In Which Mackenzie Reconnects

As it happened, it didn’t matter that Amaranth had put her foot down or I’d given in… Two showed up at the connecting door a few minutes later to tell us that Dee had told her that I would like her help with something.

“Thank you, Dee!” Amaranth said. I didn’t hear the answer.

“You don’t have to,” I said. “Only if you’d like to. I know you need your sleep.”

“I have become a very efficient sleeper,” she said. “And I would always like to help. Do you have something that needs fixing?”

“Sort of,” I said. I held out my hand-written sheets of rune symbols. “This isn’t your usual thing, these days, but I think you still might know a little something about it.”

“This isn’t homework, is it?” she asked, taking the pages.

“No, it’s a personal project,” I said. “It’s not an assignment, but I’m still working ahead of the book a little bit. I’m trying to make an enchanter’s wand and I was hoping you could give me some… guidance.”

“Oh, you want me to fix the missing correspondences?” she said.

“Fix the missing correspondences?” I repeated.

“Okay,” she said. Her face went through a series of tics as she did whatever mental perambulations took her to the information she needed, and then she passed a hand over the page, altering some of the symbols.

“Don’t just… I mean, could you please tell me what I did wrong instead of just fixing it?” I asked. “I’ll have a harder time doing this if it’s not my own work.”

“Okay,” she said, then she paused. Her face went blank, and then went through a couple of wriggling contortions while she worked something around in her head. Then it went blank again. “…oh.”


“I didn’t usually have to explain,” she said, and she didn’t need to explain why: anything like this she’d done in the past had been for the person who made her. Her skills and knowledge came from him. “I need to figure out how to put it into words.”

“Start with the part where I’m missing correspondences,” I said.

“I don’t actually know what a correspondence is,” she said.

“That’s okay, I do,” I said. “Some of the symbols in the spell formula stand for actions, things that the spell caster will be doing, and some of them stand for things that the spell will be acting upon, but some of them stand for… external forces, let’s call them. Influences. They’re necessary to the working of magic, but they’re also… well… bad. Because they’re beyond your control. Assigning a symbol that corresponds to them helps to sort of pin them down, corral them. It’s sort of like nominalism, but with the advantage being that it actually works. This is why spells tend to increase in complexity exponentially, the more powerful they are… there are more external forces that need to be contained. Understand?”


“Okay, well, let’s start with what you do understand.”

“Oh,” Two said. “Well, the structure of the spell right even though some of your symbols are out of date.”

“They don’t actually go bad,” I said, a little defensively. “Newer ones just catch on because they tend to be better.”

“Yes, which is why yours out of date,” she said.

“And I’m missing correspondences,” I said. “Where?”

“Here, here, and here. And here.”

She pointed at the formula on the page, in the structures that encircled and contained the spells and where her finger touched the paper, flecks of graphite whirled around and arranged themselves into rune symbols… disconcertingly, they were in my hand writing.


“Creepy,” Two said.

“I wouldn’t have said creepy,” I said.

“I know. But I’ve been told that it is.”

“Okay, so, let me look at this… I had the elemental factors covered,” I said. “And the astrological…”

“No,” Two said.

“Yes, I did,” I said. I pointed. “There’s the sun, there’s the moon… this is basic stuff.”

“Yes,” she said. “You did have the basic stuff. And here’s the rest. This is the War-Bringer. This is the Messenger.”

“Why do I need to invoke war when I’m not making a weapon?” I asked.

“I do not know why,” she said. “I only know that when you work in metal, you need this correspondence.”

“Is that really a thing, or just something your creator did as a habit?”

“It is really a thing that my creator did as a habit,” she said.

I looked at Amaranth.

“Was there anything about that in the book?” I asked.

“The book didn’t really seem to get into that,” Amaranth said. “There were references here and there to material correspondences, but it seemed to be written with the assumption that the reader would already know what they were… I didn’t see any cross-references, or anything that suggested they were in another chapter.”

“Okay… well, you are the expert,” I said to Two. “I just don’t like the idea of getting martial stuff all over my strictly utilitarian enchantment.”

“That makes sense,” Two said, nodding.

“I’m… glad you understand,” I said, though I was more surprised.

Amaranth giggled.

