Chapter 80: Breaking Boards and Building Barriers

on April 15, 2012 in Volume 2 Book 3: Figments & Fragments, Volume 2: Sophomore Effort

In Which We Cut To A Training Montage

“How was that?” I asked the owl-turtle thing, with a certain amount of giddy satisfaction.

“Well, it does just about confirm my theory,” it said. “But it doesn’t do much to advance the immediate applicability of that, in reference to shielding.”

“In other words, you know I’m definitely… very slightly psychic, or whatever… but not if I’ll be able to shield on my own,” I said. “But if I could reach out and touch that thought-construct, shouldn’t I be able to do the same with the walls?”

“Let’s find out,” it said. It gestured to the still untouched pillar with the target on it. “We’ll start with what we know you can do.”

“Okay, hold on a second,” I said, and I tried to recapture the sense of disconnected omniscience I’d had before… it had occurred to me that if I had found one hidden presence without really trying, it was worth taking a deeper look. Who knew, maybe the obvious one had been a decoy… maybe there was a failsafe.

But I couldn’t detect anything in my mind except for my mind, the owl-turtle thing, and the little almost-mind that dwelled in the bullseye.

“Satisfied?” it said.

“It was worth checking,” I said.

“No argument here,” it said. “And I’m sorry I didn’t check myself. I’ve become pretty good about dodging him coming and going, but it never occurred to me that he’d lie in wait here.”

“It seems kind of obvious, in retrospect,” I said.

“Yeah, in retrospect,” it said. “But you didn’t think of it, either. I’m a creature of limited imagination. If I don’t think to think in a direction, I’m not likely to have a random stray thought. Anyway, you’re clean. I’ve checked, and now so have you.”

“I don’t suppose it’s likely he’ll come busting in here for real now,” I said.

“There’s no way he can know that his infiltration was discovered,” the owl-turtle thing said. “I think he’d be counting on learning what you’re up to from it at the end of the night rather than risking blowing his own cover by forcing a confrontation tonight.”

“Yeah, that’s my thought, too,” I said.

“So let’s make the most of the time we have and get down to it,” it said.

“Okay, yeah,” I said, and I turned to face the target… but then something else bobbed up into my awareness that I couldn’t ignore.

What we were doing, what was happening… it was pretty much the closest thing I’d ever experienced to the moment in the story when the hero with the special powers first realizes she has special powers and then learns how to use them. I even had a wise-ish and inscrutable mentor.

Okay, as far as special powers went, “telepathic but only within my own head” wasn’t the best, and the owl-turtle thing didn’t exactly rate up at the cosmic or all-powerful level of the entity scale, but it still felt familiar enough for me to get a little excited… but only a little bit excited, because I didn’t know what it would count for, what any of it would signify.

“What?” the owl-tutle thing said.

“Okay… not to get all sidetracked, but there’s a question that’s not necessarily immediately important, but that’s going to burn a hole in my mind if I don’t ask it,” I said.

“So to speak,” the owl-turtle thing said. It sighed. “What is it?”

“Just… what does it mean, that I can do this?” I asked.

“In what sense?”

“You seemed pretty sure that I’m not going to turn into an actual telepath no matter how much I practice or train,” I said, “but you also acted like it’s really pretty rare that I should even be able to do this much.”

“Correct all around.”

“So where is this going? And where did it come from?” I said. “Is this something I was born with? Something I picked up secondhand from you? Something I got from the night of the fish-beast?”

“Definitely wasn’t from me,” it said. “It would be hard to say if the fish-beast could do anything to unlock some kind of potential, but my instinct is that there would have to be potential there to unlock. I think the best theory to work under for now is that you inherited it, for a variety of reasons.”

“So this is just my version of the ‘not conventionally telepathic’ demon stuff,” I said.

“Maaaybe,” the owl-turtle thing said, kind of doubtfully. “But among mortal races, the inheritance for this kind of thing can be kind of wonky. It can skip generations, or lie mostly dormant through them. You could be a ‘mostly dormant’ generation… I mean, if you didn’t have so much outside activity acting on your head, there would never have been any reason for you to find out about what you can do, much less try to train it up.”

