443: Brutal Lessons

on May 12, 2010 in Book 16

In Which Opportunities That Are Missed Are Spotted

It very quickly became very clear that Callahan intended for this to be a particularly brutal lesson. The room we were in was sort of on the large side, but so was the class. We’d previously fought on an open field, with room to spread out. Now we had a much more confined space, and she was getting the entire class fighting at once. Well, almost the entire class. There was still no Steff, and I thought some other faces were missing, too… in fact, I knew it, because there were no dwarves.

I wondered if they were all conscientious objectors to the pseudoreligious trappings for some reason, or if Callahan had set up some other exercise for students she thought didn’t need any help “slaying the God of Pain”, or if the dwarves had all retreated en masse for reasons having nothing to do with the class.

Even with some of the bulkier bodies missing from the floor, space was very much at a premium. As more pairs of fighters got their weapons mocked and got down to it, the area available to each pair shrank. Already people were bumping into each other and narrowly avoiding errant swings from their neighbors as Gloria and I looked for a spot to stake out.

For a moment I thought this was poor planning… or reckless apathy… on Callahan’s part, but then I realized that she would want everyone to be bunched up right on top of their opponents, where even the cautious and the quick would not be able to avoid getting hit.

Footwork would not play much of a role in the day’s lesson… the object of the exercise was to keep standing, not to keep moving… to fight on in the face of pain, not necessarily to fight well. It would be dirty, it would be ugly, and above all it would be painful, which was likely to be the point.

Gloria was surveying the floor with a decided lack of her usual determination… it seemed like she was looking for a good spot and finding none. I knew that Gloria had learned to wield a sword by watching her brothers and imitating them by herself. It made sense that she wouldn’t be any good at fighting in close quarters… she wasn’t really used to having an opponent in front of her, much less people all around her.

I wasn’t good at fighting under any circumstances, so at least I wouldn’t be on unfamiliar ground.

“Come on,” I said, heading for the edge of the room. If we fought next to a wall, at least there’d be one less side to worry about bumping into people on. “Let’s just get out of everybody’s way.”

I didn’t see Gloria moving, or have any sense that she was following me so I looked over my shoulder… actually remembering to stop moving my legs before I stopped watching where I was going for once. She was still rooted to the spot, looking at me like she wasn’t sure she trusted me enough to run me through in a spot that I picked out.

Well, if that was what I was going to get for trying to be nice I’d just have to look out for myself. I made a beeline for the far corner of the room, then turned around with my back to it. Gloria was still standing there by the mockboxes… I was out on the floor and had my weapon ready. She’d have to come to me, and she’d have to fight with other melees going on all around her… or she could be the one who got yelled at by Callahan.

It didn’t come to that, though… Gloria shook her head like she was trying to shake away a bad influence, very visibly swallowed, and then stalked across the floor towards me. This time she offered no bow or other mark of respect in lieu of a prayer.

“I suppose you would be used to keeping your back to the wall,” she said.

“Not really,” I said. “Not in a fight, anyway… I have spent most of my life trying to stay out of other people’s way, but I haven’t spent that much time working on staying alive.”

As we squared off, I quickly found out that there were drawbacks to where I’d chosen to make my stand. Gloria needed a little room to swing her sword, but I needed more room to swing my staff. I was okay with the basic stance… holding the shaft with both hands centered around the middle… but I’d be banging it into the walls if I tried to swing it like a club, which was really my best bet when it came to inflicting pain. There had to be ways to attack with it effectively without holding it near the end and whomping, or jabbing with it like a pitchfork… something would work better if it actually were my pitchfork… but none of them popped into my head while I was standing there holding the stick up in front of me.

It was a great stance for defense. Gloria came at me without another word, though even I could see the moment on her face when she decided to attack me. The sneer on her face startled me. Luckily, my reaction was to bring the staff up… with the defensive enchantments helping guide my movement, I easily blocked her overhead swing, and the quick slash that followed. With the corner at my back, I was pretty much a fortress.

It looked like Gloria had accuracy enchantments… or rather, blessings… laid on her sword. That was just a guess. If it had been arcane rather than divine, I could have told in a few seconds if I got my hand on the thing, but that wasn’t an option with the original article and I wasn’t sure how it would work to try to read the enchantments on the mocked copy. But when I watched her movements closely, it seemed like there was something guiding the blade. Her swings started out sort of loose and sloppy but ended up focused and true at the point where my staff intercepted them.

