Chapter 73: All That We See Or Seem

on March 16, 2012 in Volume 2 Book 3: Figments & Fragments, Volume 2: Sophomore Effort

In Which Some Of You Will Have A Song Stuck In Your Head By The End

I was in my bed, in the dorm room, but something about the abruptness of the transition… or the lack of a transition… had me on guard. I’d never woken up that quickly before. Even when something jarred me awake, there were still the moments of confusion where my eyes were figuring out what they were looking at and my body was figuring out where it was.

Still, if I hadn’t just gone through something similar with the owl-turtle thing, I might not have thought anything of it… but with that example firm and fresh in my mind, I could only think one thing: something had been waiting for me.

And since the owl-turtle thing had just left, there weren’t exactly a whole lot of contenders for prime suspect.

That was assuming that I was still dreaming, of course. There was an easy way to confirm that: waking up. If it worked, I’d know that I had been sleeping… and that my father was getting trickier. If it didn’t, that meant I was awake.

I hoped, anyway.

After learning how to force myself awake from a dream, I had never failed to wake up… but I’d always worried in the back of my head that maybe he’d been letting me get away.

I tried to will myself awake, and nothing happened. I couldn’t even feel the place inside my head where I’d trigger it, the mental muscle I’d need to flex. I tried closing my eyes and opening them purposefully, and then I tried jerking my body a little in imitation of jerking awake… both exercises that Teddi had suggested, but that I’d never really needed. It had always been fairly easy to awaken myself when I knew I was dreaming, and I’d always known I was dreaming when I had an outside influence imposing lucidity on the scene.

So I was probably awake… probably.

Ian was asleep next to me, just as he should have been. Well… he usually slept more on top of me. But it was a bigger bed, and we were alone in it, so it was possible that we’d spread out a bit in our sleep. I didn’t want to wake him just yet, because it would be embarrassing if it turned out I really was awake and nothing was wrong… and because I felt a bit afraid of what might actually wake up if I was in an induced dream. I doubted that the man’s repertoire extended as far as the aura-figment-conjuring trick, but that didn’t mean he couldn’t dream up something nasty and shape it like Ian.

Thinking about waking up Ian had given me an idea about something he probably wouldn’t have thought of and probably couldn’t fake. If I could wake up Dee, then I’d know I was awake.

“Dee?” I said quietly.

There was no response, and I remembered she’d taken a sleeping potion to counter her heightened physical sensitivity. She’d be out for the night, even without a sound-canceling wall.

On TV shows, people pinched themselves or each other to find out if they were dreaming or not, but that didn’t seem compelling to me. If you pinched yourself and felt nothing, that could be a sign that you were dreaming… but couldn’t you dream that something hurt? Impossible or unlikely things were a good sign that one was dreaming, but possible and ordinary things didn’t prove that one was awake.

I realized that the curtain was open at the foot of the bed. I was almost sure that was wrong, because I liked the feeling of being closed in when I was sleeping… but I had no specific memory of having done so when going to bed. We hadn’t had the four-poster bed long enough for it to be an ingrained habit or matter of course.

“You might as well come out,” I said. “I know you’re there.”

It seemed safe enough… if there wasn’t anybody there to hear it, then nobody would ever know I’d been wrong.

There was a low, dry chuckle and then he came into view in the narrow gap at the foot of the bed. He was just turning to face me, like he’d been hiding with his back to a pillar and was pivoting into sight.

“What exactly are you trying to accomplish with this?” I said.

“Just trying to make you comfortable,” he said. “Whatever… private business… you were conducting, it left me with a little more time to set the stage, so I made use of it. I don’t mind waiting, of course. You have your own life.”

The nonchalant act sounded pretty good… I mean, he actually sounded nonchalant. If I had only paid attention to his words and his voice, I might have been taken in… but they didn’t distract me from his actions. Between setting things up to look like I was awake and blocking me from waking up in reality… yeah, whatever he wanted, there was nothing innocent about it.

“I’d like to get back to it,” I said. “Let me go.”

“I’m not touching you,” he said, holding up his hands and taking a big step back… bigger than the space should have allowed, but this was still a dream and dimensions were a bit flexible.

I tried to wake myself up again, just to verify that I couldn’t.

“You’re holding me here,” I said.

“If I could do that, don’t you think I would have before?” he asked. “I mean, if I had any interest in imposing myself on you against your will, like you seem to think I do.”

“You know I don’t want you here,” I said. “And you keep showing up. So, yes, I do think you’d do it… just as soon as it seemed advantageous, or necessary. You’re worried.”

“Yeah, I’m worried,” he said. “You’re messing around with powers you don’t understand… and now you can’t wake up? You’re damn right I’m worried, and you should be worried to.”

“That’s got nothing to do with it,” I said. I didn’t add that I’d dealt with the owl-turtle thing without problems before, or that it had no power to leave any influence behind when it left… no matter how vaguely I couched it, I’d certainly be giving something away. “This is all you.”

“I didn’t cause your problem, but if you’ll give me just a little trust, maybe I can help fix it,” he said.

“I’m sure you can,” I said. The righteous rage I’d felt at the end of my last encounter with him was still there somewhere, but the edge of it had been filed off by my initial uncertainty. Of course, that could have been by design. “Why were you hiding?”

