439: Fatherly Interests

on April 14, 2010 in Book 16

In Which Mackenzie Does Not Fall On Her Ass

The rest of the evening proceeded in a fairly sedate fashion, compared to what had come before. Steff spent some more time sequestered with Amaranth, but eventually they reached a point where she no longer had the energy reserves left in her body to take care of her now seemingly bottomless pit of sexual need. Amaranth showed more than a little concern about this development and mentioned again the irresponsibility of Dee in giving Steff a potion without knowing what its full effects would be, but Steff brushed it off.

In her words, it was “the best problem ever.”

The whole hall seemed pretty quiet… and the campus beyond it, or at least the part that stretched between the dining room and Harlowe. I spent a moment reflecting on how nice and peaceful everything was before it hit me that this wasn’t because everybody was wrapped up in a cloud of post-poly-coital bliss but because people were still reeling from the events of Veil weekend and the ongoing investigation. No matter what we did, no matter what else came up, that was still real and still happening. Life had to go on even in the midst of death, but death was accorded the same privilege from life.

It was sobering to think about. I didn’t want what had already happened to obliterate the joy I felt at being with Steff for our “second first” time… but I didn’t want to seem disrespectful. To whom, I wasn’t sure… there were probably people who would declare anything I did, up to and including somehow appearing at a funeral rite for the deceased, to be disrespectful. Gloria for instance seemed to believe I wasn’t capable of doing more than seeming nice.

If behaving somber and grave would be taken as mockery, then it didn’t make much sense to worry too much about “correct” behavior. On the other hand, though, being disrespectful to Leda on the basis that some people who had nothing to do with her wouldn’t appreciate the effort I put into doing otherwise was hardly fair.

But then, Leda hadn’t really liked me either… who was to say she wouldn’t have been among the naysayers if she hadn’t been the one who died?

Or would she even have noticed either way? Was she capable of noticing, from whatever afterlife awaited her people?

No matter how many times I went around it in my head, she was still dead, it still didn’t have anything to do with me, and I still couldn’t do anything about it. Also, I was really fucking tired. I didn’t go to bed early just to try to shut down the mental fencing match that was going on in my head, but I was grateful at the prospect of a few hours of oblivion and freedom from ethical dilemmas.

Of course, it would be too easy for me to get what I want even in my dreams… it seemed like my eyes had barely shut when I found myself beneath a yellow sky, in the middle of the road going through the farm in the labyrinth. It was so much where I didn’t want to be and so very much not like my usual dreams… both in terms of setting and the unusual solidity of the surroundings… that I knew right away what was up.

Hey, I’m not always that slow on the uptake.

I looked around. There was no one in sight… not even the scarecrow or the birds. The farm was in its post-curse configuration, save for a pumpkin patch replacing the field of corn. My eyes strayed towards the haystack, but my pitchfork wasn’t there.

“You might as well come out,” I called, turning around and keeping my eyes open. “Let’s get this over with.”

There was a low chuckle right behind my right ear. I spun around, but my foot kind of dragged on the dirt and I lost my balance, landing on my ass. Yes, it was definitely a realistic dream.

“Smooth, girl,” the man who I believed to be my father said, looking down at me from under the brim of his hat. “You didn’t get that from me, I tell you… your mother, though, she was always falling one way or another.” He was holding a cigarette… it looked to be hand-rolled, for all I knew about cigarettes. It looked kind of sloppy. He held up a fingertip to it and lit it. In the instant that the flame flickered into sight, he… diminished somehow, flickering around the edges. I realized that I could see the sunlight through him. “You don’t look to happy to see me.”

“I’m a little happy,” I said.

“Why’s that?”

“Because I can see less of you,” I said. “I’d be even happier to see the back of you.”

“You should count yourself lucky,” the man said. “You’d like me better than the other thing that’s going around.”

“What other thing?”

“Never mind that,” he said.

“You’ve faded,” I said. “Does that mean your way in has become a little harder to use, or is it because my grandmother’s nearby? Or maybe because of all the imperials hanging around town, checking for demonic activity?”

That was a bit of a bluff, of course… the investigators had already done all the checking for demonic activity they were likely to, since they’d been able to rule out my involvement.

“Picture a demon afraid of an imp… I’d sooner die. Word of advice, daughter of mine,” he said. “When you think to yourself that you’re lying right after you do it, you’re just handing the truth to anyone’s who’s taking a stroll through your head. That’s why most people don’t go around narrating their every last little thought. Well, that, and most people just aren’t that into themselves… of course, that’s the closest thing to self-esteem you’ve got, so maybe I shouldn’t turn up my head at it.”

“I was right the first time, wasn’t I?” I said, choosing to ignore the barbs. He was already inside my head, so there was no sense letting him under my skin. “You didn’t bother me at all after Amaranth… after we…”

“After she near blinded you with her damned divinity?” the man said. “Listen, baby girl, just because I choose not to recklessly expose myself to dangerous energies doesn’t mean I couldn’t have found a way in if I needed to. I don’t want you thinking that she’s the cure for me… if only so you don’t end up overdoing things. You’ve got a real problem with moderation.”

Don’t call me that,” I said, suddenly intensely conscious of the fact that I was still sitting with my ass in the dirt while he gloated over me. I started to get up, then reconsidered.

This was my dream.

I didn’t fall on my ass.

I was standing up.

“Well,” the man said, nodding in approval that felt dirty against my skin. “That’s more like it… and why can’t I call you ‘baby girl’? Do I sound too much like her? You’re way more my baby than hers, I can tell you that for nothing.”

“Yeah, you don’t mind telling me something I already know,” I said. “But I don’t think it’s exactly true, except in a literal sense, maybe.”

Only literally true,” he said. “You don’t have unreasonably high standards or anything, do you?”

“You’re not a father to me,” I said. “You’ve never done a thing for me.”

“Aside from the obvious, you mean,” he said. “Listen, I’ve been watching out for you. If I can’t take care of you myself, I’ve made sure you’re taken care of.”

“So you admit to hiring my lawyer?”

“You spit that out like it’s a deadly accusation,” he said. “Only it’s not going to poison me. I’m already the ancient enemy, remember? The one creature on this chaos-blasted rock who can’t be tarred by association with a lawyer. Do you really want me to answer your question, little lady? Or would you rather be able to say with a straight face and a clean conscience that you don’t know where the gold came from?”