It made sense… swords were a lot better for that sort of thing than staves. A blade embodied the idea of “weapon” much more concretely than something that was basically a big stick, and accuracy was a property of weapons. I vaguely remembered hearing that swords and arrows were considered the archetypal weapons by armoury enchanters… possibly I’d picked that up in my enhancements lab, though my attention had a tendency to wander when weapons were the subject.

Staves, on the other hand, were seen as defensive… at a practical level, they were better for blocking than killing. It was certainly harder to inflict an outright fatal wound with a staff, but for the purpose of the day’s exercise there were no outright fatal wounds, just painful ones. When it was enchanted enough to be practically unbreakable and wielded with enough strength, though, there was something to be said for a staff over a sword.

My weapon was all handle and all striking surface. I just needed to figure out how to use it. As much as it suited me to sit there blocking all day, Callahan had made it clear that anyone not getting into the spirit of the exercise would be helped along. That… and not anything that the man in my dream had offered me… was why I needed to figure out a better strategy. I’d take some hits while I was figuring things out, but it would be no different than being hit with a non-magic weapon: however much it hurt, I’d get over it.

I fended off a few more attacks from Gloria. Behind her, the floor was filling up. Most people had tried to grab what looked like open floor, avoiding the walls… but they were finding themselves just as boxed in, and now the pack was moving towards us. I decided to wait until she had more to worry about than me before trying anything really desperate or fancy. Instead, I lashed out at Gloria’s sword arm with one end of the pole after one of her attacks.

I hit more hilt than hand, and realized afterwards that if I’d really put some oomph behind it and followed through I still could have rattled her bones quite a bit. I’d been too hesitant, too tentative… too delicate about it. As it was, I barely threw her off her stride and took too long getting myself squared back up again. She took advantage of me being off-balance… mentally even more than physically… to pull her sword back and lunge at my stomach.

My staff’s magic saved me… my reflexes weren’t enough, but it all but snapped into position by itself. I batted her sword blade down with more force than I’d used trying to attack her. The impact jarred me… her grip loosened for a moment and she stepped back to adjust her hold on the hilt. Again it occurred to me seconds too late that I should have followed through there.

Why was I missing so many opportunities the time I was determined to succeed? Other melee classes hadn’t gone like this… had they? Or was it a case that I hadn’t even been paying enough attention to know I’d missed an opportunity? The principle that Callahan had espoused regarding knowledge might have applied: in studying fighting, what I was learning was how badly I sucked.

No, not how badly… how. In what ways. Fighting ability wasn’t a quantity, a numerical score. Standing around on a battlefield waving a weapon wasn’t a magic ritual that made you a better fighter. Even practicing specific movements that other, better fighters made would only take you so far. It was almost scientific: you figured out what worked and what didn’t work, and why.

Of course, like any such “science”, the rules you derived from it couldn’t stand up to repeated contact with reality and trying to rely on them too much would likely result in embarrassment or death, which would probably be why people also talked about “fighting instincts”, and why even the best fighters did occasionally die.

But thinking about martial skill as being like a kind of science appealed to me. I tried whipping at Gloria’s hand with the end of the staff again, this time more forcefully. She was learning, too… she withdrew her hand quickly, stepping back and around the swing and then lashing out at my arm from the side. That was a bit harder to block than the last one had been, but the fact that I needed to twist around to get the staff up to block it made it easier to follow through.

I heard Gloria grunt as I batted her sword out wide. I didn’t waste a moment ruing when I realized I should have smashed her in the face before she recovered. I was figuring things out. One of the things was that the staff’s magic was working against me… it would have been easier to just step a bit to the side and move my arm out of the way, but the instincts of the defensive weapon were stronger than my own reflexes. Could I do something about them? I didn’t want to have to figure out if what it wanted to do was the correct thing every time Gloria came after me, but that meant either following its lead every time or ignoring it every time.

Or silencing it altogether… I was, to some degree, an enchanter. Battlefield enchantment was considered a high-level discipline. I knew it was possible in general… there were whole fighting styles devoted to combining swordplay with spells that could be practiced and drilled until they could be cast in an instant to enhance an attack. I honestly wasn’t sure if MU offered courses in that kind of thing, and if it did then I would be far from qualified to take them.