“What?” I said.

“Two, would you please tell Mack what it is that makes sense to you?” she said.

“Okay,” Two said. “It makes sense that you would be objecting based on your bias, because that’s the sort of thing that you would do.”

“Anyway, if I understand this right,” Amaranth said, “the idea is that you’re invoking the star of the War-Bringer because you don’t want its influences getting into your working on their own. So, really, you’re not getting martial stuff in your magic, you’re making sure it stays out.”

“That’s right,” I said. “I just wasn’t thinking that I was getting close enough for that to be a risk… so I guess it is a good thing that you were here to tell me. What else could I be doing better?”

“Some of this is different from how we would do it,” Two said, her eyes running back and forth. “But according to my understanding of the structure of enchantment spells, it should work. It could be more efficient.”

“I’d rather make any substantial changes myself… can you explain how to do so?” I said.

“I think so,” Two said.

She could explain the way she thought it should be, even if she couldn’t explain the theory behind any of it… that was enough for me to work out the thinking, mostly, which was good because I didn’t want to just copy what she suggested. That would be totally negate the benefit of writing my own spell.

It was easier to figure it out when I started from the standpoint that what she was saying was right and figured out why instead of arguing against each step… which wasn’t to say that I hadn’t had my reasons for questioning the astrological correspondences.

They weren’t necessarily very good ones, but that was neither here nor now.

“Okay, I think I’ve got it,” I said as I finished amending my spells. I held them up to Two, and she nodded. “Thank you.”

“You’re welcome,” she said.

“Is there something you can do to help with the actual casting process?” Amaranth asked her.

“I think I should probably do that myself,” I said. “And that’s not me being stubborn, that’s… for this thing to work for its intended purpose, it needs to be a personal item. I mean, it’d be better if it was, regardless, but I think especially so if it’s going to be my bridge.”

“I would not cast the spell for you,” Two said. “But if you cast it through me, I could guide and correct it. I’ve done it before.”

“You did say you were worried about your ability to hold it together,” Amaranth said. “And that was before you added the correspondences that you say will make it ‘exponentially more complicated’.”

“Yeah, but once I have them in place, they’ll make the whole thing easier,” I said.

“Once they’re in place,” Amaranth said.

“Okay, it’s just… and Two, I want you to know that I don’t think of you as a wand, but… this would be like using someone else’s wand to make my own,” I said. “It would never really be mine.”

“Two, did your creator ever make anything he kept for his personal use with you?” Amaranth asked her.

“Yes,” Two said. “I didn’t leave an impression, Mack. I was… blank.”

“Yes, but he made you,” I said. “His wand in his hands… and again, you’re not a wand…”

“But I’m like a wand,” Two said.

“In this case, for this purpose, yes,” I said. “His wand in his hands wouldn’t have any impression that wasn’t him. Two, I just don’t have that kind of connection to you.”

“No,” Two agreed. “You have a better one.”

I stared at her. Was she right?

I mean, I knew what she meant… but was she right? Two would accept that we had a connection because we’d decided that we did and hadn’t ever said otherwise. We’d called each other sister. We had been through things. We’d shared things. But… we’d grown apart. We’d become background players in each other’s lives, and if not for the fact that we were practically roommates we probably wouldn’t even be that much to each other. Hadn’t I just been lamenting how much we’d drifted apart?

But then, if I used that gulf as an excuse to push her further away instead of reaching for it… was it really lament?

I was pretty sure I could perform the spells right eventually, by myself.


Pretty sure.

More sure than I was that I could make the spell work with Two.

But I wanted to make it work with Two… but did I want it enough to risk all the effort I’d put into salvaging my class with Professor Stone?

I thought about that question for longer than I was comfortable with, and then I decided.

“Amaranth,” I said. “Do you have your marker?”

“Of course, baby,” she said, and it was already in her hand, the cap off the end. “What do you have in mind?”

“Would you mind lending it to Two?”

“Not at all… here you are.”

“Thank you,” Two said. “What am I to do with this?”

“Label me,” I said, brushing my hair out of my face. “Let’s make a match.”

“Okay,” Two said.