“Except I won’t be able to, because you’ve all but told me it’s you,” I said.

“Yeah, we’re gonna have to work on that,” the man said. “The truth is your enemy, fire-child… that’s why your granny taught you to cleave to it. The truth exposes you, it weakens you, it takes away your natural advantages. It’s like a sword… only good to touch when you’ve got the right end of it and you’re doing the swinging. But I know better to think I can undo a decade of harm with a moment of common sense, so I’m going to give you a gift.”

“I don’t want anything from you,” I said.

“A minute ago you complained that I’ve never done anything for you.”

“That wasn’t a complaint,” I said. “I don’t want to be your child.”

“Well, I’m going to give this to you anyway, because you need it,” he said. “It’s the gift of doubt.”

“You don’t need to give me any more doubts,” I said. “The ones I already have are plenty.”

“Ooh, sass,” the man said. “I do believe I’m rubbing off on you. Now here’s the thing: even if I weren’t the one who paid your lawyer, wouldn’t I let you think I was?”

“Are you trying to convince me that you’re a liar who does nothing for me and tries to take credit for it?”

“No, I’m giving you doubt,” he said. “Before you were pretty well sure it was me, because that felt like the truth and you’ve been raised to stick by the truth… and now, when you think about what I told you, you’ll realize that feels true, too. So if someone asks you where the money came from, you can honestly say you don’t know. What have you got tomorrow?”

“What do you mean, what have I got?”

“Your classes,” he said. “Your schedule.”

“So you can stalk me?”

“I’m taking a fatherly interest,” he said.

“If you don’t know then you’re not in as deep as you were before,” I said. “I’m not going to tell you… I’m not even going to think about it.”

“Or maybe I’d rather have a conversation than just pull facts out of the ether,” he said. “I suppose that’s a bit unheard of, to your generation… it’s among the things that I liked about your mother.”

“You had a lot of conversations with her, did you?” I asked.

“Skeptical?” he asked. “That’s good. Of course it would be better if you’d be skeptical of more people who aren’t me… it seems like you never let anyone in unless you let them all the way. Oh, yes… if you ever want to, you know, get to know her a little better, I’d be pleased to tell you about them sometimes.”

“If I want to know more about what my mother was like, I’ll ask my grandmother,” I said.

“Ouch,” he said, clapping a hand over his heart. “Little girl, that hurts like praying.”

“My grandmother’s not my favorite person in the world, but she’s better than you,” I said.

“Of course she is,” the man said. “That is, after all, the function of a paladin… knights exemplar. But I think you were about to tell me what classes you’ve got?”

I sighed. I couldn’t really see any point in not telling him, except for sheer contrariness… and that didn’t seem like enough. Okay, maybe I had plenty of reasons not to tell him anything and maybe I didn’t need a reason to tell him to go to hell, but it seemed like if I wasn’t acting petty on top of my good reasons then it would be harder for him to turn anything around on me.

“Elementalism,” I said. “And applied enchantment. And my mixed melee class.”

“Elementalism,” he said. “Your teacher. What’s he like?”

“She,” I corrected. “I don’t know. She’s a good teacher. Very professional.”

“You should stick close by her,” he said.


“You might learn something,” he said. “Isn’t that what teachers are for? Now, your melee class…”

“What about it?”

“I get the feeling you aren’t trying very hard there,” he said.

“Why’s that any business of yours?”

“I’m looking out for you,” he said. “I can’t take care of you all the time. You need to take care of yourself.”

“I’ve got enough people looking out for me,” I said. “And they’ve given me this same lecture, better than you have.”

“Not good enough,” he said. “I tell you what: whoever you end up fighting, if you knock her on her back, I’ll give you a gift. For every time you do it.”

“I don’t want anything from you,” I said. “I just want you to leave me alone.”

“Then that’s what I’ll give you,” he said. “Each and every time you knock someone down, I’ll leave you alone once, for twenty-four hours.”

“So if I knock someone down three times, you’ll leave me alone for three days?” I said. “Fine with me. I’m going to be trying as hard as I can, but not for you. I already settled this with my teacher. She’s moving the class indoors for me, but I have to pick up the pace.”

“Listen, you don’t understand the deal I’m offering,” he said. “You knock someone down three times, you don’t get the next three days, but any three days. Three times you tell me to back off, and each time I’ll back off for a whole day… it doesn’t matter whether I’m just stopping by to say hey or if I’m doing something dastardly that I’ve had planning for eons and my whole evil plan’ll be upset if you send me away, I’ll go.”

“Why would you do that?”

“Maybe because I don’t have any plans that can be so upset?” he said. “Anyway, that’s the offer… and just like you’re going try your damnedest no matter what I do, it’s a valid offer no matter what you do.”

“This sounds like a plot to make me think twice before telling you to fuck off,” I said.

“Sharp,” he said, shaking his head. “Why aren’t you this sharp with anyone else?”

“I’m getting sharper,” I said. “First thing I do when I wake up, I’m looking for a way to keep you out. I’ll stay away from divinity if I can help it, but there’s got to be something… meditation training, or maybe the mental healers that Amaranth was talking about can do something for me… fill in the holes you made.”

“I’ll teach you how to shield your mind myself, if that’s what you want,” he said. “Anything that makes you less of a pushover.”

“Like you’d really show me,” I said. “How would I know it was working? Because you’d stop showing up just long enough for me to start trusting you?”

“How long would that be, exactly?” the man asked. “Maybe I’d rather give up the easy way in to make sure nobody else could take it, either.”

“Or maybe you’d give up this advantage to stop anyone else from getting a look at my mind,” I said. “Why? What are they going to find… your fingerprints? A trail that leads back to you? Something else that you’ve done to me?”

“Maybe I’m trying to spare you some heartache,” he said. “Maybe it’s not anything I’ve done that I’m trying to keep from you.”

“Or maybe you’re trying to get me to do this,” I said. “I mean, I wasn’t tremendously inclined towards the idea in the first place… the fact that you seem so dead-set against it is the best thing it’s got going for it, really.”

“You think I’d be so crude?” he asked.

“It’s a pretty crude attempt regardless,” I said. “The only question is which direction you’re going in.”