But messing with the characteristics of a phantom weapon would probably be easier… being unreal, they would have less “weight” to them. It only took a tiny effort to feel the magic of the thing in my hands… the thing was magic, after all. I could sense the eagerness of the defensive spells. They were more complex than the sort of property enhancement I was used to. There was no way I could have woven them myself, but how hard would it be to suppress it or rip it out entirely?

For that matter, could I throw a little accuracy into my phantasmal staff? Sustaining that sort of thing for the duration of a swing would probably be no problem. Doing it in a way that didn’t totally fuck up the swing past the point that I was gaining any benefit from it would be another.

I blocked another attack from Gloria. Callahan had made it sound like there weren’t going to be any pauses or breaks in the entire period, which meant I wasn’t going to get much time or room to do anything complicated in. I made a wild swing at Gloria, forcing her to back into a big guy who was backing into her, and while she whirled halfway around out of reflex, I reached out down the pathways of magic I felt coursing between my hands, grabbed hold of the defensive spells, and ripped with all my mystical might.

I felt it giving way in a big way… too big, I thought at first. I felt the staff losing integrity inside my hands, saw it flicker and almost vanish. It snapped back into satisfyingly solid pseudoreality pretty quickly, though. In the instant after that, I realized that I’d just thrown away a pretty solid advantage.

The blue-tipped staff of defense had been almost as basic a magic weapon as you could find, especially compared to Gloria’s more elaborate holy blade. Now it was the most basic magic weapon you could find: a simple magic quarterstaff. A centuries-old wizard probably had better weapon enchantments on his staff of power than this thing did. It was now nothing more than a basically unbreakable stick for hitting people with.

It already felt more awkward in my hands. The way I’d been holding it before had felt so easy, so natural… now I wasn’t sure how to space my hands or what angle to hold it at. It was now very obvious that it had been the weapon’s preferences, not mine… what was that old enchanter’s saying about the trustworthiness of things that seemed to think for themselves? I didn’t suspect the staff was sinister, but just because something was well-intentioned didn’t mean it would be smart to rely on it.

Gloria looked at me like she could see the change. I had a bad feeling in the pit of my stomach. I made an effort to hold it like I’d been holding it before… it was a good position to defend from… and looked around the room. Callahan was looking at us. Her expression was as close to neutral as it probably got… she looked skeptical but not openly hostile. If she’d been watching, she would have just seen me making that wild swing and now she was watching to see what I would do next.

That meant it was time to figure out what exactly that was.

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53 Responses to “443: Brutal Lessons”

  1. Tomo says:

    ARG i hated that cliffhanger…i was really enjoying reading that fight

    Current score: 0
  2. Miss Miranda says:

    I believe these past few chapters have been my favorites thus far. Just thought I’d let you know.

    Current score: 0
  3. Calia says:

    Oh, Mack. Not your best move, certainly.
    Although it does open you up for some real, substantial learning in regards to using that giant stick.

    Current score: 0
    • A Random Pooka says:

      Exactly why I consider it one of her smartest moves ever in the melee class. Throw away your crutch. Learning curve goes CRAZY when you can’t rely on things

      Current score: 7
  4. Kurt says:

    I’m loving watching “Emo Girl” finally catching a clue! Not figuring it out too fast, but finally proving she’s not “slow”. Nicely done.

    Current score: 1
  5. P says:

    I love how mack has to stop and analyze every single thing she does, and then follow it up by shooting herself in the foot.

    It’s so in character.

    Current score: 0
  6. Seeker of Wisdom Left In Back Pocket says:

    On some level, I have to wonder if Mack will ever learn to trust her demon half when it comes to fights. I’m willing to bet, given her performance against Gloria last time, that she’s actually a far better fighter when her demonic traits are called upon than she gives herself credit for.

    If Mack is right, she is damned no matter what she does. If she’s wrong, I’m not entirely sure many divinities would fault her for using her demonic traits to defend herself and, when necessary, defend others.

    Current score: 0
    • Anvildude says:

      I think it’s the fire inherent in her Demon nature. Fire is naturally an aggressive element, so it would be better on the attack than the defense. Humans, though being Earthly creatures, also have an element of Water in them, in their adaptability. Water is more of a defensive, reactive element than an offensive, active one. I think maybe the duality of that is why she’s having such a difficult time, in fighting and in her social life. Half of her is saying ‘go with the flow, don’t change things’, and the other half is saying ‘Sieze the day! Attack!’.