“I wasn’t hiding, I was otherwise engaged,” he said. “I got here, saw the door was closed, and decided to wait until you were available… and take care of a few things while I waited. I didn’t know exactly when you’d be ‘out’, though, so I just checked back every few minutes.”

“Your innocent act would work a lot better if I hadn’t felt you testing my defenses,” I said.

Your defenses?” he said. “Listen, I’m not one to trespass where I’m not wanted, or else I might have recognized what was going on without having to get ‘hands on’ with it. Wasn’t I careful about it? Did I actually bust in on you when you clearly wanted privacy?”

“What kinds of things did you have to take care of?” I asked. I knew as I said it that it was the wrong thing to say… that I should have pressed the point that he was one to trespass where he wasn’t wanted and he didn’t respect my privacy, or my decisions. But the curiosity was there.

“Tell you what,” he said. “Let’s just be completely honest with each other… I’ll tell you what I was getting up to and you tell me what you were.”

It was a response I probably should have seen coming.

“Didn’t you say that my life was my business?” I said.

“Broadly… but I’m trying to build some trust here,” he said. “The specifics don’t matter. The important thing is that we open up to each other a little.”

“I’d like to wake up now,” I said. “If you really have nothing to do with me being stuck asleep but you can help me escape, and you’re really interested in my well-being… if you’re really motivated by nothing more than a desire to be a good father… you’ll do what you can to help me.”

“Of course I will, princess,” he said. “But it’s not as easy as waving a magic wand, and anyway I left mine in my other suit.”

“Uh huh.”

“Now, maybe if I knew what you were doing when you got caught… what kind of power you were involved with, exactly… then I could maybe get to work on undoing the influence that’s keeping you here. But right now I don’t have anything more to go on than your report that you can’t wake up.”

“So your plan is to keep me here until I tell you what I’m up to,” I said. I glanced at the spot on the bed where Ian had been… he was no longer there. “I’m guessing that’s actually your fall-back plan, with the original plan being to make me think I was awake and let me talk to Ian long enough to see what I’d spill to him.”

“Whoever’s been getting to you has given you some twisty thoughts, girl,” he said, shaking his head. “I wish I knew who you were talking to just so I’d know where these ideas are coming from… doesn’t a man have the right to face his accuser?”

“You’re facing her,” I said. “These are my thoughts, and you won’t make me doubt them. And as far as I’m concerned, no, you don’t have the right to see me. I keep telling you that I don’t want you in my life, and you keep not listening.”

“I hear you,” he said. “I told you, I only came back because I’m worried about you…”

“I’m not yours to worry about,” I said. I laid back on the bed and closed my eyes. I knew it wouldn’t end the dream, but maybe I could dream I was going to sleep. “If what you’re doing is going to stop me from waking up normally when my body’s done sleeping, Ian’s still going to wake up in the morning, and he’ll be able to get… help.”

I’d almost said “Dee”, but I wanted to cultivate the habit of not giving even small things away about who was helping me and what they could do.

“So we’re just going to sit here for the rest of the night,” he said.

“You can leave.”

“Maybe I can’t,” he said. “You ever think of that?”

“You’re talking about it like it’s a hypothetical situation and there’s no way of knowing for sure,” I said. “Leave, or try to and tell me that you can’t.”

“I just don’t want to try anything drastic when I don’t fully understand what all has been going down in your head,” he said.

“Drastic as trying to leave?”

“I don’t know if that’s drastic or not,” he said. “I don’t know what’s been hanging around. I don’t know what you’ve done. Safer just to stay put.”

“Whatever,” I said, still lying back with my eyes closed. I thought about closing the curtain between us, but then decided to go a step further and threw adamantine shutters all around the bed.

With that done, I thought about filling up the space beyond them or removing it… but that wouldn’t keep him out of the dream, and it wouldn’t leave him anywhere else to be but inside the bed with me, and I did not want to go there.

There was a scraping sound of metal on metal, and then his voice echoed inside the little chamber. I left my eyes closed anyway.

“I can see you want to be alone…”

“Weren’t you just trying to win points by telling me how much you respected my privacy?”

“That was with a real barrier, not just the dream of one.”

“If you had any real respect for me, you wouldn’t need a barrier. You’d just need my word that I don’t want you around.”

“Sometimes parents know better than their children.”

“Too bad for you, I’m an adult,” I said.

“Is that what you think?”

“It’s what Imperial law and custom thinks,” I said.

“Too bad for you, I’m not a citizen of the Imperial Republic,” he said. “I’m outside the bounds of law and custom.”

“So when does demon law say that I’m an emancipated adult, exactly?” I asked. “When does your fatherly obligation expire according to infernal customs?”

“I’ll treat you like an adult when you act like one,” he said. “And if I see your life is in danger, I’ll do what I have to keep you safe whether you want it or not.”

“Is my life in danger now?”

“I might be able to tell you if I knew…”

I mentally slammed the port he’d opened shut in his face. It felt like lashing out, but doing it just made me angry… or made a path for my anger to come to the surface. I blew the whole panel out in his direction in a bunch of tiny fragments… maybe I couldn’t make him believe he was injured, but he did believe that he was knocked backwards by an explosion.

And pinned to the wall by the adamantine shards, I added as an afterthought as I sort of levitated myself upright, the whole bed/cell falling away around me.