I shuddered at the cold strokes of the marker tip against my forehead. I’ve seen things, you know, around the ethernet about allegedly sexy games people play where they write words on each other’s backs with their fingers or whipped cream or whatever and I’ve never understood how that’s supposed to work. Can anyone make out a letter by the feel of something cold being dragged across their skin?

I tried to visualize what was happening, and I got as far as a skinny blonde girl with a bow in her hair touching my forehead with a marker. She could have been copying her own runic inscription, or writing my name… the short version, obviously… or reinstating my previous label of “TOY”. I didn’t much care what she did, as long as it meant something to her.

I didn’t have to specify that. Labels meant everything to Two.

“Let’s do this,” I said when she’d recapped the marker and handed it back to Amaranth.

“Okay,” she said. She held out a hand, and I took it. There was a… one of those things I’ve never experienced and don’t know how to describe. The closest thing to it honestly was when I’d been hit upside the head with the identifying characteristics of a building earlier. It wasn’t that big or vast or painful, but it had that kind of… immediacy.

Suddenly, Two.

When I had her mark me, I’d had this half-formed idea that I would try my very best to focus on what I loved about Two, on my best memories of her, of the things I saw in her that reminded me of myself and the things I saw in her that I wish did… but that was completely redundant.

There she was in my head… perfect Two. Quiet Two. Shy Two. Unflagging Two. Courageous Two. Rigid Two. Petulant Two. Amazing Two.

I thought… not for the first time, but for the first time in a long time… about the sort of man who would make a person like Two and then abandon her to the world. Had he felt anything like this when he’d connected to her? Maybe her sense of self hadn’t been developed by that point.

Then she picked up my mostly sort of finished wand. The wire attachment that (mostly, sort of) supported the crystal and the ring sagged badly under the weight of its load.

“Visualize the way you want it,” Two said.

Visualization was never my strong suit, so rather than picturing the whole thing in a finished state I tried to focus on the things that needed improving… and under the guidance of Two’s mending magic, they did.

“Now ready the spell,” Two said. “We’ll cast it together.”

And… we did.

In perfect unity.

And unified perfection.

I knew the wand would work before I even touched it… I’d felt the spells as we wove and bound them into it. I’d felt them take. I’d felt the whole thing with the kind of clarity I’d never felt anything, when dealing with magic.

I’d always thought of enchanter’s tools like the one we’d just made together as a sort of shortcut, or collection of shortcuts. I realized that they made things easier, obviously, since that was the point. But assuming that what I’d felt through Two was the sort of thing that a high-level enchantment device could bring… that wasn’t a shortcut, it was a whole road that led to entirely new vistas.

“Thank you, Two,” I said. I’d need to experiment with the wand some, but I didn’t want to keep her up any longer. If we had somehow failed, then it wouldn’t be as simple a matter as trying again. We’d bound spells into the wand. They would have to be unraveled or otherwise dealt with before anything else could be tried, and nothing about the wand or its materials would be as receptive to the second attempt.

“You’re welcome,” she said. She rolled her eyes… with obvious, deliberate effort, and then said under her breath, “You are such a dork.”

It wasn’t actually quite under her breath, but in a tone of voice that suggested she was speaking under her breath without actually lowering the volume. Apparently, like whispering, the actual feat was not part of Two’s skill set.

Even though I heard every word with perfect clarity, though, I still couldn’t quite believe that I’d heard it correctly. I looked at Amaranth, who would normally be the first one to correct any rudeness in her presence, but she looked as puzzled as I felt.

“Two… what did you say?” I asked.

“I said ‘you are such a dork’,” she said, dropping into the exact same intonation she’d used originally. “I’m certain I said it correctly.”

“I… I guess I don’t understand why you would say that,” I said.

“My friend Steff told me that I should say that when this happens.”

Okay… it did sound like something Steff would say, both the calling me a dork part and the telling Two to do so. But I couldn’t imagine how she would have foreseen this situation.

“Maybe you should start at the beginning, Two,” Amaranth suggested.

“Okay,” Two said. “Of what?”

“What exactly did Steff tell you?” I asked.

“When I was worried that I did not have enough time to spend with you anymore, she told me that this is what happens when older sisters get older,” she said. “She said it was normal that I wouldn’t always have time for my little sister, but there would still be times when you needed my help and I would still be there as often as I could, and that’s okay.”