      Current score: 0
    • Seeker in Excess says:

      This being the same half-demon nature that decided to pick a fight with Callahan and set her on fire?

      Mackenzie’s demon nature is more blood thirsty, yes, but not more skills than she is.

      Current score: 0
      • Seeker of Wisdom Left In Back Pocket says:

        In all honesty? Going back and rereading that section and others, the demon side really does come across as more skilled than Mackenzie normally does. That same demon side also allowed her to almost take Rocky in a fight (note that Mackenzie brought herself back under control before she finished the fight) and even made far more use of her demonic traits without being forced to than Mackenzie has ever done otherwise.

        The fact she attacked Callahan is a reflection, I think, both of the fact she was possessed and the demon side was being diluted by the will of another, with that other retreating when Callahan brought Mackenzie to the point of what would be a mortal death. The demon side seems a lot more willing to employ the full brunt of Mackenzie’s heritage in combat and is a lot more skilled than she is in dealing with pain (look at how quickly the demon side has been to recover from being hit hard when compared to Mackenzie herself).

        Now, more skilled does not mean more experienced. No matter what, the demon side is still a girl who has yet to reach her twenties and is not used to fighting. And, unfortunately, Mackenzie herself appears (in my opinion) to mostly cling to her human heritage, further denying herself the experience in utilizing her demonic traits in combat. I am willing to bet that if she ever fully embraces her mixed heritage, people like Gloria will stand no chance against her.

        Then again, I could also be all wet. In any case, I do agree with Anvildude that the duality itself is giving her trouble and she needs to learn how to balance it.

        Current score: 1
  7. Dj Gilcrease says:

    @P I dont think Mack shot herself in the foot. If this works out about how I expect it to Callahan will gain a little respect for Mack. Not much but just enough to say “Ya she is trying”. Callahan can see enchantments if I remember correctly so she will know Mack ripped out the defensive enchantment any may even come to the correct conclusion of why. Even if she thinks it is just so Mack can feel more pain, which I am sure there will be lots of, the will be respectable as that is the point of the lesson.

    Current score: 0
  8. cheezitz says:

    I am definitely enjoying these.

    Current score: 0
  9. Seeker of P0wer says:

    I hope this means Mack will gain an interest in fighting rather than tuning out as she used to
    Not sure what Callahan saw (or if she can see enchantments as Dj Gilcrease said) but she’ll definitely see Mack in trying mode (rather than casual apathy mode)
    I have a hunch Gloria’s enhancements are meant to do some SERIOUS harm… Mack will have a hard time

    Current score: 0
  10. Kitten Is Angry says:

    ‘to the pain’, heh. Now I feel compelled to watch The Princess Bride again. 🙂

    Current score: 1
  11. bob says:

    OMG a new one only three days apart! You’ve been lagging what with all the IRL stuff that’s been holding you back, but this is a good sign! Here is to hoping a trend becomes a pattern!

    Current score: 0
  12. LetsSee says:

    Now that would be a cool weapon. A weapon that is entirely basic, except it disenhances/enchants other weapons when they strike it offensively. If Mack could dissolve Gloria’s weapon, then beat the hell out of her… Oooh, cheating?

    Current score: 1
  13. "Endless Crescendo" Mark says:

    I really am liking this little “arc” so far.
    It’s about time that Mack starts actually trying, she’s gonna’ be a target in her life and she needs to get over her “I think fighters are all big, muscular idiots” issue.

    Current score: 0
    • Rey d`Tutto says:

      Not all who fight are fighters.
      Once Mac accepts the facts of her hald-breed status, and that otherwise indiffernt folk will want to kill her on sight once her ancestry is known… well, I’m glad she’s trying.

      Current score: 0
  14. Silvertongue says:

    LetsSee, you’re thinking along the same lines I am. If Mack can rip out her weapon’s defensive enchantments, I wonder if she can rip out Gloria’s attack enchantments. I’m sure it would be easier with physical contact, but, well, we’ll see.

    Current score: 1
  15. snikje says:

    well at the very least she could make this fight truly just about skill and wits by janking the enchantments off gloria’s weapon too. probebly gloria will start by swinging wildly in every direction exept mack 😛 once she has figured out what happened it might turn into a really interesting fight

    Current score: 0
  16. Jane says:

    Physical contact with Gloria’s weapon will be easy to come by, I suspect.