I opened my eyes, and I couldn’t tell if the look on his face was fear, or just surprise… but I liked it.

“Back to the same thing again,” I said. “Who am I talking to? What am I doing? You just can’t let go of that, can you?”

“No one else has a right to mess around with my daughter,” he said.

“That might be the most honest thing you’ve told me yet,” I said. “You want to know something? You aren’t even slick about it… you act slick, but you’re not. You’re just slimy. The sad thing is that maybe if you’d got to me first, it would work… and no, I don’t mean before… my current alliance.” That seemed vague enough… better than “ally” since it could be a collective noun. “I mean before anybody else tried this ‘I know best, I only want what’s best for you’ routine.”

“Oh, yeah, your precious Amaranth gives you enough of that to recognize it, I suppose,” he said, his face twisting into a truly demonic sneer. He stepped forward as if the shards of metal he had to pass through offered no more resistance than a stiff breeze, and dusted off his suit, repairing it in the process.

“I didn’t mean her… but she does have a problem with thinking she knows best, yeah,” I said. “But we all have flaws. The difference is that she actually does have my interests in mind and she does care about me. She’s been wrong about what my interests are, but she tries. And she learns.”

“She’s always going to think she knows best, though.”

“People are allowed flaws.”

“And what about me?” he asked. His eyes smoldered, literally. “Am I not people?”

“You’re not mine,” I said. “And I’m not yours.”

“So are we going to throw each other into walls until you wake up?”

“That’s really up to you,” I said.

“The day will come when you’re falling and need me to catch you.”

“I look forward to hitting bottom,” I said.

His eyes narrowed.

“I still have your pitchfork.”

“And as long as you have something of mine, that’s one more reason not to trust you,” I said. “No matter how much I might want it back, that’s not going to keep me from noticing that you’re trying to manipulate me with it. Like I said, you’re not half as slick as you think you are.”

“You sound like her when you’re angry,” he said.


“I don’t mean your mother,” he said. “I mean hers. No compromises, everything’s black and white, no interest in anyone’s point of view…”

“We’re inside my head,” I said. “There is only one point of view that belongs here.”

“So this is going to be what it’s like every time we see each other?” he said. “You blow your top and start making big sweeping threats that you can’t back up?”

“If you get sick of it, all you have to do is stop coming here,” I said. I swallowed the urge to say something about what I could or couldn’t back up, because again it would just give something away. At the moment he knew nothing except for my own relative powerlessness, but he was still worried.

“No.And do you know why? Because I have faith in you. I think you’re more mature than you realize,” he said. “More mature than you’re letting on. I think you’re going to get sick of this game before I do. That’s why I’m not giving up on you… why I’m never going to give up on you.”

“You really mean that, don’t you?” I asked. “You’re never going to give me up, are you?”

“Never,” he said.

“Then I’m not going to regret what happens to you one tiny little bit,” I said, and I reached out with my mind and shoved him away as hard as I could.

In terms of actual effects, it was kind of anti-climactic. He rocked back on his heels and slid back about an inch, maybe… but even so, it seemed to stop him short.

“Well, now,” he said, looking down at his slightly ruffled clothing. “That’s interesting.”

And then I really woke up.

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88 Responses to “Chapter 73: All That We See Or Seem”

  1. JN says:

    this is the dream that never ends…


    Current score: 1
    • Lunaroki says:

      Yes it goes on and on my friends.

      Current score: 1
      • fman0801 says:

        Some people started dreaming it, not knowing what it was.

        Current score: 1
        • bangle says:

          And they’ll keep on dreaming it forever just because…

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          • tomo says:


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          • Stonefoot says:

            OK, I give up. This sounds very familiar but I can’t place it. What is the name of the song?

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  2. alashara says:

    anyone else feeling that she might have a few subtle arts gifts that just never got discovered?

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    • Oni says:

      That was my assumption there at the end as well.

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    • Zukira Phaera says:

      I have a bad feeling that “well now” was a tad bit smug.

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    • 'Nym-o-maniac says:

      That was my thought, too. Of course, I thought that when the eyeless fish-beast was bending reality around it, too, and that didn’t pan out… still, given her mother, it would be possible.

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      • Lunaroki says:

        Not just possible. I have rather suspected for some time now that maybe that was one of the big reasons the Man chose Mackenzie’s mother in the first place.

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        • 'Nym-o-maniac says:

          Yeah, I always read it that way. The real question is if his attempt to get a subtle arts-talented half-demon daughter succeeded after all.

          Current score: 1
        • Alashara says:

          So have I actually. Unfortunately I never really thought much beyond it but now that this chapter has seemed to bring it to the fore I can’t help but remember several occasions that can tie into it.

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        • nemka says:

          Mack’s mom had a sort of mental persuasion thing going though, not telekenesis. Also, as cool as it is, I’m not sure how much it applies given that this is a dream. If you’re lucid enough to control a dream you can make most anything happen, because it is inherantly outside of reality. does being able to mentally shove him in her own mind equate being able to shove an object in reality?

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    • Snuffa says:

      well, there were hints at it before – remember, at one of the previous chapters describing some party she sort of relaxed, unfocused and started picking up other people’s thoughts, while staying completely oblivious to the fact? this came shortly after one of the chapters about her mother, too – definitely a hint.