“Maybe I don’t really care one way or the other,” he said. “Maybe I just want you to think about it, have all the options laid out. You could take your nymph-friend’s suggestion and kick up a fuss until the school digs up a psychic demon-wrangler… and it’s worth reflecting on the circumstances under which such an individual likely gained such expertise… or you could let me take a crack at teaching you how to run your own mind. Now, you’re not entirely inclined to trust me… and that’s good, you can be a mite too trusting at times… but you’re not thrilled about the other plan… and really, given the current state of your mind, either plan’s better than doing nothing.”

“I don’t know,” I said. “Like I said, you’re not looking quite as there as you were the last time you were here… I don’t think your foothold’s quite as strong as it was. I don’t know if that’s because of Amaranth or if my mind’s just healing…”

“Right, you don’t know,” he said. “You’re operating in unknown waters here. The currents can be treacherous.”

“Better treacherous waters than a treacherous guide,” I said.

“So why don’t you want to see a healer?” he asked.

“It’s not that I don’t want to… I think it might do me some good just to talk to someone who’s got experience helping people with, you know, issues and stuff,” I said. “If it comes down to it, I trust the people in the healing center over you, even after all the fuck-ups there. But as far as letting someone poke around inside? That just strikes me as a bad idea. It wasn’t just Hissy touching my mind… my mind reached out and touched her back. It seems like any kind of contact’s going to turn into a battle. Even if it’s possible to make that safe, I’m not convinced it’ll be pleasant.”

“Well, maybe I’m advocating for the wrong side here, but don’t you think that maybe if you were letting someone poke around in your head on purpose you wouldn’t do that?”

“It wasn’t exactly under my control,” I said.

“Unlike everything else about that situation, I suppose,” the man said. “That’s your problem right there: you aren’t in control. You try to keep a whole half of yourself locked away and never give it any exercise, and the other half of you can’t do anything but run and hide… fold at the first sign of trouble.”

“I’ve seen what happens to half-demons who exercise their demon halves,” I said, thinking of Mercy and her bestial boys.

“They act anything like me?” the man asked. “I act anything like them? No? What you saw wasn’t the demon side ascendant… it was everything that’s worth anything beaten down into the ground. Believe me, baby girl, that’s the last thing I want from you. Demons, humans… both are reasoning beings. The reason might be different but it’s there.”

He dropped his cigarette on the ground and stepped on it, grinding it out with the toe of his shoe.

“You think on that a little,” he said, turning and walking away. “I’ll let you get back to whatever it is you usually dream about… whips and chains or whatever.”

“I will find a way to keep you out,” I said.

“I’m looking forward to it, baby girl.”

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101 Responses to “439: Fatherly Interests”

  1. 3023ogilvyd says:

    I… have no idea what to make of this chapter. Besides the fact that it’s got a lot of ambiguity and a lot of mental chess.

    Current score: 0
  2. Mak says:

    Fantastic. I always look forward to the Man showing up, and here I am reminded why: the interplay between Mack and he is a joy to read.

    Current score: 7
    • sanityoptional says:

      I trust him too much, because he is so awesome. I would totes be best buddies with him

      Current score: 2
  3. Miss Lynx says:

    I’m already the ancient enemy, remember? The one creature on this chaos-blasted rock who can’t be tarred by association with a lawyer.

    That line just about made me spew tea all over my keyboard. (Which must be a too-frequent event, as I nearly typed teaboard there.)

    Current score: 9
  4. Ima Fey says:

    When is the silly girl going to stop and think that is maybe goblins are people too, so is a demon. I guess we are all blind when it comes to ourselves.

    Current score: 1
    • Amarys says:

      i think she knows that Demons are people, but remember she was raised by a demon smiting paladin. Therefore, even if demons are people with people like wants and needs, that basic fact is overrun by their innate evilness. According to Grandma Blaise, demons do EVERYTHING for the evils, and therefore can’t have a truly personlike perspective

      Current score: 6
    • Oni says:

      I think Mack has given more of an ear to Mercy, someone who has gone out of her way to point out the woes she plans to bestow on her.
      “The Man” is obviously not a nice guy, but there hasn’t been any evidence of him doing anything horrible. That and the hints that the “Demons” weren’t exactly like this before someone/thing chucked them through the black-hole-of-chaos-and-evil.

      Current score: 3
      • Leon931 says:

        Over all, even though the Man hasn’t given any solid inclination that he has any dastardly plan, he is still a demon. Mack isn’t exactly all about sunshine and rainbows when she is demonic so she at least has the right attitude when dealing with the Man. He seems to like the idea of being this manipulative being a little too much…

        Current score: 2
        • Oni says:

          True, but there’s also only one truely evil factor of demons: they need human flesh to continue to exist. Like I alluded to, it’s been mentioned in the story (not even just too lazy to hunt it down, I probably couldn’t find the reference within 24 hours if I tried) that demons-as-they-are were created by being “cast down” somehow. It isn’t clear why, or what they existed as before that, but some simple reading of foreshadowing would make you think it’s at least possible that there’s more to the story that meets the eye.
          And as has been mentioned in this batch of comments, the only time Mack has gone “demon” was when she was starving or possessed by a scrap of a demon. Not exactly the best basis. The Man points that out here by commenting on Mercy’s half-breeds and that the traits they exhibit don’t mesh with demon or human, just with broken feral beasts.
          Also, The Man’s how many centuries or more old? I’m hard pressed to think of a fantasy-realm character that old which *doesn’t* enjoy a good bit of manipulation. Even the gods of the MU-verse tend towards this.

          Current score: 2
  5. Seven says:

    “Listen, baby girl, just because I choose not to recklessly expose myself to dangerous energies doesn’t mean I couldn’t have found a way in if I neede to.”

    neede = needed

    Current score: 0
    • IronDino says:

      I believe the correct term you’re looking for is incubus. But I must abmit you’re portrayal of them man nevers fails to have him exude a composed perfectly logical and resonable viewpoint (cool evil Spock). I think a good deal of it may come from the fact that you portray Mack as being quite stubborn to his reasoning.
      In story I think that he could run circles around most of Macks friends including Amarath and Dee. They both have a strong inner resolve, and he seems to be designed to deteriorate that. Steff may be able to deal with him fairly well, but only for a while. He could probably whip Mercy, and the coach (forgot her name). The dragon dean (forgot his name) could most likely trumph him in a battle of wits.
      Mack Daddy’s most powerful weapon is that he has a couple 100? 1000? years of experience on his side. Few can challenge that.
      I do hope he doesn’t die till at least Mack’s Junior or Senior year.