“It would have to have been ‘mostly dormant’ or more for at least two generations before me,” I said.

“Well… that can happen,” it said.

“What aren’t you telling me?”

“Nothing you’ve been interested in hearing so far,” it said. “Nothing you’re ready to hear.”

“If you’re trying to suggest that my mother or grandmother were telepathic… okay, maybe one of my aunts or cousins could be, though it never came up when I was around them. Though I guess I never really saw them much except when my grandmother was around, and I could understand why they’d keep it a secret from her… but still, it seems kind of like a long shot, and I guess it’s not really relevant. I have what I have, right? It’s not like it’ll turn into full-fledged telepathy, or make it easier for me to shield on my own, if I tracked down Aunt Jo and asked her if she happens to be a secret mindreader.”

“No, I really don’t think that would accomplish much,” the owl-turtle thing said. “On the other flipper-wing, though, I do have some exercises from Dee we could do that would help you… what do you say we work on that now, and your self-awareness later?”

It gestured at the pillar.

It took a bit more effort to blast the completely inert and non-threatening stalagmite than it had to do the same to the spying image of my father, but somehow thinking about the owl-turtle thing made it easier. The bullseye board exploded into a mass of splinters that bled off into the ether and dissolved, leaving the metal bands to fall and clatter to the ground unharmed. The stone pillar was barely chipped, though, and the small blemishes I made repaired themselves.

“Damn,” I said. “That’s not good, is it?

“No, that’s good,” the owl-turtle thing said. “The metal wasn’t supposed to be touched… any damage to them would be a sign that you were kidding yourself again, because they’re just standard dream stuff. As for the stone? Not good would be if you didn’t affect it at all, and you did! But a complex thought-form is going to be more delicate than a defensive fortification that is specifically designed to repel attackers.”

“Does that mean that if my father could have created a shielded aspect, if he’d thought there was a chance I could have blasted it?”

“Possibly,” the owl-turtle thing said. “But you have to figure he does have an inkling about what you can do after last time, and he knows you’re in contact with someone who can cast a shield over your mind… you have to figure he considered the possibility that he would encounter trouble since he sent the doppelganger in the first place, but I don’t think he expected it to be noticed.”

“Let’s not call it a doppelganger,” I said. “I mean, that word means something specific… I don’t want to start thinking of it as a doppelganger and confuse someone down the line. But did you know that he could do that? Send an aspect of himself?”

“He might very well have done it before,” the owl-turtle thing said. “I mean, would you know if you were dealing with the real thing each and every time?”

“Probably not,” I said. “I just wonder where he picked it up… and when. I mean, I know he doesn’t know who you are, but is it possible he somehow learned the trick off you? By proxy?”

“Doubtful,” it said. “Dee’s quick research says that demons are rarely telepathic in the conventional sense, but they often have special talents when it comes to mental intrusion and domination. He’s been in the world too long to have much recent experience with out-and-out possession, but maybe he’s found a way to keep his hand in, anyway.”

“Okay, so getting back to my talents… I can ‘touch’ the walls,” I said. “Does that mean I can build them?”

“Eventually, maybe,” the owl-turtle thing said. “And here’s the kicker… if you learn how to do it here and now, in an inward-focused dream with me imposing awareness on you… well, I’d be very surprised if you can translate that to anything while you’re awake. Right now you have a perspective that’s centered in your own mind, looking inward… I know you’ve done deep meditation before, but do you have any idea how much focus it would take to manage something like this when you’re awake?”

“And even in my normal dreams, I probably won’t have the presence of mind to first realize that I’m dreaming, then get into this kind of state of awareness,” I said. “So even if I can manage to do this by myself, I won’t be able to do it by myself… great.”

“Not right away,” the owl-turtle thing said. “What I’m saying is that lucid dreaming should still be your goal, because if you can get here on your own you can at least put your own walls up while you’re sleeping, and so far that’s when you really need them.”