    Current score: 0
  17. Amelia says:

    That seems an eminently sensible step to me: she’s supposed to be dealing with pain so getting hit more shouldn’t be an issue, she’s stopped the effect that was preventing her from inflicting pain (also the point of the lesson) and she’s taken the training wheels off the staff forcing herself to learn how to handle it herself.

    Without at some point doing that last she was likely to get a huge shock the next time she tried to fight with a different weapon.

    Current score: 0
  18. Seeker after ends and beginnings says:

    I love these chapters, epically awesome. It’s nice to see herself let go, even a tiny bit, without any actual possession or compulsions involved.

    Current score: 0
  19. Chips says:

    Ooooh, LetsSee … I ~like~ that idea… and I think you’ve hit the nail on the head with it. Though since Gloria has a little more practice with wanting to fight, I don’t think Mack will ~win~ the fight, but she will certainly make Gloria know it was a fight.

    Current score: 0
    • Seeker of Wisdom Left In Back Pocket says:

      I dunno… Remember the demon banishing Martha Blaize did on that infant? Ignoring the demon half of Mack’s ancestry, there’s still the fierceness of spirit she could have inheritted from her mother’s side. And on top of all of that, Mack still has nymphy reasons to try her all. And I suspect Gloria has doubts about Mack’s supposed evilness. So, I’m thinking Mack actually has a pretty good shot.

      Current score: 0
  20. Martian Samurai says:

    Well, this and the previous chapter shows us a lot about Gloria’s character and morality. She sees certain beings as inherently evil and that assumption of evil does not change even if that same being makes a conscious choice to not commit evil actions.
    She is given the choice to stick to her beliefs and be the only person to be hurt and avoid hurting others…and she instead chooses to attack the conveniently “evil” half demon student. She even seems to enjoy attack Mack. As if the fact that Mack is “evil” gives her an excuse to not feel guilty about it. Kinda reminds me of some members of certain religions in our world…joining the flock of hating others for Christ/in the name of Allah.

    Current score: 1
  21. Readaholic says:

    @Martian Samuria
    Or in the name of L Ron Hubbard, or Buddha, or the Flying Spaghetti Monster (may His Noodles Always be Aldente)

    Current score: 0
  22. firedragongt says:

    I have to say, I think these last few chapters have been my favorite so far.

    Current score: 0
  23. Don says:

    I wonder how accurate Mack was in her impromptu surgery. Did she only get the defensive magic? Or perhaps the spells that prevent the mock from doing real physical harm qualify as defensive as well.

    Point being, did Mack just accidentally remove the magic that keeps someone from being actually harmed?

    I’d bet a week’s salary that even if Callahan noticed she wouldn’t do anything about it.

    Current score: 0
    • Rip says:

      It’s a phantom weapon. The magic doesn’t prevent people from being harmed, it simulates the effects of harm. In a worse case scenario, she accidentally rips out the part of the weapon that causes pain. To make it actually hurt someone, though, she’s need to *add* to it, not take anything away.

      Current score: 1
  24. cnic says:

    Too bad Steph isn’t there (as far as we know)- I pictured something like http://www.venusenvycomic.com/comics/20020101.jpg happening but with weapons.

    Current score: 1
  25. Dani says:

    Mack’s insights will come in handy another time, but for this exercise she’s over-analyzing: She has demi-demonic strength, and she won’t do permanent damage if she uses it here, so she should just swing her staff hard enough to bisect Gloria. Yeah, she’ll be stabbed in the process, but that’s not an avoidable part of this exercise.

    Current score: 0
  26. Zathras IX says:

    In which Mackenzie
    Learns that the best defense may
    Be a good offense

    Current score: 1
  27. Sapphite says:

    For anyone still thinking Gloria’s sword might /not/ be the mocked version, I note that she hasn’t hit Mack with it yet.

    Current score: 0
    • Lithos says:

      Don’t mock weapons kind of “fade” when hit by the real thing.

      Current score: 0
      • firedragongt says:

        they fade when viewed in sunlight

        Current score: 0
        • Abeo says:

          They are slightly translucent when viewed in direct sunlight. They are dispelled when they strike metal. If Gloria were not using a mocked sword, Mack’s staff would have disappeared and Callahan would probably have beat her the hell down.