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  3. DarkSage says:

    Way To Go MACK !!
    Personally I think he’s nervous because Mack’s,powers
    are starting to mature faster then he expected. Plus,a tad stronger then he thought. “Up the Mackensie” !!

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  4. Anthony says:

    If he’s never going to give her up, she’d better always be on her guard and not disappoint him, or he’d feel all let down by her poor efforts… 😉

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    • Lyssa says:

      Ye gods.

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    • Kevin Brown says:

      well its only a good thing if hes never gonna give her up never gonna let her down, never gonna turn around and desert her.

      and that’s not really likely… though he might plan to dessert her too.

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  5. pedestrian says:

    Alexandra, all I’ve got to say is WOW!!!

    This chapter blows my mind.

    You have constructed a brilliant plot twist in these few hundred words.

    Brava! Bravissima!!

    Current score: 1
  6. P says:

    Alexandra Erin, I really love what you’ve done with Mackenzie’s father. I was one of the people who originally felt like Mackenzie should be willing to interact with him more and not dismiss him just because he is a demon (and prior to him she had only learned about demons second hand). You’ve done a REALLY good job of showing how, more than anything about his background, his disregard for the boundaries of other people is a huge red flag that people should not discount just because he’s a smooth talker.

    This was something I learned very slowly myself, but now I start to get nervous around people who do certain things, even if I like them a lot. And I know when to decide they’ve crossed a line and step away from those people unless there are literally no other options (say if you’re imprisoned or at risk of starving).

    It is very revealing that Mackenzie only was allowed to wake up when her father learned that she might be able to hurt HIM and not just the other way around. Sure he is stronger, but suddenly there IS a risk and he is not 100% in control, so he runs away. I suppose there is no other way that someone like him could survive so long.

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    • Lyssa says:

      I suspect that it wasn’t entirely because of what he had learned so much as the fact that he was trying to learn something about her, learned it, and was done with her now. I don’t think he “ran away” either. He just finished doing what he had planned to do.

      To clarify: I think he wanted to learn what was different about her, and hopefully learn what had influenced her. He couldn’t learn the latter, that much was clear, but he was able to get a decent idea of where she stands with him now, in terms of ability. She can move him, she can control her environment to some extent, and she can affect him. Now he knows more about her abilities, which is what he wanted, I think.

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      • P says:

        That makes sense. However, by leaving suddenly he basically admitted that he was keeping her there, which would mean that he is now not even trying to pretend that he respects her. I hadn’t thought about how much she was giving away, though, and I’m sure that influenced his decision to leave.

        THAT would be interesting too. Leaving as soon as he has what he wants.

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        • zeel says:

          “Leaving as soon as he has what he wants.”

          He has a history of doing just that.

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          • Lunaroki says:

            Be that as it may, I seriously don’t think he was what kept Mack from waking up. Remember, the Owl-Turtle Thing was just in her mind, and it brought over a defensive construct from Dee’s mind. Who knows what else it might have tracked over with it? There was a clue in this chapter, when Mack recalled that Dee had taken a sleeping potion and wouldn’t be waking up if she called out to her. Dee had been under the effect of the sleeping potion when she contacted the ROTT to notify it that Mack wanted to see it. Anybody else think that it accidentally brought the effect of the potion along with it when it brought over the defensive barrier to allow it to speak with Mack privately? I’m thinking this is why Mack Daddy didn’t know what was keeping Mack asleep, since he still doesn’t truly know about the ROTT. I figure she suddenly woke up because it’s now morning and the effect of the potion has worn off.

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            • Lyssa says:

              No, I honestly think he was doing it and just bullshitting.

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            • P says:

              One issue I have with “He just suddenly left after he had what he wanted” is that it doesn’t fit with his past behavior, where he tries to make it out like everything he does is something nice/good for Mackenzie. I would at least expect something like “Interesting. If you really don’t want me here then I can try to leave again, but watch out for (something vaguely threatening but not helpful).”

              He was PROBABLY doing it though, even though the Lunaroki’s drug idea is plausible.

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            • Lyssa says:

              How many of the things he did tonight were abnormal for him, though? As far as we know, he usually shows himself immediately. Hiding is abnormal for him. Are you going to claim that he wasn’t really hiding, either, and that Mackenzie was wrong to assume so? That he really was just “otherwise engaged?”

              He’s been fairly consistent so far, but not with tonight’s dream. A lot of what happened here was abnormal behaviour for him. He was a lot more transparent in this dream than he has been in the past. His “true colours” are coming through, and I think the way he exited was a part of that.

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            • P says:

              There was a potential benefit to him hiding, though, whereas there was no benefit to him leaving suddenly and at least a small cost. If he did it intentionally then he made an irrational decision, whereas the choice to hide could have come after a calculated decision to take the risk of being found out. He definitely kept trying to justify what he was doing as being good for Mackenzie.

              I just thought of another possibility though. What if Mackenzie pushing him surprised him so much that it broke his concentration and prevented him from doing whatever it was that was keeping Mackenzie from waking up? That makes more sense to me than either of our explanations.

              [Edit: Also, I want to say that it is so cool that you have actually been responding to me and having a conversation. I feel like a lot of times people comment on things without actually caring about what other people have to say. They just want to “have their say.” I don’t relate to that at all and if I didn’t want to hear from other people then I would keep my thoughts to myself, even I suppose there could still be valid reasons to say something anyway at some point.