“Okay, another question,” I said. “Does this mean I can do something about the hole in my head? I mean, in my mind… apart from the small but present danger of demony thoughts leaking out and clawing at a passing telepath, I’d feel better knowing that I’ve closed his passage in.”

“Short answer: no,” the owl-turtle thing said. “That’s an alteration in the permanent structure of your mind. We can shore it up with a temporary structure, but to heal the rift… well, according to Dee’s mind, that kind of literal mental healing is a highly specialized discipline. Back home, it would have been on an entirely different career track than the priestesshood… it takes decades of training before anybody dares to start even beating out the dents in another mind, because of the damage that could be done by the careless.”

“Okay, what about up here?” I said. “Human telepaths don’t have decades to spend getting ready to practice.”

“No, and that’s one of the reasons she’s up here, to learn things the human way and get a jump on things,” it said. “But even if they compress the process a bit, it’s still a graduate level skill.”

“Teddi is a licensed mental healer,” I said. “She could probably do it. I mean, they were healing the damage I did to Hissy’s mind, right?”

“The damage she did to herself,” the owl-turtle thing said. “And no one at the healing center can touch your mind.”

“No, but you can,” I said. “And you pick up techniques right out of their minds.”

“Hold on!” the owl-turtle thing said. “As keen as I am to spread my flipper-wings and fly-swim, I don’t think I’m quite ready for my primetime debut. The world isn’t ready. Teddi’s kind of agnostic about me and I like it that way, but if she saw me in all my glory… well, the best case scenario is that I would find myself fielding a lot of requests. In the worst case, they wouldn’t be requests. Either way, I’d be a whole lot busier. And there’s something you’re forgetting.”

“What’s that?”

“Where did the hole come from?” it said. “The obvious answer is that your father made it, and if he can tunnel into your mind without you noticing, then closing up the hole isn’t going to keep him out.”

“It might slow him down,” I said. “Who knows how long he was working on it, or what it cost him in effort compared to strolling through it?”

“I’m still not convinced it’s worth blowing up my existence over,” it said.

“What if Teddi agrees to secrecy?” I asked. “I mean, Dee and I are her patients.”

“But I’m not, and I don’t think healer confidentiality rules apply to metamental entities,” it said.

“Is that what you are?”

“Maybe,” it said. “I just made the word up, but I think I like it. Aren’t you pretty sure that any day now your grandmother’s going to get this guy off your back, anyway?”

“Not as sure as I’d like to be,” I said. “And I have no control over the timing. Would you have to reveal yourself to Teddi in order to get the information from her mind?”

“Right, I’ll just go tiptoe through a trained telepath’s mind on a fishing expedition and hope for the best,” the owl-turtle thing said. “There’s no way that can end badly for me, I’m sure… in fact, I’m starting to have a really good feeling about the whole thing.”

“Okay, I get the point,” I said. “Well, we’re here now… let’s focus on the wall thing.”

“Right,” the owl-turtle thing said. “Now, one positive thing that came out of our little test is we know you can put some stress on the walls without doing any damage to them. So what I want you to do is push on them… not one big solid shove like you’ve been doing, but a gentler, steadier pressure. Okay?”

“Does it matter where?”

“Anywhere except there,” it said, pointing to a spot at what I instinctively thought of as the back of the otherwise symmetrical room, where there was a barely perceptible outline where it looked like a tunnel had been plugged.

“Okay,” I said. I walked over towards the edge of the space, extended my hands, and tried to push as the owl-turtle thing had described. There was no noticeable reaction from the walls, though I could feel a sensation of resistance and pressure as though my efforts were rebounding, or the walls were pushing back.

“Are you feeling that?” the owl-turtle thing asked.

“Yes,” I said.

“Good. Try to hold onto that feeling as you stop pushing… just grab hold of the sensation and keep it in your head.”

It might have been easier said than done, but here was where my experience with magic-working started to help me… unless I was fooling myself again. But it seemed to me like I was able to hold fast to the presence of the walls, to take the sensation of there-ness I got when I pushed and take it into me.

“Okay,” I said, when I felt like I had a good enough grip on them.

