445: Blessing, Curse

on May 23, 2010 in Book 16

In Which Callahan Spits And Mackenzie Doesn’t Swallow

There was a sudden change in the sound of grunts, impacts, and cries of pain. Callahan was stomping across the room, clearing a path whenever one failed to clear for her. She got Gloria’s attention off of me, which was good, but I wasn’t sure Callahan’s attention would be better. How much attention had she been paying? It seemed like Gloria should be bearing the brunt of her wrath, but I didn’t think it would be out of character for her to just take it out on both of us.

“What the hell is going on here?” she asked, her spiritual demeanor slipping. “This isn’t basic knives, Seekers! If you lose your weapon, you don’t start slapping and pinching like…”

Callahan stopped in mid sentence. She looked at the scratches on my cheek, and then at Gloria. Gloria froze under her glare.

Gloria looked stricken with guilt or something like it for about half of a second, then she stiffened and squared her shoulders off, proud as ever. Callahan continued to stare, and I wondered how she could stand up under that kind of attention. It wasn’t even directed at me and I felt like wilting.

Callahan said something so guttural and visceral sounding that it could only be swearing, though I didn’t know the language, and spit. Gloria’s eyes went wide and her face went through several contortions of pain as she collapsed onto the floor.

“The God of Pain is a jealous god,” Callahan said. “Deal with it.”

Callahan’s spit did that? I thought, before I realized Gloria was clutching her arm that I’d smashed with my staff when I’d knocked her into the wall.

Callahan hadn’t inflicted anything… I had. Gloria was just now reacting to it. She had been cheating, I realized… that was what the look of guilt had been about. She’d prayed for protection from pain, or the determination to overcome it or something like that, and possibly some other help as well.

“Do you need healing?” Callahan asked me.

“I… um… don’t know,” I said. I didn’t have a lot of experience with cuts, and it was hard to judge the severity of a wound when my body was a map of pain equal to many much worse injuries. “Will this stop on its own?”

“Before temple services are concluded,” she said.

“I think I’ll be okay,” I decided. I would have to go to the healing center after class… if I showed up for dinner with unhealed injuries Amaranth would not be happy… but as long as I wasn’t in any danger, I thought she’d likely approve of me toughing it out when I was learning so much.

“As you were, then, my sisters,” Callahan said, clasping her hands together and bowing. She looked to be very honestly pleased. That might have had as much to do with the way she’d dropped Gloria with a simple act of profanity as it did anything I had done, but she couldn’t exactly be displeased with me.

I’d fought on without complaining against a cheating opponent and turned the tables on her, I’d taken a bleeding wound in a mock combat class and decided to stay.

Once the shock of pain from the scratches was wearing off, I took a few moments to evaluate what had happened to my hand when I grabbed Gloria and her blessing-infused skin. I could take a few moments, because it was going to take Gloria a few moments more. She wasn’t giving up… she was trying to prop herself up, preparatory to actually standing, I thought. I stood back and let her. I thought there was a little pinkness on my fingers, and there was a little tenderness when I flexed them.

It could have been a bit of a problem with holding the staff, but it was pretty small compared to everything else. The fact that I even hefted my staff and stood upright meant I was toughing out much worse pain.

Gloria got herself up to the point where she was kneeling on one knee. She looked at me, and I really couldn’t read anything in her expression except defiance, though if it was me or the pain I couldn’t tell. It would have been so easy for me to keep her on the ground at that point, but as satisfying as it might have been, it wouldn’t help me any.

Well, it would be another theoretical IOU… but I wasn’t counting on anything coming from that. I wasn’t doing any of this for that man. I was doing it for me, and because Amaranth wanted it, and because I’d promised Callahan. I was doing it for Callahan more so than him. The fact that Callahan could shatter the protections of Gloria’s faith with a profane gesture was perhaps one of those things that in a sane world would have been a giant flashing warning sign, but on the other hand it was possible that Gloria’s divine magic was just not that strong. She seemed single-minded in her devotion, but I supposed that could be a sign of being insecure in her faith as anything else.

Gloria had not progressed beyond getting up on one knee, but she was looking a lot steadier. Her eyes were closed, and she was breathing slowly and evenly. She opened her eyes and looked up at me. I fought the urge to look away.

“For the record,” she said, “I do not think I did anything objectionable by using the gifts I have been given to deal with the pain I knew I would receive.”

“I’m not going to argue about that,” I said. Something popped into my head, and I rejected my first impulse, which was to swallow it. “I was winning anyway.”

“It is not a competition,” she said. “The… the object of the exercise isn’t to win.”

“Right, so it doesn’t matter that I was doing that,” I said. “I mean, if it did matter, I’d still be beating you right now.”

“It seemed to be a little more back and forth than that,” she said. I really couldn’t argue that, so I just nodded. Something popped into my head.

“Do you remember asking me if I was related to ‘Brimstone’ Blaise?” I asked her.

She nodded.

“You said you were not.”

“I didn’t think I was,” I said. “I guess she just didn’t like to talk about her old calling that much.”

“Does she know she’s related to demonspawn?”

“I’d guess she did, since she raised me for the last nine years,” I said. “She’s my grandmother, apparently.”

Gloria’s eyes widened very briefly, but then she said, “I suppose I would not admit to being a paladin if I were bringing up someone like you.”