              I guess I also don’t “casually” talk to other people as much so it is fun to talk to someone about something we are both interested in. Thanks for doing that, especially since I don’t comment here very often.]

              Current score: 0
            • zeel says:

              That was my initial thought, but he seems like he would know better.

              I don’t like the potion effect idea, seems like Mackenzie would need to actually consume it to be effected.

              Current score: 0
            • P says:

              Maybe it’s not a matter of what he knows, but that keeping Mackenzie there when she is consciously trying to wake up requires constant attention. And when he his attention wavered for just a second Mackenzie woke up.

              Mackenzie had her eyes closed and was putting all her effort into waking up and forcing her father away, so that might have been enough to require conscious effort to counter, even if it wasn’t very hard for him to do.

              Current score: 0
            • Lyssa says:

              Aw, shucks. Thank you very much. 🙂

              Current score: 0
            • nemka says:

              I don’t know if the potion effect theory is solidly plausible. The potion is alchemical, its effect a physical magic. On the ideas the story is built on, I don’t think there would be a tangible effect, like not being able to wake up, in someone who has no contact with the alchemical cause.

              Which I just noticed was brought up more concisely a few boxes up.

              Also, as entertaining as he can be, let us not forget that the Man is a manipulative dick. Whose file is older than Law. And who is likely quite powerful and dangerous.

              Current score: 0
  7. em7 says:

    kind of a hidden rick-roll there…
    very interesting chapter! not sure i’ve been this freaked out by the situation for a while. wow!!!

    Current score: 0
  8. anon y mouse says:

    “I’ll do what I have to keep you safe” – have to do to keep you safe?

    “No.And do you know why?” – needs a space after No.

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  9. Dani says:

    > And then I really woke up.

    Maybe. 🙂

    Current score: 0
  10. Christy says:

    Aw man, you should have SEEN the grin on my face when I read the part about Mack blasting the port in her dad’s face!

    Current score: 0
  11. NatalieF says:

    “All That We See Or Seem…
    Is but a dream within a dream.”

    A great head-nod to Edgar Allan Poe.

    Also, now I have the 80s Propaganda song of this title as an ear-worm.

    Current score: 1
  12. ASeriesOfWords says:

    Was I the only one reminded of Jack Sparrow with The Man’s last line?

    Current score: 1
    • zeel says:

      Totally, looks like he did not expect anything like that to happen.

      Current score: 0
    • AylaSophia says:

      I’ve always been reminded a little bit of Jack Sparrow in The Man, though more of a Southern Gentleman style than pirate. The way he cheerfully manipulates everyone around him to his own advantage, finding new depths of untrustworthiness even after everyone has learned not to trust him, and doing it all with flair and style… Of course, Cap’n Jack is more Chaotic Neutral/Good (depending on your perspective), while The Man is just plain Evil. (Neutral Evil, I suppose, in D&D terms.)

      That said, The Man is one of the most interesting villains I’ve ever seen. (And I’m a literature PhD who specialises in melodrama, so believe me, I’ve seen my share of literary villains. :-P) Personally, I find the evolution of his slick-as-a-snake smooth talker persona into a more overtly abusive manipulator fascinating, because unfortunately I’ve met a couple of him in real life and I can absolutely recognise the signs. (And I wish I’d had the wherewithal that Mackenzie does to see is. I guess she has the benefit of knowing that her abuser is literally demonic, though.) AE is pretty darn brilliant.

      Current score: 1
      • pedestrian says:

        I agree that your summary of Daddy Dearest is spot on.

        Current score: 0
  13. zeel says:

    I love this kind of thing, when the fantasy elements really come out. Incredible work.

    (Also, anyone think Inception for a while there?)

    Current score: 0
  14. Abeo says:

    I’m guessing that her push actually separated their minds from one another far enough that it disrupted whatever he was doing to keep her asleep.

    Current score: 0
  15. Readaholic says:

    Two Earworms, actually.

    This is my dream that never ends
    Yes it goes on and on, my friend.
    My daughter started dreaming it not knowing what it was
    And she’ll continue dreaming it forever just because

    I’m no stranger to you
    You know the rules, and so do I
    A full control is what I”m thinking of
    You won’t get this from any other guy
    I’m gonna tell you how I”m feeling
    Gotta make you understand

    Never gonna give you up,
    Never gonna let you go,
    Never gonna let you run and escape me.
    Gonna try and make you fry,
    Never gonna say goodbye,
    Always gonna tell a lie and hurt you.

    I’ve known about you for so long,
    Your mind is stubborn but
    I’m gonna break it.
    Inside we both know what’s been going on
    We know the game I’m gonna make you play it
    And if you ask me what I”m feeling
    Don’t tell me you’re to dumb to see

    Never gonna give you up,
    Never gonna let you go,
    Never gonna let you run and escape me…

    Current score: 1
  16. Ermarian says:

    “You’re never going to give me up, are you?”


    “And then I really woke up.”

    OR DID SHE? (*dun* *dun* *dun*)

    Current score: 1
  17. Iain says:

    I still mourn the loss of the Buffy Scenario.
    Although if the weapon only works if the person getting hit believes it should, then… by the elements… what if the ROTT summoned Mackenzie’s grandmother, sword of righteous fury and all?

