    Current score: 3
  5. Miss Lynx says:

    Oh, Mack. At least think about your options before just automatically being rude to everything. You’re starting to develop better social skills where humans or human-like thing are concerned – is a ridiculous owl-turtle thing really that different?

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

      Well, in her defense, he is kind of invading her head unannounced. She’s had some bad experiences with unwanted nighttime intruders. Plus, the some sort of ridiculous owl-turtle thing does tend to be rather… abrasive.

      Current score: 2
      • Jinzo says:

        How could he announce a contact ? Not real in anyplace but other peoples dreams. As soon as he could get into her dream fully, he announced himself. The owlturtle did what he could, I think.

        And something that can invade your mind at will, should be taken seriously and unless seriously provoked, politely 🙂

        Current score: 0
        • Zergonapal says:

          hmmm not really telepaths have a way of sorta “ringing the doorbell” before they initiate contact.

          Current score: 0
          • Krey says:

            maybe telepaths do, but they have a place to exist outside of your mind to do that from. The ridiculous owl-turtle thing does not.

            Current score: 0
  6. Greenwood Goat says:


    if I rode her thoughts into a mind without any psychic powere,

    That Strigichelonian is certainly getting around. And it’s a bit of a tease, dropping that last comment just before dropping out of Mack’s dreamscape. How do we classify it? It believes itself to be sui generis, and does appear to be jumping from mind to mind rather than spreading like a virus… thus far. However, that’s still going to get it the treatment that every other squatter gets. Perhaps it should give Amaranth a try – she’s both accommodating and broad-minded! >:=)> Then again, it would probably end up bombarded with requests to manifest genitalia… >:=p>

    Current score: 0
    • Zukira Phaera says:

      Lmao, now that would be a sight to behold.

      Current score: 0
    • Erm says:

      > Strigichelonian

      This is a very cool term.

      Current score: 0
      • Greenwood Goat says:

        More importantly, it’s a synonym – something else to call the ridiculous owl-turtle thing until it gets associated with a label that trips off the tongue a little better. >:=)>

        Current score: 0
        • cnic says:

          In my head I just call it R.O.T.T, inspired of course by R.O.U.S (rodents of unusual size).

          Current score: 0
          • Greenwood Goat says:

            That works too! When it comes to cooking up synonyms, we are doing so with gas! Speaking of which… (brings up large volume of methane from stomachs, strikes flint and steel together) **Whoof!**

            Current score: 0
  7. Abeo says:

    “He wasn’t getting farther away, just less there.”

    Mackenzie refers to it as “it” everywhere else.

    Current score: 0
  8. anonamouse says:

    Sounds like the Ridiculous-Owl-Turtle-Thing is a construct of Mack’s dad since it claims not to know his mind, but keeps revealing facts (1:about her Mum, 2: about the pitchfork) that he would know/ want her to know/ want her to think he knows, much like her dad does. She wouldn’t believe her father but may believe a construct/mask. In dreams, things are so malleable it wouldn’t be hard for him to change his form, especially since his ‘form’ is little different than her scenery or clothing.

    Current score: 0
    • Ducky says:

      I was under the impression that it was a construct of Two’s, since she dreamed it up originally. Like it said, it only gained “real” form once Dee took it from her, and it’s been getting more self-aware (and therefore “real” since).

      Current score: 1
  9. Brenda says:

    Or it could be that Mack does know something but has suppressed the memory.

    Current score: 1
    • Zukira Phaera says:

      I am more inclined towards this avenue of thought than to thinking that the critter is a Mack Daddy construct.

      Current score: 0
    • erianaiel says:

      This was strongly hinted at when Mackenzie met the scarecrow in the cursed farm.
      It asked the question ‘what happened to your mother?’, eventually accepting her answer that she did could not remember.
      To me this suggests that the scarecrow knew that the answer was in her head, but eventually agreed that it was impossible for Mackenzie to find it, making her answer a true and honest one (if unsatisfying).
      It was certainly within the power of both her father and her mother to block away those memories, and I am inclined to say that it is not impossible for her grandmother to either have done so herself, or arranged for it being done on her behalf.
      We knew reasonably certain that there is an arrangement between her mother and somebody else (government, father or grandmother) that prohibits her from visiting her children, and it is most likely that this memory block is part of that agreement. Daddy visiting Mackenzie hints that the agreement was not between mother and father…

      Current score: 0
      • Brenda says:

        I think the line the scarecrow finally accepted was “She died. It wasn’t my fault. That’s all I know.