      Current score: 0
      • IronDino says:

        Oop’s misdirected reply. I meant the first sentance for Sabrina.

        Current score: 0
      • Lithos says:

        One does not ‘just’ go up against a greater dragon. As a race they were powerful enough on this world to “lose not enough” against gods that they got to sign a some deal or another(that has a non-competition clause), rather than face destruction.

        Demons on the other hand as a race went against a few gods(the few that care about humans) and got completely banished from the earthly plane. then again they also did “lose not enough” to still survive to some extent or another.

        Current score: 1
        • BMeph says:

          Right, because…
          One does not just go waltzing into…the Vice-Chancellor’s office! ;þ

          Current score: 3
          • Kalamorda says:

            Right…….he likes he meals to tango in……

            Current score: 2
  6. Sabrina says:

    Oh man, Mack Daddy is so smooth. Every time he shows up I find myself feeling like he makes more sense than anyone else in the story. Now is that his succubus nature, or…?

    I like what he said about Mercy’s half-demon “pets.” He’s right– I think Mackenzie’s been thinking about that wrong. After all, she associates her demonic side with what happens when said side is literally starving– under which circumstances humans can get pretty bestial too. I think her true infernal side is much more like what we saw when the pitchfork was influencing her– figuring out how to bypass the firewalls on the library ethernet in order to access Tender Mercy’s, for example.

    Current score: 2
    • Sabrina says:

      Oops, IronDino’s right, I did mean incubus. I know the difference perfectly well, too. My bad.

      So if he really is an incubus, though, does that make Mackenzie half-incubus, or half-succubus?

      Current score: 1
      • Gruhl says:

        Traditionally speaking, Incubi and Succubi are the same kind of demon. In christian mythology, they are just different names for the changing phases of a special type of demon whos MO is to seduce a married man in succubi form, enticing him to commit the sin of adultery, and then, with the seed procured during the coupling, as an incubus impregnate a seduced woman who will give birth to a baby dedicated to evil. So, knowing the difference perfectly well, might, from some point of views, be an exaggeration.

        That aside, given my preconceptions about demonmythd, I personally would not classify The Man as something as lowly as an Incubus, as thoose are, according to all sources I have perused, a quite elemental kind of demon (in the same sense as nymphs being elemental in their connection with sex and fertility). I would rather figure The Man to be some kind of ruler-class demon, less definable, more individualistic, but not a fullblown demonlord. Minor noble in the hierarchy of hell, perhaps?

        Current score: 1
        • Drudge says:

          Mack Daddy’s answers in the Q&A didn’t make me think of him as a terribly high ranking demon. We also don’t know how demons organize themselves, let alone that they use the feudal system.

          He seems more like the equivalent to middle class/upper/lower middle class. He is however smart and ambitious and trying to use plans to get more power among demons.

          Current score: 2
        • zeel says:

          Incubi and Succubi tend to be a more discreet race from demons in fantasy though, almost an infernal version of nymphs. The impression I get from The Man is just that he really likes seducing girls, not that he is racially obligated to (as he is to eating humans). I don’t think he really fulfills the definition of an incubus.

          Current score: 0
    • capybroa says:

      Mack Daddy…Sweet Mother of Khersis, how did I not get that up until now. Bravo, AE, bravo.

      Current score: 0
  7. Silver says:

    Mmmm, both Mack Daddy and an actual (provisional) date for the next update. All-but-knew both were coming, but still… nice. He’s always such a smooth-talker that you can’t help but enjoy the sparring match.

    One minor typo: “Listen, baby girl, just because I choose not to recklessly expose myself to dangerous energies doesn’t mean I couldn’t have found a way in if I neede to.” [needed]

    Current score: 0
    • Chips says:

      Seen on a carriage bumper sticker in town:
      Demons, Dragons and Lawyers: Ruling Your World since Before Your Daddy Was Born

      Current score: 0
      • Chips says:

        Grr. I hit the reply button under Blondegoth! I swear!

        Current score: 0
        • Blondegoth says:

          Its ok I believe you… Thousands wouldn’t :P. I will forgive you too, if you just sign here (if you don’t have any ink blood will work just as well…)

          Current score: 1
      • Gruhl says:

        Seen on a sticker on a door to a gaming club;
        “I love Dragons, Good men and other fantasy creatures”

        Current score: 1
  8. Blondegoth says:

    Maybe its just because im a sucker for Demons and Angels but I bloody love every story with “The Man” in. You write him with that fantastic fatherly side that has the edge of mistrust about it, you never quite know what his angle is.
    More of this is good pls 😉
    Also it may just be me but I really find myself routing for the Demons, Dragons and Lawyers Etc.. over the “Forces of Light”, this story is very well written (typo’s asside XP ).

    Current score: 2
  9. Lesath says:


    Current score: 0
  10. Sarge says:

    Oh jeez, he’s utterly awesome. More of him, please.

    Current score: 2
  11. JefLebowski says:

    I think Macks Daddy is one of the most sympathic persons in the whole story. . .
    Sounds like a demon you could get along with.

    Current score: 0
  12. Ruby says:

    Maybe it’s having the song on repeat but mack daddy’s demeanor reminds me of a line in a Hives song. “What you gonna do any one of you, what you gonna do when they come for you?”

    Current score: 0
  13. Calia says:

    I’m cackling with glee right about now.

    Current score: 0
  14. Chris Hallquist says:

    I love MackDaddy. Especially the bit about the gift of doubt, but in in general he’s an amazing character.

    I’m sorta surprised by how dense Mack is being about his motives though. It’s pretty obvious his desire to help her is sincere, since he thinks if she ever gets control of her situation in life, she’ll let her evil side shine.

    Current score: 0
    • Chips says:

      Mmm… first steps and slippery slopes always seem okay … until you’re going too fast to stop.