    (reciprocal grandmother issues notwithstanding)

    Current score: 0
    • Oni says:

      The basic flaw that I can see there is that Mack has no visualization of her grandmother like that. She’s heard the stories, but all she knows of her grandmother is that she’s an old woman, extremely sternly religious, and can perform exorcisms. I think she’d have a harder time creating a “mental construct” of her grandmother as a paladin as opposed to constructing a simpler weapon.

      Current score: 0
  18. Readaholic says:

    Post the second

    The Man thinks Mack’s mum was the dream visitor, I’m betting, since Mack got the strength of mind to push him away. As far as he’s concerned, that means she’s broken her word, so he is now free to do what he wants. Or at least, it’s an excuse to for him to either contact Lauren, or do something else slimy.

    An interesting question – is The Man, lawful evil or neutral evil? That is, is he, by his very nature, unable to break his word however much he may wish to, or is he able to break his word but is cunning enough keep it when necessary? I’m inclined to the “able to break it if he wants” idea myself.

    Current score: 0
    • Ylistra says:

      Definitely not Lawful, as he’s bound by his word not to contact Mack in the first place. The only truth in the mess is intended to make you doubt if everything else is a lie. Even the obvious lies are intended to misdirect you from even noticing the things he actually want to conceal.

      In fact I think Neutral is a stretch, since he’s the type to screw with you just because he can get away with it.

      Current score: 0
      • tjhairball says:

        Lawful doesn’t always mean scrupulously keeping your word. Lawful Good and Lawful Evil types both have been known to break promises, the former for the greater good and the latter because they left themselves a loophole.

        Even LN types sometimes break promises when they get overwrought.

        Current score: 0
        • Kevin Brown says:

          If he was Lawful I don’t think an organization dedicated to fighting Chaos would have much of a problem with him.

          Current score: 0
    • AylaSophia says:

      I’d think Neutral, as his evil seems to be 100% self-serving, no allegiance to any code or structured but also not causing trouble for its own sake. And I disagree with Ylistra’s argument that he will screw with people just to get away with it– we have absolutely no evidence of this ever happening. The occasions we know of him interfering with human lives have been very direct and purposeful. Of course, he’s probably got plenty of irons in the fire, and he may well go around causing chaos for the fun of it, but we’ve never seen it happen. So yeah, Neutral Evil seems best fit to me.

      Current score: 1
    • Dave says:

      He’s definitely not a D&D character, is what he isn’t.

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

      Ooh, I hadn’t thought of that. That’s a very good point.

      Current score: 0
    • Oni says:

      Who says he’s actually “Evil”? Aside from being (1) a demon (2) an ass… he hasn’t actually done anything “bad”. Annoying-and-won’t-stay-the-heck-out-of-my-life, but the worst we actually know of him doing (aside from survival-mandatory human consumption, which I’ll make an exception for because it’s “survival-mandatory”; as a half-demon, Mack is just lucky that her dietary requirements are just “a little difficult” and not “require the death of a human”) is that he mucked around with some of her bathing-goods.

      Like I mentioned: he selfish, an ass, and a demon. We the readers have never actually witnessed him do anything “evil”.

      Current score: 0
      • Readaholic says:

        Attempted murder of a 6 year old child.
        Molesting a twelve year-old child. Got said child pregnant at 14.
        Tampering with bathroom products in order to get Mack’s demon nature to manifest, ie to get her to attack other students.
        Repeatedly violating her mental privacy in spite of her protests.

        That enough for you?

        Current score: 1
        • pedestrian says:

          Succinct and to the point!

          Charming{in either classical or modern meanings}does NOT absolve someone of their predatory actions.

          Current score: 0
        • Zukira Phaera says:

          Actually, I don’t think the bit where Laurel Anne went in the creek was actually a murder attempt but just a case of luck intervention. If Jo hadn’t come along he might have used his own magic to keep Laurel Anne from falling in to gain her trust, which might have in turn led to the later events happening sooner. The ‘seduction’ and ‘destruction of innocence’ might have gone faster and happened earlier if there hadn’t been a brief distrust fostered by the fall in the creek.

          Current score: 0
          • JS says:

            I don’t remember this chapter. Can someone link to it?

            Current score: 0
        • Oni says:

          1. At no point have we seen him try to murder a 6yo child.

          2. Without being blunt, I highly doubt that a 14yo mother is uncommon in this setting (at least at that time. and I’m going to assume you’re getting the ages right, because I haven’t looked them up). What with all the “Other Tales” that go on about the various other race’s cultures and reproductive habits, I think that trying to argue a “statutory” case where one of the individuals is a non-human hell-if-we-only-know-how-old entity… well, it’s just not going to be cut-and-dried.

          3. I think it’s been alluded to the fact that one of the only reasons her “demon nature” is a danger to anyone is the fact that she has no practice with controlling it. She locks it away as tightly as she can, which means that as soon as it gets out she has no knowledge of how to “ride that bull”. Arguably, if she listened to her father on some matters, she would be able to walk right on by a nice fresh cup of virgin blood and not even blink.

          4. Honestly, how else is he to get in touch with her? Like I said: he’s an ass and has little concern for the rights of other, but this doesn’t make him “evil”. It makes him an ass who’s able to enter the dreams of others, nothing more or less.