“I… you haven’t had time for me?” I said.

“I like housekeeping, but the hours are longer and I have to go all over campus,” she said. “And I have more homework this semester than I did last semester. And I’m the secretary and rulemaster of the stone soldiers club.”

“It’s okay, Two,” I said. “I’ve got a lot going on, too.”

“But you’re the little sister,” Two said. “You don’t need to make time for me. That’s not what you’re for.”

“It’s really okay, Two,” I said. I’d learned to not bother trying to argue the point about who was the big sister and who was the little sister in our relationship. Two was older than me, chronologically, and that was all that mattered in her mind. “We aren’t literal sisters anyway.”

“But figuratively, we’re like sisters,” Two said. “So I asked Steff what I should do, and she said I should be there when I can, and that when it’s over I should roll my eyes and say that you are such a dork under my breath when I do, because that’s the sort of thing that big sisters do when they’re old enough to not have as much time for their little sisters as they used to.”

“Steff told you that, huh?” I said. Yep… that was Steff.

“Yes. I know that Steff likes to tease, so I subjected her claims to independent verification.”

“And the TV told you the same thing,” I guessed.

“Yes!” Two said.

“You still shouldn’t call people dorks, though,” Amaranth said.

“I’m sorry that it sounds mean, but Steff assured me that it’s okay because it’s true, and because I love Mack,” Two said. “We can call the people we love dorks. It’s allowed.”

“I love you, too, Two,” I said.

“I have to sleep,” she said. “Goodnight, Mack. Goodnight, Amaranth.”

“Goodnight,” Amaranth said.

“Goodnight,” I said. “And… if you ever get tired of housekeeping, I think I know another line of work for you.”

“No, thank you,” Two said. “I wouldn’t enjoy that. I would rather take care of things than make them. And… and… I think I prefer the function I’ve chosen for myself over the one that I was made for.”

“I should try to see how this works for person-to-building interfacing,” I said when Two had returned to her room.

“Would it work any differently in the morning?” Amaranth asked.

“No, but…”

“No buts, indeed!” Amaranth said, giving me a swat on the rear hard enough to make me jump. “We had a deadline, and you are seventeen minutes past it.”

“Okay, okay!” I said. “I need to wait for Two to finish in the bathroom, though… unless you want me to get marker all over the pillows.”

“It’s magic marker, silly,” she said, producing it and twirling it between her fingers. “It doesn’t smudge, and you need the other end of the pen to erase it, not water.”

“Okay, but I still want to get it off before bed,” I said, reaching out a hand for it. “Knowing me, I’d forget it’s there and rush off to deal with the building drama, then go through my face with some ridiculous thing written on my face and not understand why anyone’s looking at me funny.”

“Ridiculous?” Amaranth said. “Baby, I think you should go take a look in the vanity before you wipe it out.”

“Why,” I said, even as I turned and stepped closer to the mirror hung over the dresser. “What’s it…”

In the simple, clear lines of Two’s own block hand, my forehead read “SIS”.

Amaranth appeared over my shoulder, leaning into my back as she hugged me from behind.

“And to think, you didn’t want to ask for her help.”

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70 Responses to “Chapter 180: Two-For-One”

  1. Chris Martin says:

    Glad you’re keeping up the posting, though the rough conditions are showing in this one.

    Beautiful moment, but it’s clear you didn’t have the chance to do the editing you normally do. Expect a lot of corrections.

    Might I suggest until things calm down just flagging the new posts (maybe with a header commenting on future editing)? I love reading the story and I’d rather continue having updates during this time then you killing yourself to keep them all fully edited.

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    • Luke Licens says:

      Typo Thread:

      ” then go through my face with some ridiculous thing written on my face and not understand why anyone’s looking at me funny.”

      Pretty sure that should be ‘go through the day’.

      PS: Thanks for the writing. Two has always been one of my favorites. ^_^

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    • Lunaroki says:

      Indeed. This was a beautiful and heart-warming chapter, but it was hurting from a technical standpoint for lack of proofreading.

      Typo Report

      “Oh,” Two said. “Well, the structure of the spell * right even though some of your symbols are out of date.”