      Current score: 0
    • IronDino says:

      It could even be a far more simple explanation. What if all of Mack Daddy’s complexities are all a cover for a very simple plan. Protect his offspring. He’s the closest to her biologically and (at least in humans) daddy’s little girl wil forever be daddy’s little girl. And no-one touches daddy’s little girl.
      He may just be a background protector since she’s now trying to fend for herself, and floundering at it. He most likely doesn’t trust any of her friends, and only trusted Grandma because they were blodd related. (He may have even thought Grandma would toughen her up.)
      But now that mom’s dead and she’s nolonger under Grandma’s thum, it’s his turn to play parent. And like any good parent, he want’s what’s best for his child and will give it to her; even if she doesn’t want it.

      Current score: 1
      • Marx says:

        That sounds like the most reasonable explanation I’ve encountered regarding Mack Daddy’s behaviour. While I do not disagree that Mack Daddy might have ulterior motives, or might hope for his little girl to “let her evil side shine”, I think that’s one step too far ahead. He might have some parent-child-bonding in mind, but primarily seems to just want to protect Mack, and help her protect herself.

        Current score: 1
  15. otep_rocks says:

    My favorite bit of language play from this update: “You try to keep a whole half of yourself locked away…”

    Current score: 2
  16. Sable says:

    Enjoyable update.


    Current score: 0
  17. Hart says:

    -giggle- Mackdaddy is just… soooooo… neat. I think it is a bad sign that my three favourite ToMU characters are all a bit… well… evil. -g-


    Current score: 0
  18. Mingzi says:

    I hope she does end up at the mental healers… then we can finally learn about how Mack’s momma’s death “isn’t her fault.” I’ve suspected a memory block of some kind there for quite a while, and daddy’s words seem to confirm it.

    nice chapter.

    Current score: 1
  19. tjhairball says:

    My favorite part of Mackdaddy is that everything The Man says automatically becomes a complete mindfuck *just because he’s a demon*.

    Current score: 2
  20. P says:

    One of the best chapters of the series.

    Current score: 0
  21. athsryk6l says:

    Excellent story. I too love chapters with him in it. He’s a great character and you write him perfectly. Also looking forward to “tomorrows” classes. Elementalism is one of my favourites.

    Current score: 1
  22. Chips says:

    I always picture a voice very similar to Sir Anthony Hopkins’ “Hannibal Lecter” when reading his lines.

    Current score: 0
    • BMeph says:

      Funy, I always imagine Billy Dee Williams.

      Current score: 0
      • Daezed says:

        James Earl Jones, here.

        ….hssssst…. ‘Baby girl, I -am- your father…’ shhhhhhssssst ….

        Current score: 2
  23. Chips says:

    And I’m a bit worried… and eager to find out the meaning behind this off-hand exchange at the beginning:

    “You should count yourself lucky,” the man said. “You’d like me better than the other thing that’s going around.”

    “What other thing?”

    “Never mind that,” he said.

    Current score: 1
    • Jennifer says:

      My guess is he means the other dream-time invader: Some Sort of Ridiculous Owl-Turtle Thing.

      Current score: 4
      • Sahsa says:

        That was my thought, too. Up until that line I had thought Some Sort of Ridiculous Owl-Turtle Thing was actually the man in disguise.

        Current score: 0
  24. I know he’s probably been described otherwise, but for some reason, in my mind’s eye, The Man is always a tall, slender black man in a sharp white suit and hat.

    Looking forward to see how many “Fuck-Offs” Mack earns…

    Current score: 0
  25. Rethic says:

    Does Mack really not know yet that her teacher is part demon? I wonder if her dad knows the teacher’s demon blood personally or if he just thinks she uses her demon side to better herself and hopes that Mack will pick up on that. Hmm good chapter.

    Current score: 0
    • Brenda says:

      WE only know that because we got a peek into the official investigation.

      Current score: 1
    • Zukira Phaera says:

      There is an off chance he might know personally, if he has been around long enough.

      Current score: 1
    • Mickey Phoenix says:

      He got the teacher’s gender wrong at first, which suggests no special knowledge on his part. However, as soon as Mack corrected him on the gender issue, he said something suggesting he knew about the teacher’s demon blood.

      What I think happened? As soon as he got Mack thinking about the teacher, he was able to pick more information out of her mind (as per Violet’s answers in the Q&A). And, while Mack hasn’t figured out about her teacher’s demon blood, we know she’s pretty oblivious, and Mack Daddy is surely better at drawing inferences than Mack is.

      In other words–Mack has enough data for Mack Daddy to figure out the demon blood question, but not enough to figure it out herself. Mack Daddy was only able to access that data after getting Mack to think about her professor (by getting the gender wrong).

      Speculation: since Mack Daddy is clearly limited to “subtle artist”-style access to Mack’s thoughts and memories while waltzing through her dreams (see also his comment on her bluff earlier), one other possible motivation for every single thing he says to her is to get her to think about topics he wants to know more about.

      Damn. Now I’m going to have to go back and reread every Mack Daddy dream update from that perspective, and try to model what he might already know, and what he might be fishing for.

      AE–one of the many reasons that you are one of my favorite authors in the whole world, is that you actually model your characters and their reality in sufficient detail, and with sufficient consistency, so as to reward this level of analysis and thought. You are truly amazing.

      Current score: 1
  26. XIII says:

    Mack’s Daddy makes me all squirmy thinking about listening to him. He’s got some very distinct charms.

    The Gift of Doubt… I though that bit was particularly sleek, All in all he talks drop dead sexy… but its like something you know is bad for you, but so sweet you cant help but crave it. And besides all of that the loving fatherly vibe that comes though his interaction of trying to teach his wayward awkward daughter how to survive herself brings up a whole different type of the warm fuzzies.

    In a way he kinda reminds me of the Leanansidhe from the Dresden files, loving to a fault… but truly running on a completely different set of moral principles to their charge.

    Current score: 1
    • Erianaiel says:

      quoting XIII:
      “In a way he kinda reminds me of the Leanansidhe from the Dresden files, loving to a fault… but truly running on a completely different set of moral principles to their charge.”

      Harry’s godmother is so awesome…

      “I only wanted to protect you and make you happy”
      “You tried to turn me into a dog!”
      “You would have been safe and happy in my kennel”


      Current score: 1
  27. Angnor says:

    Hmm. I have to disagree with those who the The Man is sincere and has never done anything horrible. A careful re-read of the bonus stories that cover his interaction with Mack’s mom is in order.

    Current score: 1
    • Mickey Phoenix says:

      The fact that he is a child-abusing pedophile is one of the creepier aspects of this whole story. His interactions with Mack’s mother are textbook “grooming”, and reading about them was really disturbing. Especially because I find myself liking Mack Daddy, no matter how hard I try not to.