          Also, Re:pedestrian, he’s far from a charming individual. He’s charming on a gradeschool level. What he is, is an indeterminately-old non-human entity with an indeterminately-high ability in magic (as well as ease in accomplishing stuff that most magic-users seem to have difficulty with), as well as an entity that has been made functionally-immortal (“cursed by awesome!”) through divine punishment for his species being a natural predator of humanity. He is an “enemy of mankind” by virtue of literally being a predator of man; his race has always survived by preying on humanity, even before they were sent to “hell”; but that doesn’t make him any more evil than a wolf.

          tldr; I’m not actually trying to defend the guy, just point out that “evil” as a black-and-white label does not appear to fit The Man based on stuff that we actually know.

          Current score: 0
          • JS says:

            Right, he fostered disobedience to her mother and the need for secrecy in Laurel Ann because there was nothing wrong with regularly meeting and eventually seducing a young human (younger than the likely age of consent for Blackwater) when a part of humans you get by killing the human is on your dinner list.

            Current score: 0
            • anon says:

              It is unfortunate that we have no viewpoint but the humano-centric one to work with. All our ideas and morality are from the human point of view. These Epic monsters for lack of a better term think of humans as a lesser species the same way humans look and the animals they can’t communicate with. A demon/devil is not evil by it’s own morals for killing a human to survive anymore than a wolf is for killing a sheep or a lion for killing a gazelle. Humans are omnivores and have the benefit of being able to get sustenance from vegetation or from animals. Yet most humans would not consider it evil to kill for survival and for food. The Man has no choice but to kill humans and humans have no choice but to try and defend themselves. It is not evil either way unless it is done in a way that achieves cruelty. Demons can’t go veg, they can’t eat non thinking beings(as far as we know). I think the earlier point that DND alignments may not be appropriate in this situation is a good one, lets take a glance at the RIFTs(since Mack is a mega damage creature) alignment chart instead maybe miscreant?
              I think I kinda wandered off topic but lets say my point is that in MUverse, Humans are not at the top of the food chain and maybe we should not throw the term evil at every creature above humans on it.

              Current score: 0
            • Kevin Brown says:

              If your arguing that its not wrong because Humans are a lesser beast by demonic perspective one must then consider that it would be wrong in the area of Beastiality…

              Current score: 0
            • anon says:

              I have to disagree because mating produces mystically(genetically) viable offspring.

              Current score: 0
            • anon says:

              Also, there are consent issues which have been addressed. most thinking creatures of a certain age can give a form of reasoned consent which has nothing to do with dietary restrictions

              Current score: 0
          • pedestrian says:

            I do not share the opinion that cultural relevance is the issue here. That Daddy is a Demon is irrelevant, that he commits despicable acts is relevant.

            I would hold this truth to be self-evident, that if a Divine Being, automatically considered good, committed the same act of seducing and raping a child, that it would be an equally despicable action. And you know to whom I allude.

            Also, if Mack Daddy has to continuously, every Lunar Year, murder and consume a human virgin’s heart, after umpteen centuries of living on this plane; there is no way that Our Mackenzie is going to escape the continuing need for a cup of virgin blood every Lunar Month.

            As for “dark & light”, “black & white”, “evil & good”, there are actions for which there can be no forgiveness. And the consequences upon the head of the evildoer must be at least as terrible as the wrongdoing.

            Watch the films of Hitler or Stalin, petting their dogs on the head and accepting bouquets of flowers from cute little, pigtailed children. And if it doesn’t infuriate you knowing they both escaped justice, I just got to wonder what would reach you?

            Current score: 1
            • Oni says:

              Wow, Godwinned.

              I don’t much want to get into a pondering of the AOC in Blackwater Province; to get into RL examples, Mexico still doesn’t reach a baker’s dozen, it was 14 in Canada up until recently (and for over a hundred years), as well as in Georgia in ’95.

              This is a question of legality in a fictional setting 20+ years ago; the other side of the argument’s hair is a ROTT, my argument is invalid. 😛

              I also don’t really want to turn this into a Big Thing here (I’ve already probably gone into more detail than will make every single person comfortable; sorry if that’s the case), but I’ll clarify a small point: in reference to Mack being able to control herself around blood/flesh/etc, I did specifically mean “control”. Presumably The Man is able to keep from going into “OMG BLOODLUST RAGE” like we’ve seen (most of) the various demi-demons do.

              Current score: 0
            • readaholic says:

              Mack’s brother Aidan, who grew up without either the “benefit” of Granny Blaise’s input or the mans’, seems to have no control issues.

              Equally, “legal” does not automatically mean right. For example, just because it is legal for 40 or 80 year old men to marry 13 year old girls, does it make it right? I don’t understand why, when the age difference is in centuries, it somehow makes it ok. And even if it IS right from The Man’s point of view, Laurel Anne is also involved here. Whether it is right for her is equally important.
              Laurel Ann’s sister Jo was married at 17. That’s our best source for both the legal age of consent and the socially acceptable age.

              And remember, none of his interest in Laurel Ann is food/survival oriented. Had he merely hung around killing virgins occasionally, there would be an argument that he wasn’t evil.

              What we have seen him do is hang around molesting 12 year olds.

              Current score: 0
            • Oni says:

              My point was that you choice of the words “rape”, “molesting”, etc etc are based on the preconceived notions of legality you have in mind. The major contributing factors there (in the SMALLEST nutshell I can fit them into) are the Law, Consent, Intent and Action.