      Missing an “is” or “was” after “spell”.

      “Yes, which is why yours * out of date,” she said.

      Again, missing an “are” or “were” after “yours”.

      She pointed at the formula on the page, in the structures that encircled and contained the spells* and where her finger touched the paper*, flecks of graphite whirled around and arranged themselves into rune symbols… disconcertingly, they were in my hand writing.

      Pretty sure that the comma after “paper” belongs after “spells” instead.

      That would be totally negate the benefit of writing my own spell.

      The word “be” is extraneous and needs removed.

      They weren’t necessarily very good ones, but that was neither here nor now.

      This one I’m thinking is probably intentional rather than a typo, which is fine, but this mash-up of “here and now” with “neither here nor there” threw me a little when I read it.

      But then, if I used that gulf as an excuse to push her further away instead of reaching for it… was it really lament?

      Pretty sure it should be “reaching for her”, not “it”.

      “Knowing me, I’d forget it’s there and rush off to deal with the building drama, then go through my face with some ridiculous thing written on my face and not understand why anyone’s looking at me funny.”

      Should be “then go through my day”, not “face”.

      I don’t say this often enough but I just love your work so much! That’s why I spend the time to do these typo reports, because your work deserves to be seen shining spotless, in all its glory. I am humbled to be able to contribute to that end in this way. Please don’t ever think I’m criticizing your work, because I wouldn’t dare. You, Ms. Erin, are three times the writer that I will ever be.

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      • Chris Martin says:

        I don’t know, I’m partial to the phrase “Go through my face”. It has a certain ring to it, does it not?

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  2. zeel says:

    Yay! I love Two. . .

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  3. Maahes0 says:


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  4. tomclark says:


    2 <3

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  5. Zukira Phaera says:

    2 <3 !

    so glad she finally talked to Two

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  6. Malarky says:

    I have to say I’ve fully enjoyed this chapter. I think this is one of the greatest we’ve seen in a while. The humor, characters, emotions, and wonderful delivery were all spot on. This chapter reminded me why I love this story.

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  7. Just Some Guy says:

    Double-plus good on seeing Two again. I’ve been missing her.

    I always hear her in my head with Summer Glau’s voice. She’s pretty much my go-to for waify teenage-girl types, but it’s a really good match here – somewhere between a sane River Tam and a not-cold-and-emotionless Cameron Phillips.

    Also: very much looking forward to seeing Mack’s new wand work.

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    • PrometheanSky says:

      Huh, Summer Glau as Two. That’s kinda perfect. Now I’m left wondering who else I would cast…

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      • John says:

        I would have said a younger Christina Ricci (circa Sleepy Hollow?), but Summer Glau works. *tries to resist adding a dirty comment… succeeds*

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      • Chris Martin says:

        That’s a fun thought experiment!

        Makes me wish we had a forum, would be an easier place to run on that idea.

        Though, I would argue that I am also fond of Amy Acker for the role of Two.

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        • Oni says:

          There *IS* a forum. 😛

          Or there was last time I checked. It really should be better integrated here.

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        • Arancaytar says:

          I could see either, really.

          Come to think of it, I think each of them would do well in many of the other one’s roles (though my experience is limited to seeing Summer as River and Cameron, and Amy as Fred).

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          • Chris Martin says:

            Should check out Amy as Dr. Sanders in Dollhouse.

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    • Zukira Phaera says:

      you know, I couldn’t place the voice my internal narrator reads Two in, and then reading your post it clicked.

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  8. Gabrielle says:

    I shed a tear at the end. Lovely.

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    • Lunaroki says:

      I know what you mean! I almost cried myself. That was such a powerful moment when Mack discovered the word Two wrote on her forehead. The feels! ;u;

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  9. tomo says:


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  10. scrwtp says:

    in my mind, this is one of the best installments in a long time. it’s rare that one chapter has so much progression and new info at the same time. i think you knocked this one out of the park. thank you.

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    • Lyssa says:

      I totally agree. This was a bit flawed technically, but who cares when the content was so amazing? The technical flaws will be fixed (thanks so much Lunaroki!) but the chapter itself was amazing. It combined everything I love about this story.

      Though I did wince a bit when Mackenzie told Two they weren’t literal sisters.