          Current score: 1
  28. Cat says:

    Just wanted to say how much I enjoyed reading this fight sequence. It’s a fight, but it still has Mack’s analytical ability attached to it.

    Very nice, AE. One of my favourite chapters. Probably second only to the chapter with Ian beating the crap out of another guy with no shirt on.

    Current score: 0
  29. Lakanna says:

    Don- I believe the mockboxes actually create an illusionary weapon, not remove the ability to do harm from them. If Mack destroyed the enchantment of the mockbox, the entire thing would likely vanish.

    I’m glad to see Mack stepping up and being willing to learn. She’s making progress. The next part will be a rather painful lesson for her, but that’s the entire point of the lesson to begin with. I’m officially loving Callahan. Her methods are perfect for the lessons that SOMEONE needs to teach these students. They’re lucky to have a teacher who will teach them and not shy away from the hard parts.

    Current score: 0
  30. readstospouse says:

    Combining Don and Saphite’s speculations this could actually be a fight to the death… with none around them aware. It would even be more masked by the more realistic mock settings.
    I hope not, as I am fond of both characters and I don’t think the waivers indemnify other student against malice outside the instructions.

    Current score: 0
  31. readstospouse says:

    A suggestion for Mack.
    It seems like she’s much better with large weapons than small weapons, what with the strength and her desire to keep others away. This world is only loosely related to D&D, but one of the coolest weapons in appearance and convenience for my characters was a changeling spear.

    It’s a cheap enchantment that can only be applied to spears, but allows the spear to swiftly change length and appearance. So you can walk around with it as a convenient short sceptre or spiked cane, color and pattern coordinating with your outfit. Then with a moments thought it becomes a 10 foot poking stick to keep foes at bay.

    She could use the blunt or poky end as desired (and the shaping enchantment could probably turn the blade so short as to be merely vaguely pointy). You can see something very similar wielded by the elf prince in Hellboy 2.

    Current score: 1
  32. Lithos says:

    Guess that explains why swords end up being so common. The sword tended to be an “underpowered” weapon in our world. Relying on better martial training of it’s users, better investment in the weapon, and it’s ability to be sub-par in everything(rather than being specialized).

    Swords do make sense in a world where “romantic notions” grant more power.

    Current score: 0
    • Maurice says:

      Well, that kind of depends on the sword, doesn’t it? There’s a world of difference between a Chinese jian and a Scots claymore, and then between both of those and a fencing sabre. Some required lots of training, others just needed one to swing and hope it connected, or just put holes in the target. And swords absolutely can be specialised! Compare a gladius to a katana – one can slash but isn’t great for stabbing, and the other can stab but is fairly useless for slashing.

      I wonder if, instead of making the hundreds of different types of sword we have in our world, the magical world differs in the enchantments on the blade in the same way? So one would have sharpness enhancements on the edge, another on the tip, one would have speed enchancements to allow quick ripostes, another would have weight enhancements to allow it to act more like an axe.

      Fun fact: the Greeks didn’t train in swordsmanship at all – they believed it was fairly intuitive, you just had to swing a sharp blade at something. They preferred to use the spear, believing it required more skill and was the better martial weapon, using the sword only as a last resort.

      Current score: 1
    • Rin says:

      Where did you get that notion? It may be true that swords don’t have the brute penetrating ability of (for example) an axe or the range of a spear, but it is in no way an “underpowered” weapon. Versatility is a strength too and it is the versatility of the sword that made it the most priced possession of any soldier or warrior who could afford one in armies around the world for many centuries.

      From the Roman gladius to the cavalry sable, the 25 centuries old Chinese jian to the Japanese katana, swords have been the most coveted weapons on the battlefield throughout history and with good reason. Even as late as World War 2 Japanese soldiers would regularly carry a wakizashi or katana into battle as a highly valued secondary weapon.

      Current score: 1
    • Lithos says:

      Left myself as a bit more “flame baity” than I intended, by using terms a bit too strong for my intention.

      Swords were very useful, especially when you didn’t know what you would be going against. One of the more traditional uses for swordsmen were as “jet fighters”, where ever you’re having an issue on the battle field you would send the swordsmen for their utility.

      Current score: 0
      • tjhairball says:

        Swords have been very common as weapons, on the whole. Certainly it’s one of the most persistent weapons in history; almost every metal-working culture from the bronze age until the rise of machine guns has tried to keep swords at the belts of its soldiers.