“Okay,” the owl-turtle thing said. “Now, don’t do anything until I tell you… I’m going to start giving you instructions, but don’t try to follow them until you’ve heard the whole thing. When I tell you to, I want you to slowly… very slowly… start to open your mind wider, a little bit at a time, to take in the pattern of what you’re touching with your mind. It’s a big pattern, and complex… more complicated than anything you’d ever have had a reason to think on your own. That’s why slow is important. It will overwhelm you if you try to take the whole thing in, so don’t.”

“I have dealt with complex concepts before, you know,” I said. “I am an enchanter.”

“Yeah, you’ve dealt with things that take a long time to explain or a lot of study to understand, right?” the owl-turtle thing said. “Now imagine one of them being crammed into the forefront of your brain all at once, in a single wordless thought… listen, your active memory is only intended to deal with a very limited number of things at a time, and none of them are supposed to be very big. You’re not going to be able to absorb the technique just by touching it, is what I’m saying, and you shouldn’t try. But you need to get a bit intimate with it for what we’re going to do next.”

“So how can you just pick up techniques, then?”

“I’m patterned off a mind with more high-density storage capacity than yours,” the owl-turtle thing said. “I’m not divided into short-term memory and long-term memory. Anyway, if you’re feeling sufficiently cautioned and not at all cocky, you can start slowly expanding your awareness now.”

“Expand it how?”

“Just start cautiously flexing… you’ll know when you’re doing it right, and then you’ll understand what I meant about going slow.”

“Okay,” I said.

I focused my attention on the sensation of the walls that I’d taken in, and… basically thought about opening my eyes. That didn’t do much, sense my eyes were already open. Thinking expand my awareness, expand my awareness didn’t really do anything, either. So I tried to focus on the way it had felt when I’d shoved outward, but tried to leverage that “muscle” inward. I imagined a porthole in the middle of my head, and tried to force it open a crack.


The owl-turtle thing had been right… I did know it when I found it. It was like I’d started to unzip a hole in the ceiling and a lower corner of a great pig pyramid fell down into it. I felt like I was knocked to my knees, though in the dream I was still standing. Something that was a bit like a series of directions and a bit like a long string of numbers or symbols seemed to be dancing through my mind.

“Okay, okay, that’s wide enough,” the owl-turtle thing said. “Don’t try to sort out the pattern, don’t dwell on it… try to think it normal.”


“Start a thought in the back of your mind and roll it up to the front, where the intrusion is,” the owl-turtle thing said. “Not words, just… thought. Like a meditative exercise to calm and quiet your mind. What we’re trying to do is massage the wall into something that fits in better with the rest of your mind.”

“Like taking a generic spell formula and making it mine?” I said.

“Yes,” the owl-turtle thing said. “But you’ll only be able to keep touching a foreign pattern for so long, so let’s save the explanatory analogies for after the fact.”

“Okay,” I said.

I tried closing my eyes, but that just made the mountain in my head bigger and brighter so I opened them and instead focused on the physical manifestation of the cave wall just in front of me.

Calm thoughts, from the back of my mind to the front…

That wasn’t quite like anything I’d done with Dee, but it was something I could handle. I imagined a sensation like a rolling ocean wave, sweeping up from the depths of my mind. I focused on my breathing… which, this being a dream, only really began when I started focusing on it. But it made for a nice parallel or counterpoint or whatever to what I was doing with my mind… deep breaths, calming breaths. Deep thoughts, calming thoughts.

The wall in front of me seemed to smooth slightly. The presence in the front of my brain became smoother, too… or lighter, or more tolerable. It was less a set of incomprehensible but definite elements, and more like a pleasing geometric pattern.

I began to picture the wave in my head as an ocean wave, wearing down the wall… smoothing it out, taking away bits of it. The progress was dramatic at first, but it seemed there were diminishing returns… each repetition yielded less and less effect, until I couldn’t tell that I was making any difference at all.

“Okay, I think you’ve taken it as far as you can for the time being,” the owl-turtle thing said.

“What exactly was I doing?” I asked.

“Making the wall I wove with Dee’s borrowed technique into something you mind will recognize better,” it said.