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  11. Spartakos says:

    Man, Two is just the most adorable.

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  12. Arkeus says:

    …sweetness overload. I need to reboot.

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  13. Kaila says:

    My reaction from halfway through this to the end was just ‘eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!.

    Practically squee’d myself at the awesome adorableness.

    Also, I call my other half a dork. Sometimes, it just fits.

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  14. Burnsidhe says:

    … Two was right. They DID have a better connection. 🙂

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  15. Peter says:


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  16. Month says:

    I think I am now obligated to state this, that if something happens to two, I will have to hunt you down from all over the other side of the Atlantic…

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  17. Wysteria says:

    That was lovely.

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  18. Scott Simmons says:

    Crap, I’m totally crying. Shouldn’t have read this in the morning–now I’ll have red eyes all day. Thanks, AE.

    No, really, thank you. 🙂

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  19. Anne says:


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  20. Anne says:

    Magic geek question here… Why do some ‘mirrors’ function as we know them and others as scrying devices?

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    • Elle says:

      I think it’s been said that even the scrying devices, when they’re not active, function as regular mirrors. Not all mirrors function as scrying devices because they haven’t had that functionality added to them (or put another way, they haven’t been bespelled).

      AE – thank you for posting! I hope packing is going well and the weather hasn’t been too harsh. Please feel free to put off posting a chapter if you need to pack, and of course your health take priority over everything.

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    • asdfasdf says:

      because reflective surfaces like pools and mirrors and crystal are traditional in fantasy as scrying tools. and that makes them the best shape for a scrying tool to be in this universe. water won’t hold a charge and crystals are bulkier when all you want is a screen, probably harder to mass produce than mirrors and also have other uses as powerstones and the magical equivalent of a computer so why waste one when a mirror works better for the use you intend it for anyway. a computer can do voice calls but mostly we use phones for that ect.

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    • Mist42nz says:

      In some worlds, in particular the one where stories are Mack are written rather than lived, historically reflections have been gateways. Ancient humans use to believe that vision worked by sending out beams from the eyes which created pictures in the eyes. Thus much of the evil eye stories.
      Of course in times gone by, most human ads reflections were poor to fair images which made alternate worlds and faerie realms possible, and like narcissus reflection in the lake they were always mystically out of reach.

      In this place too, magic often relies on having a solid focused thought in mind. A specific occurrence or imagination. Having reflections and pictures help strengthen that focus, on top of the portal/gateway effect.

      And finally, looking directly into a mirror reflects the gazers own features, this allows the person to see their own features, to reflect on the self. To challenge their own demons or to revel on the anglelic

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  21. Mattface says:

    damn that was a good chapter. Lemme just wipe the tears from my eyes and get back to work now. Thanks AE!

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  22. DaManRando says:

    Whole chapter, POW…. Right in the Feels

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  23. Matt Doyle says:

    This is my favorite chapter so far, in the… four years? Five years? That I’ve been reading, and I don’t say that lightly.

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  24. Seth says:

    On a scale of one to ten, I rate this chapter an “Amazing”.

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  25. Zathras IX says:

    “You got martial stuff
    All over my enchantment!”
    —The Reese’s Peacenuts

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    • pedestrian says:

      Twas an enchanted evening
      when the gyneoc Duality
      of invention and infernal,
      with symmetrical affections,
      came together as one
      magical moment of creation.

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  26. pedestrian says:

    AE terrific chapter.

    I really like the thoughtfulness you put into Mackenzie’s maturing character.

    The realization? comprehension? of the intricacy of the developing relationship between TWO & SIS.

    The emotional depth of being ‘BEING’.

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  27. Dani says:

    It’s not independent verification if Steff gets his ideas from the TV. (“Today, on the Necro Channel, we have the touching story of a ghoul and her dog….”)

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  28. scubadude says:

    “There she was in my head… perfect Two. Quiet Two. Shy Two. Unflagging Two. Courageous Two. Rigid Two. Petulant Two. Amazing Two.”

    just… awesome.

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  29. William Carr says:

    Well, that’s a relief.

    TWO putting in the filter to stop warlike uses blocks the Wand from being misused.

    Now it should be a data gathering tool only.