        I think, though, the real distinction here for the MUverse is that swords are ONLY used for combat. Spears are used also for hunting and fishing (tridents, even, for the latter); axes also for cutting wood; hammers for smiths and carpenters; picks for mining; flails for threshing grain; staves for walking (and spellcasting, here); knives for cutting food or hacking brush; chains for holding; whips for handling animals. Almost every fired or thrown weapon is used extensively for hunting. Other weapons have a measure of that other essence; Jamie’s honest axe can chop wood quite well, for example.

        The sword? There is no domestic function for the sword. The sword is pure Weapon: When you see Sword, you know that It exists solely for the purpose of shedding blood in combat. There’s no real “tool” use for swords. You don’t even *hunt* with swords, generally. The closest you get to being a tool/sword is the machete, and that’s not saying much (the machete really is a big ol’ knife, and doesn’t invoke Sword very strongly).

        Current score: 1
        • Dan says:

          Uh, I know that it’s a common idea that swords were never used for hunting, but strictly speaking, its not true. I happen to own an antique Austrian hunting sword, which was typically used to finish wounded game. The blade is twenty two inches, and straight, with a slightly rounded (as opposed to tapered) point. They’ve also been used while hunting boar and other large game- while a knife wouldn’t be much good against game that size, a thrusting sword, which would have a longer blade, would be able to kill even a 500 ib animal.

          Current score: 1
  33. Andrea says:

    Ooh I can’t wait for Mondayyy. Fighting scenes normally don’t interest me, but I really liked this chapter. Science FTW!!!

    Current score: 0
  34. Potatohead says:

    Likewise. The chapters where Mack is actually competent at something are always the best ones – it seems like there’s been more of them lately, which is a definite plus.

    Current score: 0
  35. Yay! Weaponry geekery!

    It’s harder to inflict a mortal wound with a staff, yes. But not impossible. And with demonic strength, a staff is just a really blunt blade- she could probably take a limb off with a solid swing.

    But really, a staff is a GREAT weapon for inflicting massive tissue and bone damage, if you’re good enough to strike with just the last inch or so rather than the shaft. The momentum on the end of a six or eight foot staff is pretty brutal and will most definitely shatter bones or at least rip muscle and flesh off them.

    Of course, that requires skill.

    Moar plz!!

    Current score: 0
    • David says:

      I like what this other David has to say, lol. Brings me back to physics class, when they explained circular momentum. By drawing dots on the center and on various distances away from the center, it was easy to see that the further away from the center the dot was, the faster said dot travelled. Swinging a staff creates an arc, where your handhold is the ‘center’ of this ‘circle’. With Mack’s demi-demonic strength, if she hits with the end of the staff (the furthest ‘dot’) we’re talking maximum damage here. Yay for science + violence! Let’s just see if Mack gets lucky enough to land this shot somewhere where it hurts.

      Current score: 1
  36. pedestrian says:

    After reading the previous postings and the story, it reminded me of something I was thinking of ago. That the error in judgement that her grandmother had made was loving her daughter too much. That Brimstone, maybe not consciously, blamed what happened to her daughter because she had been off paladining instead being home mothering.

    By keeping Mackenzie imprisoned and isolated, Grandma was keeping her human side infantile and dependent. Which of course meant the demon side was stronger by contrast even if the girl was malnourished and stunted. That could not have continued much longer before either the human side had a psychotic break. Or, the demon unleashed to commit some atrocity and Mackenzie was killed in revenge.

    With the active assistance and protection of Amaranth, Steff, Ian, TWO, Dee, and networks of their own supporters, exposure to higher learning, give and take with the society around her; Mackenzie’s human side is maturing. She is physically developing thanks to a better diet and lovingly applied excercises. Her human side is growing stronger, while to date it appears the demonside is frozen in perfection. It is unable to improve???

    But it will always remain with her. So the stronger, smarter human side has to take firm control. Like an equestrian on a powerful stallion. The rider must learn to control the steed or it will sunfish her right into disaster.

    Current score: 0
  37. Jechtael says:

    “What was that old enchanter’s saying about the trustworthiness of things that seemed to think for themselves?”
    “Never trust anything that thinks for itself if you can’t see where it keeps its brain.” -Arthur of Clan Weasley, Enchanter and Disenchanter for the Governing Body of the Mother Isles.

    Current score: 2