      But the reality is, he groomed and then raped a child, deliberately got her pregnant, and then abandoned her. That’s about as close to an example of “pure evil” as I can come up with on short notice.

      It also seriously calls into question his claims, in the Q&A, of having loved her. Unless he means something very different by “love” than most people do.

      Current score: 1
  28. Zathras IX says:

    In which Mack learns that
    Lee has literally played
    Devil’s advocate

    Current score: 2
  29. Sapphite says:

    I wasn’t altogether looking forward to this update, but I’m pleasantly surprised and befuddled.

    Current score: 0
  30. Zergonapal says:

    While he was talking I had this mental voice that was both smooth, raspy and husky all at that same time.
    I’ve heard it in the movies but I can’t think where though.
    At any rate love the story, Mack’s getting sharp, but still not so sharp that she’d have realized just taking to her father is mental exercise 🙂

    Current score: 1
    • Zukira Phaera says:

      If I were to choose a cast for a MU movie Sean Connery would voice him if it were animated, or Hugh Laurie or Sean Connery would play him in a live action version.

      Current score: 0
  31. Arakano says:

    I thoroughly enjoy reading about the Man, and yes, he is cool and smooth – but damn, whenever I read the gushings of his true fans, I am seriously worried. No, he is not a cute nice guy deep inside that just needs the right woman to turn him around, girls. Even if he does want to see Mack strong and surviving, this probably includes wanting her to turn into the human-devourer that a true demon is. I know a man being antagonistic to his daughter’s boyfriend is normal, but the Man is actually seeing him as a potential snack, which is slightly out of the ordinary range of behaviour. For the sake of Ian, Two and Amaranth at least, if not for her own, Mack should continue being wary of her dad.

    Current score: 0
    • Drudge says:

      I’m a fan of his, and I know full well he’s a scheming, manipulative bastard.

      I would however rather hand out with him than Steff. He may be evil but his evil is precise and planned. There doesn’t seem to be much in the way of unexpected problems or side effects for him, and in the case of Aidan there’s been more than a few hints that’s been under control.

      Compare Mack’s inner circle. Steff is also evil, and Viktor is no saint. They are however sloppy about it. They do evil for fun, not out of necessity. They plan on raping and dismembering and destroying, and that’s about all Steff at least has planned for. The Man doesn’t roll like that. Any sex is more or less consensual, any violence is completely necessary, and anyone he care’s about he *Activley* tries to help.

      Amaranth brings out depravity in people, Steff would probably rape you if she could get away with it, Dee doesn’t think things through or understand enough to avoid messy side effects. Ian and Two are the only one’s who can even see sanity from this mental distance, and aren’t exactly fully in it at the moment.

      Hanging around the infernal, man eating monster is probably one of the SAFEST actions in the MUniverse.

      Current score: 1
      • erratio says:

        Uh, grooming a child to have sex with you is not anything close to consensual.

        Mostly agree with the rest of your comment though 🙂 Mack could do much worse than to stick with him, especially if she remembers not to trust anything he says for a second.

        Current score: 2
        • Drudge says:

          Hence more or less. He’d probably stop if she outright said no but it’s still sick and twisted in the extreme.

          Steff on the other hand would probably just go after anyone vulnerable if she could get away with it. Thats the difference in perspective. Wether or not it’s actually true Mack daddy thinks he *needs* to get Laurel Anne pregnant. Steff on the other hand *Wants* to rape, cut up, and eat people. They both want the same thing: The ability to eat humans once in a while, stay close to people they care about, and not be persecuted.

          The difference is Mack Daddy has no choice in the matter and plans well ahead with little collateral, whereas Steff goes out of her way to be as excessive about it.

          Current score: 0
  32. Oitur says:

    ‘Evil’ is just a concept for telling stories. Remember that in the real world, the terrorists we call ‘evil’ are at war with the government/empire that they call ‘evil’. If you call _me_ evil based on that previous sentence, you’re just writing me into the role of villain in your story. The ‘evil’ label just means “I refuse to discuss / think about this any further & you better too or you’re evil, too.” Personally, I call ‘evil’ on that–bringing an end to the possibility of discussion. Let the flame wars begin.

    Of course, that’s the _real_ world. Let’s hope for enough unrealness in the MUniverse for the entertainment of good vs evil.

    Sorry if I’m too preachy / heavy / whatever. Insomnia. I really do like Mack Daddy for his smooth, reasonable approach. I like Dee for the same reason. Logical… reasonable… rational. Beats the heck out of talking with the lawyer (a decent enough guy) about the *politics*, and the… *strategy* of their situation…zzzzz. But that’s just me.

    Oh, and the ol’ ex-proofreader noticed this sentence: “But I know better to think I can undo a decade of harm…” I think he knows better _than_ to think…

    Current score: 0
    • Brenda says:

      Except that in a fictional, fantasy setting, it may be possible for “evil” to be a literal trait. Isn’t that how it works in D&D? (I’ve never played but have seen references to such things online…)

      Current score: 0
      • Drudge says:

        Hasn’t this been covered in ‘verse? Mack is inherintly Evil, but she isn’t evil. Gloria says it’s physically impossible for her to be a good person.

        Current score: 1
    • Mickey Phoenix says:

      I think there are, or at least can be, “objective” standards of “evil”. For example, “knowingly violating someone else’s consent” is a decent standard for “evil”, and while there are still debatable nuances about where “your nose begins”, as the saying goes, they are about negotiating the precise dividing line, not about the general placement or nature of said dividing line.

      I agree that the word is most often used to mean ” opposed to me or my ideology “. But that doesn’t mean it can’t be used meaningfully, just that it usually isn’t.

      Current score: 0
      • Kanta says:

        In most D&D worlds, Evil is very much an objective thing. It comes from the lower parts of the inner planes. You can sit down and pour yourself a glass of Evil (although I wouldn’t recommend drinking it). How much of that carries over into MU, I have yet to find out.

        Current score: 0
  33. Jinzo says:

    Frankly I wish more chapters were inclined towards the inherent problems and angles of the demon-side of Mackenzie (as well as the “monsters are different” living in human society angle for other races).
    Feels stange to say but chapters that are all sex… bores me compared to what could have been instead.