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    • TheTurnipKing says:

      The idea that you have to specifically #exclude elements that you don’t want tinkering with your spells is an interesting point of differentiation from computer science.

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      • Winkrometer says:

        Can you imagine having to #exclude every header in your includes path that you DON’T want instead using #include for those you DO? Consider a compiler error “unused header file , #exclude required”. What a nightmare. “I added a new header…and then had to fix #exclude build breaks in 257 directories…”

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        • TheTurnipKing says:

          I’m guessing you wouldn’t specifically have to exclude everything (and indeed, very probably can’t since every exclusion exponentially increases the difficulty of casting the spell). Just stuff that -might- mess with the spell you’re casting.

          So just as in the real world, you’ve got a nice tradeoff between the stuff you explicitly really need to get locked down for the spell to work at all, and stuff that would simply make the results better.

          In the real world, it’d be nightmarish, but as a magic system, the idea has a certain amount of merit.

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          • Mist42nz says:

            There could be several magic connections for such a system.
            It could link to blood, certain iron based compounds when mixed go red like blood, including rust.
            Weapons are made of iron, when iron is discovered and useable.
            Alchemically iron is ruled by mars, mars is the martial aspect.

            Turning to science on our world. When building electronic equipment it is important to take all unused inputs to ground, or lock them High to positive rail voltage. If this isn’t done then induction or just static can give them random values…even possibly enough to cause the creation to be damaged. The equivalent kind of thing in computer programming is to not set a variable value to a safe preset during declaration, or as soon as possible, or to create pointers to future values and try and dynamically allocate space and value on the fly when they’re needed. Theoretically it should be possible, but in practice it’s not viable or secure, and it would be a nightmare to housekeep properly.

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        • tomclark says:

          I would handle that by using a better-designed language than C. 😉

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          • TheTurnipKing says:

            I’m viewing Two as a better compiler at this point.

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      • r4m0n says:

        As a programmer myself, I see this differently. Externalities present themselves to us through errors and exceptions, and it’s our task to figure out which ones can happen and how to respond to them. How bad does your code break when a cat walks over the keyboard?

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        • Seth says:

          It’s kind of like adding more hardware to the system.

          Sure, more hardware gives you more things that your program can do – but also comes with a whole bunch of stuff you don’t want it to do, some stuff that it might do anyway, a few things that are conveniently not documented in the chip spec, and the completely wtf things that happen when wires happen to be shorted together.

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          • pedestrian says:

            “Every solution to a problem
            causes two new problems
            and revives an old problem
            you thought you had resolved
            several versions ago!

            Like a zombie rising from the grave
            of an enemy you had killed a while ago!

            quoting – myself

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  30. Fred says:

    I know that it’s probably just that I’m under a lot of stress lately, so literally everything’s setting me off…

    …But those last lines made me get all teary-eyed.

    Beautiful chapter.

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  31. Brenda says:

    AE, in case you can’t tell, we’ve all missed Two. Thanks for putting her in focus again here!

    Also, everyone, the character’s name is not TWO. Those are the symbols on her head; her name is Two. Since she refers to herself as “Two”, it doesn’t make sense to change that representation. (I almost said it’s disrespectful – which it is, but after all she’s not really real…)

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    • Hiinst says:

      Actually she refers to herself as ‘ŦΨØ’ in all written forms of communication. Other characters refer to her as ‘Two’ (though its hard to say whether there is any phonetic difference…)

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  32. Helge says:


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  33. coma baby says:

    dammit. you made me tear up. I’m such a dork.

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  34. Zergonapal says:

    This made me fel all warm and fuzzy, thanks AE 🙂

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  35. Tsukenobi says:

    “I’d felt the whole thing with the kind of clarity I’d never felt anything, when dealing with magic.”

    Not (quite) sensical.

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  36. Xicree says:

    This chapter left me smiling sooo hard. It was beautiful.

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  37. Arancaytar says:

    All these feels…

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  38. Crissa says:


    Corny, sure, but honesty alway is.

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  39. anonymus says:

    i have half a mind of clicking the heart at every comment^^
    i mean it is just such a heart warming chapter, clicking like/love buttons afterwards just seemed like a natural reaction…

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