        Current score: 0
  10. Iain of Rockhold, Salushen says:

    Ugh, a chance to be proactive and she turns it down.
    I’ve had D&D players like that… so it’s kind of appropriate

    Current score: 0
    • Zergonapal says:

      Its a bit like the DM trying to railroad you, you want to go offroad just to spite him or her.

      Current score: 1
      • Iain of Rockhold, Salushen says:

        Good point! 🙂

        Current score: 0
      • Zukira Phaera says:

        Reminds me of a session years back.

        ‘yes I know my character failed the identify check on these mushrooms – I know you’re gonna have anyone who fails a save check either be poisoned or hallucinate because of the mushrooms. I still want to make mushroom omelets for breakfast because I know you are going to have us get attacked while we are all fucked up – no my character is not aware of that, but I am and this should be fun even if it will put the party in a very bad position. I just hope my squirrel butt is one of the ones that fails the check!’

        Current score: 0
  11. Zathras IX says:

    It’s not what you don’t
    Know that hurts you, but what you
    Know that isn’t so

    Current score: 2
  12. zeel says:

    I have a new second favorite character (favorite is Two).

    Current score: 0
  13. Anne says:

    OOOOHHH! More about pitchie? What, where, when, how?

    Current score: 0
  14. Tovan says:

    And suddenly, the plot thickens.

    Makes me wonder just how well buried Mack’s secret is. After all, the owl turtle thing is new and different, whats to say that it might be uncovered by the owl turtle thing( or the Mack daddy for that matter).

    Current score: 0
    • Zergonapal says:

      Perhaps it can even see past the block on Macks memories about what happened to her mother.

      Current score: 0
  15. Crissa says:

    Oh, that’s an evil episode!

    And for the first that I specifically read the day it came out, too, so I can’t just, you know, click the next chapter.

    Current score: 0
  16. Giriath says:

    I’m sad that Mackenzie is still not all that bright. It fits her character and is kind of endearing, but it also irritates me when she denies and avoids opportunities to acquire information about topics that may be uncomfortable, but also immensely important, until it is absolutely essential to do so–at which point all advantages that may have been gained by having the information beforehand are lost.

    Sure, being suspicious of possible misinformation and other dangers is healthy and wise, but the prospect of gaining immensely important and helpful information is something that requires more thought than a few seconds, I think.

    The Ridiculous-Owl-Turtle-Thing might even have given her time to think about it, and discuss it with others, had she asked for it, or given her some of the information it claimed it has, if it it meant potentially improving its chances of being let into her head and following Mack Daddy, or whatever its purpose is.

    Outright denying its proposition without any attempt to weasel some information out of it is, I think, essentially like saying: “Look, these ‘big things’ you claim are going to happen, may or may not include me, my friends and everyone I’ve ever cared about meeting terrible ends–that just might be preventable if it were known by anyone other than just you, but even if that’s so, I don’t want to know or think about it. I have enough problems with my university campus life, as is.”

    Current score: 0
    • Tamina says:

      Absolutely – especially since both Two and Dee have actually had this thing in their heads and could probably offer some insight. When your life is as full as Big Dangerous Problems as Mack it’s sensible to actually seek information and options.

      Although, I just had a thought – Her knee-jerk reaction against someone in her mind could be an effect of having Embries mess around with her head.

      Current score: 0
      • Zukira Phaera says:

        Being that it is riding around in Dee’s head, if she reconsiders she could always mention it to Dee and ‘invite it over’ so to speak.

        Current score: 0
    • erianaiel says:

      Mackenzie treats the ridiculous owl-turtle thing as another demonic intrusion.
      Given what so far has been trying to play headgames with her I can not find fault with her immediate and total rejection. Especially since it comes so close on the nasty trick her father played on her.