    This was one of the best chapters in a long time and I hope to see more of Macks dad. Perhaps he has a plan to break the hold divinity has on the world, perhaps not. Perhaps he just wants to see Mack safe(er), perhaps he is grooming her to be a pawn in some demonic game, or even demonic pride demands that he gets his halfbreed out of dependence.

    Current score: 0
    • erianaiel says:

      The parts about sex serve another purpose in the context of this story as they do show how Mackenzie copes with the twisted effects of 9 years of solitary isolation and mental torture that her grandmother put her through. They may not show much of the wider world of the muniverse (except occasionally) but then neither do the classroom stories.

      Regarding the entity that claims to be Mackenzie’s biological (or would that be infernal?) father, I doubt he has much good in store for her. His immediate concern may be to get his hopelessly vulnerable daughter to strengthen up but he does not, to me, give up any vibes of warm and fuzzy feelings. There is nothing to show, so far, that demons are anything but dangerous predators and they do seem to regard humans as livestock that supplies entertainment as well as sustenance. Even Mackenzie, when she lost the brakes, turned out to be a vicious and uncontrolled monster when confronted with fresh human meat (e.g. the hotel scene)
      What is very telling, in my opinion, about the father is that he never actually answers a question. It is always evasions, insinuations or a reply that is, at best not an answer to the question aked. This strongly suggests that whatever plans he has in mind for Mackenzie are good for -him- not necessarily good for her.
      What Mackenzie really needs, now she has been exposed to infernal influences twice already, is some unbiased, or at least as unbiased as is possible, information regarding demons. The biggest question that she needs answered is ‘what do demons generally want? (besides the whole dinner part)’

      Current score: 0
      • Anders Celsius says:

        He wants to live, not only survive 😉

        Current score: 0
      • Drudge says:

        As someone already pointed out, those scenes may not be the best way to describe infernal nature. Remember that side’s been supressed and mostly starved for nearly a decade. How’d YOU react if you were locked away, forced to watch a life you have little part in, fed the bare minimum. You’d probably be pretty pissed.

        Not to say The Man is good or anything. It’s clear he bred Mack with a subtle artist for a reason, and given the effects of Infernal + Subtle arts, that reason can’t be anything but bad.

        Current score: 0
      • Anvildude says:

        He seems to me to have almost a Lion-ish feel, like, he doesn’t really ‘love’ her, but he is trying to protect her, get her to grow up strong and safe. Not by actually going in and being a physical protector, but by teaching and example.

        Current score: 0
  34. Nick says:

    I know what would concern me if I were The Man. A long time ago, greater predators ruled this world, at their whim… dragons, demons, etc – beings that do not die of “natural causes.” The elves are kind of a crossroads, eternal if they aren’t slain, but they generally don’t have the raw power or predatory tendencies of the greater immortals, and are themselves becoming more and more like mortal races – as per most elves breathing now, even though it’s considered gross to point it out, and increasingly mixing their bloodlines with humans.

    For the most part, greater immortals like dragons, demons, or gods live on a much greater time scale than short-lived mortal races, and fast changes are new and strange to them. Even new to the older elves. But for all that the lives of individual humans and mortal races are short, they, and particularly humans, are the ascending species. If the progress of humans in MU is a fairly close a mirror of our own progress, the collective power of the mortals will very soon exceed the power of the greater immortals(in fact, it likely has already), and will before long rival that of their gods.

    If I had to put money on it, I’d say The Man is one of the few greater immortals to see the writing on the wall. Umbries, for instance(if I’m spelling that right) seems to grasp some of the situation, but the long term implications aren’t something he seems to be concerned with – possibly a result of dragon nature, which so far seems entirely concerned with personal comforts or hoarding and has little concept of the long term survival of other dragons, indeed little concept of “dragonkind.” The Man not only sees what is happening now, but where it is going. His species is considered purely and simply evil, a hated predator to be wiped out; nobody is concerned with demon preservation – eradication is more on the bill. What kind of life is hiding in the shadows forever, preying on humans in ever more remote locations to stay alive yet under the radar, until eventually the mortals progress so far that there’s nowhere left to go… just waiting for your own death and the extinction of your kind? Unless I miss my guess, The Man wants demons to have rights and be able to live under the protection of mortal laws, so long as they obey them.

    Which is where Mack comes in. She has human rights, because she has human blood. It sounds like the typical life for a half-demon is quietly hiding that part of themselves as much as it is possible, hating what they are and how they are treated for their ancestry, or having a meltdown (most likely as much because of their treatment as their predatory demonic tendencies) and going on a destructive rampage before being killed, thereby reinforcing hatred of demonics. Neither of those outcomes does any good for demonic rights. As a full demon, The Man can’t advocate for his own civil rights. However, a half-demon has rights, and could. Mack could be that person, IF she embraced her demonic half as something worth advocating for. If I’m right and that is his aim, then his plans for Mack, while exceptionally in his self-interest, are not bad for her. To be an effective advocate, she would have to be law-abiding, successful, and proud of all of her heritage.

    Personally, I think that’s a worthwhile goal. Demons are clearly an intelligent species. So, if they obey the laws, I do not see why they should be denied rights, hunted down and put to death for simply existing. The exact dietary requirements for some demons might make it hard for them, but we do not yet know how any particular demonblood becomes aware of their needs. Trial and error seems unlikely, so either they can just figure it out, or it’s somehow determined by what they are given when their hunger sets in. If the latter, no reason the newer generations of demons wouldn’t be able to fill their dietary needs in the form of stray hairs (one does this already), nail clippings, blood, like Mack(not cheap, but requires no killing) or even other fluids – perhaps a succubus, if they exist in this world, is just a demon or part demon nourished by an even more disposable and widely available fluid than blood.

    Current score: 1
    • Drudge says:

      Word Of God says that demons don’t normally even eat humans. They only need to when they cross over. The problem is their place is so bad a good deal of them do cross over anyway.

      Current score: 1
      • Brenda says:

        What? Cross over where? By God, do you mean AE? Because AE has it in ToMU canon that demons must eat at least some part of a human on a fairly regular basis. I don’t understand your comment.

        Current score: 0
  35. Dani says:

    Demons are like other species – neither intrinsically good nor intrinsically evil – and have been smeared with a bad reputation because they refuse to kowtow to unworthy gods.
    Or maybe Mack’s father lies a lot.
    We don’t have enough information to decide.