“And that does what?” I asked. “I won’t be able to cast it myself…”

“No, not yet,” the owl-turtle thing said. “But I can copy the modified pattern to summon up later, and it will be more resilient now, and use up less of your capacity. With more practice, we can work it around to something that fits you as naturally as a suit of custom-tailored armor… maybe something so close to your mind’s natural state that it can become second nature. That’s how Dee described the process… adjusted a bit for the dream state.”

“What will that look like?” I asked.

“What does it look like now?”

I considered the question. The walls had been rocky and uneven, like a natural cavern. The protrusions and indentations had been flattened quite a bit. The cracks and seams had resolved themselves into a series of not quite regular but mostly straight lines. The room itself was less rounded, though it didn’t have corners.

“I don’t know,” I said. “It actually looks more artificial than it did before… less so than when it was the adamantine plates, but more than when I started working on it. Isn’t it supposed to be moving in the opposite direction?”

“When it’s finished, it will look completely natural to you,” the owl-turtle thing said. “That’s not necessarily the same thing as ‘natural’ in the generic sense of the word.”

“So you’re saying I’ll know it when I see it?”

“When you see it… you’ll recognize it.”

“You clearly have some idea where this is going,” I said. “Why can’t you just tell me?”

“Because if you don’t know, then you can’t fool yourself into thinking you’re getting there,” it said. “I was a little bit worried that you’d catch on, but clearly I was underestimating your natural gift for obliviousness.”

“You’re a hard entity to like, ridiculous owl-turtle thing.”

“Oh, then you won’t mind if we cut to a training montage, then?” it asked.

“Is that actually an option?” I asked.

“Kid, have you forgotten where you are?” it said. “I had to walk you through things in real time a bit, if for no other reason than to make sure the techniques would actually work for you… but there’s no reason I can’t dump the rest of it into your mind and then let things unspool in normal dream-fashion.”

“And that will actually work?”

“Probably not overnight, but we should be able to tell if it doesn’t work at all, and in that case we’ll only have lost part of a night,” it said. “The alternative is to spend hours of every night being fully conscious… in a manner of speaking… and actively working with me. I’ve got to tell you, you’re not the only one who wouldn’t be thrilled by that. I do have other interests.”

“What are they?”

“Mine,” it said. “So what’s it going to be?”

I sighed. When it put it that way…

“Hit me with your best thought,” I said.

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42 Responses to “Chapter 80: Breaking Boards and Building Barriers”

  1. Celti says:

    Oh god, that pun is *horrible*. I applaud you, good lady.

    Current score: 3
  2. Brenda says:

    Loving this chapter! I’m wondering if it’s going to be the salle – the training room from her fighting class – if only because of the reference to a training montage…

    Current score: 0
    • zeel says:

      I am thinking it will resolve into her grandmothers basement. That was her place, her safe haven.

      Current score: 2
      • gripho says:

        Or it may come to be like a MechKnight subterrean base…

        Current score: 1
  3. Brenda says:

    Also, this is one of the funniest typos ever:

    It was like I’d started to unzip a hole in the ceiling and a lower corner of a great pig pyramid fell down into it.

    (I was on automatic and began to visualize it before I realized it was a typo…)

    Current score: 2
    • Kaila says:

      Oh good. I’m not the only one who saw a tumbling, squealing mountain of piglets then.

      Current score: 1
      • cnic says:

        With AE’s play on words I wasn’t sure if it was a typo, but I couldn’t remember any references to pigs or pyramids.

        Current score: 0
      • Readaholic says:

        When it was pointed out to me, I imagined part of a giant pigs’ bum sticking through the roof.

        I like your mental image much better, Kaila 🙂

        And I vote for the basement initially, but it probably will morph into a Mechknight’s subterranian bunker, somewhat.

        Current score: 0
        • Mad Nige says:

          Me too.

          Giant pig’s bum, curly tail and one HUGE ham shank hanging from the rip in the ceiling’s ‘reality’, with the ‘sky’ wrinkled up round it like some discarded sack (with the possibility of a play on the word ‘poke’)

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

            I pictured a giant pyramid of little rubber pig statue things, myself, with a bunch just kind of toppling into the room.