      Not to mention that the ro-tt essentially plays the same dirty trick on its disappearance. That is not going to endear it to Mackenzie should the two meet again some night.

      And regarding the pitchfork. I wonder if Mackenzie ever told her lawyer about it and what it did to her. It would get Lee drooling just thinking at the settlement they could force out of the university when they can show that a professor knowingly gave a demon infested artifact to a half demon girl. A reckless endangerment suit is the least he could slap the university with. Criminal neglect is pretty much a given too, and with just a little proof of the professor having a bias against part demons he could aim for an attempted homicide. Though if that were to happen the story probably would have to be renamed as while Mackenzie’s study (including post-doc and doctoral) and subsequent purchase of her own enchantment lab would all be paid for by the MU, she herself would have to continue her study at a different university (losing a couple of hundred thousand platinum in a settlement leaves any burocracy disgruntled and more than a little vengefull).

      Current score: 0
      • fka_luddite says:

        Mack did tell Lee about the pitchfork (or should that be “the Pitchfork”), his response was basically that bringing it up would simply complicate suit unduly and thus could negatively affect the arbiter.

        Current score: 1
  17. TJK says:

    “You don’t like me. Dee doesn’t like me. I’m some sort of ridiculous owl-turtle thing. No one likes me!”

    We like you, Ridiculous Owl-Turtle Thing!

    Current score: 0
  18. anna says:

    Typo happen:

    “once I started thing about it”


    Current score: 0
  19. Erm says:

    I really thought you might want to know what he’s done with the pitchfork.

    That line really blows it. Mackenzie is right in not trusting this creature an inch, I think. She shouldn’t brush off its offer; it may not be evil and it may be of use against her father – but it is clearly manipulative and has ulterior motives.

    Current score: 0
    • Will says:

      I concur, if the owl turtle thing really wanted to help/gain Mack’s trust why did he leave that little tit bit for last.

      Current score: 0
  20. Abeo says:

    The owl-turtle thing seems almost too honest. To the point of appearing dishonest, or as though it is hiding something. Which I don’t think it is.

    Current score: 0
    • Brenda says:

      Well, as Captain Jack Sparrow said, “Me, I’m dishonest. And a dishonest man you can always trust to be dishonest. Honestly! It’s the honest ones you want to watch out for…”

      Current score: 0
    • Eris Harmony says:

      That might have something to do with whose mind it was born from.

      Current score: 0
    • Zukira Phaera says:

      Nothing could be that naive and innocent…. unless it was born yesterday. Well, for all that it talks about having been influenced by the additional maturity of Dee, Two and so forth it was only born last year. It might have some maturity but it does lack in sophistication.

      Current score: 0
  21. Kallio says:

    Last chapter Mercy gets mentioned, this chapter the Pitchfork? All my favorite storylines are coming back all at once!

    Current score: 0
    • Jalben says:

      Gearing up for tag team round of Granny and the Chancellor vs The Man and Mercy.

      Current score: 0
    • Bilbo says:

      I just got the image of evil Mack stabbing Mercy with the Pitchfork.


      Current score: 0
  22. Sean O'Braun says:

    I’m just waiting for the day she gets really really mad in her combat class, gets disarmed, reaches out for her staff and grabs her pitchfork.

    Current score: 0
  23. ylistra says:

    I’m with Mack on this.

    We’ve established ROTT can absorb some of the personality and knowledge of the people it inhabits. Do we really want it to have access to 1000 years of Demonic sensibilities and know-how?

    Mentioning Pitchy is a little weird, and makes me distrust it even more. I’d think info on Mack Mommy would have been a better card to play if it was really on the level.

    Current score: 0
  24. AJ says:

    I’m guessing “Actually, once I started thing about it” should really be “Actually, once I started to think about it” =)

    Current score: 0
  25. Anthony says:

    Just the night before,
    Mackenzie had dealt with her own
    personal demon.

    Current score: 1
  26. Stone says:

    That’s a brilliant answer to an inesertting question

    Current score: 0
  27. Mickey Phoenix says:

    I’m really quite fond of the ROTT. I hope Mack reconsiders, and takes it up on its offer.

    Current score: 0