    Current score: 1
    • Dan says:

      Or maybe many of them see humans as potato chips. Thats certainly true enough.

      Current score: 1
    • Brenda says:

      We also don’t know that they AREN’T evil. In this type of fictional world, Evil may in fact be a literal trait.

      Current score: 1
  36. erratio says:

    I *love* the way that The Man manages to twist every single word and fact to seem like he approves of it. Mack wants him to stay and teach her? Awesome, he can erode her distrust of him while also teaching her a few tricks. She wants him to fuck off? Awesome, she won’t be such a pushover anymore if she can learn how to keep him out. I do wonder though whether he’s really being that optimistic about everything or whether he’s just very good at making it seem like he’s cool with everything..

    Current score: 1
    • Drudge says:

      Hey, the only thing that’d be BAD to him right now is if she stayed, didn’t say anything, and learned nothing. At this particular moment the situation allows him a lot of room for error.

      The problem is that’s what Mackenzie is doing, only even more obnoxiously.

      Current score: 1
  37. Keller says:

    Wonder who Macks gonna knock on their ass and with what weapon since the fork is off gods know where.

    Current score: 0
  38. Mrs. Peel says:

    Love The Man (in a “Oh wow this guy is an evil bastard and I want to know more about him” way). Thanks for this chapter, AE. It was great.

    By the way, something I noticed when I was rereading the old chapters a while back: In the bonus story about Chancellor Embries and his secretary, his handwriting is described as large and loopy. In the Tomb of Horrors, Amaranth mentions to Mackenzie that one of the platinums they got came with a note offering to buy Mackenzie. Mackenzie guesses that it was Mercy, but Amaranth says something like, “I don’t think so…the handwriting was big and kind of loose, not small and neat like most elves’.” Dun-dun-dunnn!

    Current score: 1
  39. Guest says:

    Cool chapter. My guess on the Man’s plans: Yes, I think he does want to protect his daughter, an the comment about him wanting her to fight for demon rights made a lot of sense to me. He’s still a manipulative bastard, he can’t be trusted. I bet he’s ready to sacrifice anyone of Mack’s friends, maybe even her, if the advantage of that is great enough.
    The only thing I’m not sure about is how much loyalty he feels toward her. I mean, he lives reallly long, so he could see the situation as “Yep, she’s my daughter, and I want the best for her if that doesn’t interfere too much with my own interests, but I can always breed more children”, or is it more than that? I think it would make for a cool surprise if, after some seriously twisted and dramatic plot events in the further future, he’d actually give his life for her.
    I love to admire the bad guys for doing something so truly good that most normal people wouldn’t do it.

    Current score: 0
  40. W6BXQ, John says:

    I noticed that a few of you have avatars displayed. How do you do that?

    I’m wondering how the investigation of the murder is going. It is a very interesting part of the story.

    Current score: 1
  41. Renshan says:

    I really hope she remembers to buy a staff tomorrow

    Current score: 1
    • Wysteria says:

      I hope she remembers that she has a homework assignment due in Elementalism that she meant to finish on Sunday.

      Current score: 1
  42. Anthony says:

    It always surprises m when people say that evil is just a label. It’s a very real thing, easy to define in an objective, unambiguous way.

    Evil is to care about your own desires more than the needs of others, to such a degree that you are willing to knowingly harm them in order to get what you want.

    Mercy definitely qualifies. So does Mack Daddy, though he’s more subtle about it. And so does Barley.

    Steff? Not so much. She fantasizes about being evil and thinks it would be cool, but when it comes down to it she can’t really bring herself to do something truly evil. We’ve seen that more than once with her.

    Current score: 0
    • lostZ0ne says:

      “Evil is to care about your own desires more than the needs of others, to such a degree that you are willing to knowingly harm them in order to get what you want.” – Anthony
      Yet in some stories this can be hailed as the good action
      The will to go against the majority when you KNOW they are wrong, to rebel against the authority who doesn’t care about the individual
      Good & Evil are like statistics, they can be used to mean / prove anything

      Current score: 1
  43. James Garcia says:

    Anthony Hopkins is one of the veteran actors in Hollywood that should be given a lifetime acheivement award.`:~

    Current score: 0
  44. Isla Watson says:

    when i hear the name Anthony Hopkins, i always tought of the movie Meet Joe Black.*:;

    Current score: 1
  45. Meghan says:

    This is the first time I’ve commented on a chapter, but I have to say that I just love these chapters so much. The Man is my favorite character of all of them. <3

    Current score: 0
  46. Hiinst says:

    The Man fits my definition of evil almost perfectly:
    “Evil: what you call someone who you need to be an enemy even though they haven’t done anything wrong”

    Key-Word: ALMOST.

    Human empire.
    Human Morality.
    Demons need to eat Humans.
    So to Humans Demons are Evil.

    Current score: 0
  47. Anonymoose says:

    The way I see it, for a character to actually be Evil, and not just someone who did something evil, they have to be making a conscious choice to make the world a worse place. Likewise, I don’t see Good as simply the absence of Evil. Being Good requires you to actively make the world a better place, even if doing so isn’t easy or convenient for you.


    Evil: Sees an old lady at the crosswalk, steals her purse.

    Neutral: Heads to a crosswalk and finds an old lady there, helps her across since they were going the same way.

    Good: “I hereby swear that I will never rest until all little old ladies in the world have been helped across the street!”

    Current score: 0
  48. Matt says:

    I thought Mack’s major was Applied Enchantment, and her second lab was Basic Enhancement?

    Current score: 0
  49. Jechtael says:

    Assuming The Man is talking about some sort of ridiculous owl-turtle thing: Some Sort of Ridiculous Owl-Turtle Thing seems to be treated as some kind of Somnotically Transmitted Disease. I’m interested in seeing more about it (perhaps it’s even related to the Things goblins worship/pray don’t wake up).

    I like The Man. He may be evil (he’s probably a bad person), but he’s smooth. And his language is just… interesting. The “baby girl” part irks me (yet at the same time reminds me of Derek Morgan from Criminal Minds), but everything else is like it’s designed solely to… to be the voice of a guy who’s lived a LONG time… and is just plain steamy… Oh, A.E., you ARE good! ^_^

    Current score: 0