            Current score: 0
          • Greenwood Goat says:

            An acrobatics team of sows in sparkly leotards, doing a pyramid.

            Current score: 0
            • Brenda says:

              Now I’m picturing Miss Piggy…

              Current score: 0
          • Leila says:

            Can we get an artist’s rendering of this “pig pyramid”? lol

            Current score: 0
  4. Antoinette says:

    A subterranean chamber… like the basement she spent her childhood in, perhaps?

    Current score: 0
  5. pedestrian says:

    Fantastic chapter Alexandra.

    “MetaMental Entity”

    I love the way you craft new concepts and construct new words. You are very “hilasturbing”!

    And the mental imagery of a wave. I’m going out on a theoretical limb here, but the MUniverse is as fractal as our universe. Simplicity begets complexity. Form follows function.

    Current score: 1
    • pedestrian says:

      “I need clarification, please.”

      After rethinking what I wrote here, I need to issue a correction. I really messed it up.

      Yes, both universes are fractal.
      In our materialist universe, complexity constructs out of simplicity. Form follows function following the rules of evolutionary adaptation.

      The MUniverse is also fractal but in reverse.
      The complex rules of magic are manipulated to produce simple items. i.e. golems or the warded sidewalks or wizard staffs.
      Divinely created forms are assigned their respective functions

      Current score: 0
  6. Lunaroki says:

    Typo Report

    “Does that mean that if my father could have created a shielded aspect, if he’d thought there was a chance I could have blasted it?”

    I’m not 100% sure this is a typo, or that there even is one in this sentence, but it’s extremely hard for me to wrap my brain around what this sentence is supposed to mean as it’s written so I’m guessing that there’s a typo. My best guess is that the first “if” doesn’t belong. Take that out and we’ve got a sentence I can understand with ease.

    That didn’t do much, sense my eyes were already open.

    The word “sense” should be “since”.

    Current score: 0
    • Brenda says:

      That first one being dialogue, I can see how she changed what she was asking as she said it, so I won’t be surprised if that stays the way it is.

      Current score: 0
  7. Ermarian says:

    Something that was a bit like a series of directions and a bit like a long string of numbers or symbols seemed to be dancing through my mind.

    Brain machine code! =D

    Current score: 0
    • Brenda says:

      Maybe it’s the computer codes that translate AE’s printed word into Mack’s reality…

      (I read a book once, “Untold Tales” by William J. Brooke – a series of fractured fairy tales which culminated in one in which the author, having fallen in love with the princess, tried to delete the prince and he got sucked into the ether of the computer and was later found to have been spotted in all the other tales…)

      Current score: 0
  8. anon y mouse says:

    “Damn,” I said. “That’s not good, is it? – end quote?

    Current score: 0
  9. Zathras IX says:

    Looking back on it
    “Obvious in retrospect”
    Are famous last words

    Current score: 0
  10. Hasufin says:

    You know, I think the ROTT, et al, are a bit too quick to discount that Mack might be a functional telepath.

    We know that subtle artists are incredibly rare – to the point of being national assets whose travel is restricted, though that point may not be common knowledge. It’s strongly implied, too, that subtle artists are much more common among elves, or at least among Dee’s people, which means a minor, or less obvious, talent would be discounted among her people but notable among humans. And as Mackenzie is a half-demon, any trained subtle artist (i.e., anyone who’d have the ability to firmly say “yes, this person has the ability”) would know better than to touch Mack’s mind anyway. And we don’t know how they actually test for that, but it’s clearly not a regular thing. So, put it all together, and it’s perfectly plausible that Mack has a real substantial talent that really never got noticed.

    ‘course, it’s also plausible that she *doesn’t*, but it’s worth investigating. On the gripping hand, as WE know there’s really only one person available who has the expertise to work with Mack on that level anyway…

    Current score: 0
    • Brenda says:

      I wonder how much contact with Mack’s mind would be safe when she’s NOT being possessed by an infernal cursed artifact?