              Law being the writing on the books (an unknown, as i said, but also one not necessarily against The Man 20-ish years ago), Consent being LAB’s awareness and uncoerced willingness (which may or may not be mitigated by the aformentions laws), Intent largely being a factor of The Man (how much of this was to get back at LAB’s mother, or for simple matter of reproduction? but I think it’s been clarified that he *did* love her, at least for a time, and for what it’s worth), and Action being… well duh.

              The short of it is that I don’t think we’ve seen enough of events to be able to use a black or white “Evil” with The Man. He’s obviously done a whole lot wrong, but we don’t know enough about his actions/motivations/mitigating circumstances.

              But really, it’s a fictional character, and I can see this discussion raising someone’s ire if it keeps going, so I’m going to be letting this be now. I recognize where you’re coming from, and I think it would be best to leave it at “agree to disagree” for the moment.

              I’m sure there’ll be new information on the subject eventually…

              Current score: 0
            • Readaholic says:

              Law, Consent, Intention, Action, use of words like “rape” and “molest” – none of this answers my primary question to you, above – is it right for the much (centuries) older Man to introduce 12 year old Laurel Ann Blaise to sexual material, and proceed to have sex with her?

              Was it beneficial to her emotional development, either in the long term or short term?

              What about the health risks associated with early teen pregnancy?

              Current score: 0
      • Potatohead says:

        And the whole ‘must devour a human heart once per century’ technically makes him a serial killer, doesn’t it?

        Current score: 0
        • Zergonapal says:

          Pretty sure its once a year actually, if not more frequent.

          Current score: 0
        • Zukira Phaera says:

          Yes and no. It depends on how he comes by his dinner. Remember killing a slave isn’t the same as killing a free person in MU.

          Current score: 0
          • Readaholic says:


            My personal suspicion is that The Man likes the taste of female half-demon flesh, given the Heads or Tails story. Hence his interest in Mack. Also makes sense in his reference to needing ovaries to live, as opposed to survive.

            Current score: 0
            • Angnor says:

              The ‘needing ovaries to live’ line seemed (to me at least) to indicate his interest in breeding on this plane, not in food preferences.

              Current score: 0
    • nemka says:

      I highly doubt the expressly designed predators of man were given an inherant inability to break their word. And he has broken his word. And I don’t know that we’ve actually found out for certain what Laurel’s agreement was, or with whom it was made.

      Current score: 0
  19. Zathras IX says:

    There’s a difference
    Between being oh-so-slick
    And being slimy

    Current score: 0
  20. Archon says:

    Anyone consider that since Mack was so focused on blocking things out that as soon as the o-turtle thing left that Mack unconcously made a barrier that neither let things in or out with the space that was freed up and she could leave after her conscious mind took the space from the unconscious mind to attack her dad. And by space I mean the minds ability to process information like how a computer uses R.A.M.

    Current score: 0
  21. pedestrian says:

    Seduction, to seduce, these are such soft words in the English language and have been Hollywooded to mean light romantic comedy.
    In Classical literature “seduction”and “to seduce” had much closer meaning to the modern legal term of statutory rape. That a minor or other incapacitated person are incapable and incompetent to give consent.

    Before antibiotics, blood transfusions, doctors being required to wash their hands once in a while; child birth was all too often a death sentence for women. The opera ‘Giselle” was a state funded PSA to warn young women of the dangers of bearing children out of wedlock.

    I think some readers are projecting interesting scenarios of possible alternative relationships by avoiding the evidence of Demon Daddy’s actual acts of sociopath behavior. As the latest research graphically displays, sociopaths studied have different brain hardwiring then the rest of us. As just as you cannot change the nature of a demon, we cannot rewire peoples brains.

    Current score: 0
  22. Lana says:

    ““You might as well come out,” I said. “I know you’re there.”

    It seemed safe enough… if there wasn’t anybody there to hear it, then nobody would ever know I’d been wrong.

    There was a low, dry chuckle and then he came into view in the narrow gap at the foot of the bed. He was just turning to face me, like he’d been hiding with his back to a pillar and was pivoting into sight. ”


    I was so sure she was awake and alone right then and then THAT.
    Wow, you know you’re reading work from a damn great writer when your heart jumps a mile from reading “mere” words on a page.
    I haven’t even gone further than this yet because I need to calm down a bit.

    AE you’re amazing. ;W;

    Current score: 0
  23. Christy says:

    AE, this is REALLY bad timing to have writer’s block or anything else that prevents you from posting on time! I mean, with a plot twist like THAT, you GOTTA keep writing! At least a conversation with a hopefully real Ian!

    [EDIT]: I usually don’t mind if you’re a bit late or not, but this chapter was so good that I’m having trouble waiting for the next one!

    Current score: 0
  24. Kender says:

    Just wanted to say amazing chapter, and last few chapters! I can’t wait to see where this is going!

    Also, typo:

    Should be “you should be worried too.”

    Current score: 0
  25. Eric M. says:

    The music that’s in my head isn’t a song. It’s Ghirahim’s theme from “The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword.”

    Current score: 0
  26. Sher says:

    It’s funny that we don’t know the Man’s name. Maybe it’s because he’s been mentioned at some point or another in the story?

    Current score: 0