      Current score: 0
      • Eris Harmony says:

        I’m gonna guess ‘none’.

        Current score: 0
        • Hasufin says:

          I’d put it as “unknown”. It’s implied that a properly prepared, properly trained telepath *can* handle contact with an infernal mind. But even skilled telepaths like Teddi don’t do it – it seems to be something that calls for a specialist.

          That it was the Man that taught Laurel the basics might be relevant not only in her direction of study, but in her apparent talent for the subject. But we really don’t know yet.

          Current score: 0
      • Ducky says:

        Seeing as how her mind is still half-infernal, I’m also going to go with “none.”

        Current score: 0
        • Brenda says:

          I’m just thinking – the only time someone has touched her mind was in an attack, and when Mack was not only on the defensive but was eager to do damage because of being possessed.

          If Mack was opening her mind voluntarily and not fighting back, would it be possible to have some safe contact, or would the same results be inevitable?

          Current score: 0
      • Ermarian says:

        Well, she wasn’t possessed when Hissy tried it…

        Current score: 0
        • Brenda says:

          Wasn’t she still under Pitchy’s influence at that point?

          Current score: 0
          • Lyssa says:

            Nope. This is when she was starving.

            For reference:

            She just opens her mind up as wide as possible when she realizes Hissy is taking a look around in there. Which does prove that a subtle artist can look at parts of her mind without ill effects; it isn’t until Mackenzie actually tries to overwhelm her that she suffers for it.

            Current score: 0
            • Brenda says:

              Darn it. I forgot about the hunger.

              Well, the idea is still valid – if she were in a relaxed state, opening her mind willingly to someone she trusts, I’m sure the results would be at least somewhat different than they were with Hissy.

              Current score: 0
            • Lyssa says:

              I agree. As I pointed out, Hissy had no ill effects with minimal, momentarily unnoticed contact.

              Current score: 0
            • anon says:

              I don’t think hissy was inside mac’s mind safely, I think she was poking the outer shell of a soap bubble. the demon in mac was nice enough to grab her finger and pull her inside a chaos plane.

              Current score: 0
    • Ducky says:

      There’s also the not-actually-a-subtle-artist deal that we’ve seen in the guest stories (are those canon?) and in Mack’s mom, which is far more relevant. For all purposes, Laurel Ann actually was/is a functioning telepath, just with not-actually-subtle-arts. The Man had to teach her how to use it before she could reach into others’ minds. Even then, Laurel Ann could detect whether or not people were around without knowing to call it subtle arts. If Mack had any real potential, I think she would have noticed Laurel Ann-style by now.

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      • Major says:

        Mack may indeed have inherited her mother’s talent, but it would be effectively masked by her talent for the oblivious. I am reminded of the immensely powerful but necessarily stealthy magical talent of Bink, the hero of Piers Anthony’s “A Spell for Chameleon.” Perhaps Mack’s obtuseness is an enchantment meant to protect her from her own potential for mayhem.

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  11. Amy says:

    Darn, and here I was thinking I was being all clever by figuring out that it would end up as the basement… Ninja’d like woah, it would seem.

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  12. Heather says:

    I’ve enjoyed the turtle-owl-thing, but the off-hand correction of “The damage she did to herself,” made me love it a little for the first time. Avatar of self-awareness FTW!

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  13. 'Nym-o-maniac says:

    You know, between Mack’s minor talent here and the OTT’s novel existence, I wonder if Mack could find a way to undo Embries’ mental block… I imagine it’d certainly be nice for her to get that out of the way.

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    • pedestrian says:

      I dunno, would it be sensible or safe to disrespect a major power such as The Greater Silver Dragon Embries? And I mean major power in having the capability of committing devastation on a scale comparable to a Trident boomer?

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      • anon says:

        I don’t think embries placed a mental block, embries issued an edict and let mac take care of it. mac can circumvent it when she has a will to match a greater silver dragon, so maybe after a couple of centuries of struggle and strife… or never.

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  14. Joshua says:

    Typo: “you mind” should be “your mind”

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