It took me a moment to figure out how to react to that, and what I figured out was that I didn’t need to react to it. I didn’t care about my grandmother and her pride or shame that much. I couldn’t help smiling. I didn’t know how Amaranth would take me throwing little barbs at Gloria… well, that wasn’t true. I had a pretty fair guess how she would feel about it… but it wasn’t like I was actually insulting the girl. I was just telling her things that she probably didn’t actually want to hear.

It could be argued that this would be doing her a favor in the long run, and Steff would probably agree it was a step up from pining over her. The little bit of satisfaction I felt from realizing I’d stung her and she’d missed with her retort was making me feel a little better all over.

“Do you… are you ready to go again?” I asked.

“Will you allow me to retrieve my weapon, or will you strike me down as soon as I get to my feet?” she asked.

“You think I’m waiting for you to stand up just so I can slam you into the ground before you do anything?” I asked. I felt like I should have been insulted, but I was feeling kind of increasingly weirdly giddy. I laughed. “I don’t know how to tell you this, but… I’m just not that patient.”

She nodded, and then slowly got to her feet. She picked up her sword. It took her both arms to raise it. I stood back while she gave it a few test swings. I waited until she nodded to me, and then I let her make the first move.

I’d like to be able to say that without her divine protection, Gloria was no match for me and I was able to knock her down again and again without ever giving up a hit in return. Possibly if I’d kept whamming her, that would have been true. I thought about doing just that… it would have been legitimate, I figured, as I would need to practice that kind of thing on the fly, but there were other things I needed to practice more. Messing around with enchantments came naturally to me. Fighting did not.

So I fought. We fought. Gloria was slow and shaky at first, and I gave her some room to figure out how to cope with that. I didn’t expect any points for being charitable… in fact, I kept expecting her to accuse me of toying with her or mocking her, though she did not say another word the whole time. But if she wasn’t fighting me back, I wasn’t going to learn anything from fighting her… so I gave her a chance to fight. I learned a few things that way.

One was that just as the whole length of the staff was its striking surface, it was also all handle. I couldn’t just hold it one way the whole time and use it effectively. Some grips worked better than others. There might have been a right way to hold it in a given situation, but the situation kept changing.

It wasn’t changing all that quickly, though, because both Gloria and I were already hurting badly. We weren’t exactly moving in slow motion, but neither one of us could keep up a sustained effort.

Another thing I learned was that it really matter a whole lot what Gloria did if I actually connected, but if I didn’t then I regretted putting so much force behind it. She learned that one pretty quickly, too, and she was fairly fast and spry in short bursts. I had a feeling that if I got paired off against her again it would turn into an acrobatics routine. I decided I’d avoid that if I could… Callahan was right about Gloria learning, too. I could see her thinking during the lulls between our bouts of activity.

As those rest periods became longer and more often, I started to worry that we were going to get Callahan’s attention again. I glanced around the room and saw that we already did, but she across the floor, nodding in approval. I also realized that about a third of the class was on the floor, and everybody who was still up and about was moving and fighting like we were. Some of them were more active, but a lot were slower and wobblier.

I didn’t think that I had a particularly high tolerance for pain, but it was possible some of the people who were out of the fight had fought better opponents… or they were just less motivated to keep fighting. At the point when I’d been on the floor, I could definitely have seen the high points of curling up into a tiny little ball and giving up.

A third thing I learned was that being aggressive with my blocking was better than just trying to put a passive barrier between myself and the sword. It meant I had to adjust my grip less, and the results could be a lot better than just canceling out one of Gloria’s attacks.

The class wore on, and it wore us down. I couldn’t say how many times I knocked Gloria off her feet because I wasn’t counting. What good would it have done? If I kept my own count then I didn’t trust the man’s offer… which I didn’t, but if I didn’t trust his offer then it didn’t really matter what the count was.

A sudden stinging pain in my face made me cry out, and I had a moment of wondering what the hell had happened when I realized that the rest of the pain had disappeared… and so had the staff in my hand. Gloria suddenly stood straighter. All around us, people were getting to their feet. It seemed Callahan had canceled all the mocked weapons at once.

“The God of Pain has departed,” Callahan announced. “We’ll be meeting back here on Thursday and we’re going to start really mixing things up. Just so everyone knows, I’m doing a workshop or conference or some other excuse early next week, so no class next Tuesday. Emo Kid!”

I had been wondering if I should shake hands with or say something to Gloria before Callahan called me over, but I hurried across the room, through the throng of students who were going to retrieve their actual weapons.

“Good effort,” she said. “Are you going to do the same thing on Thursday? Because I’ve got a feeling you forget things faster than you learn them.”

“I… yeah,” I said. “I mean, yes, I’m going to do it Thursday.”

“Good,” she said. “And the week after that, I hope. When I get back into town, I’m either going to be in a really good mood or a fucking catastrophic one. You’re going to have some time to do some remedial reading over the weekend. I really strongly suggest you do it.”

I nodded.

“And you tell Johnson I’ll overlook it this time,” she added, “but if I don’t see her curvy ass in class Thursday, I’m going to have to mark her absent. Now go do something about that face.”

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86 Responses to “445: Blessing, Curse”

  1. Matthias says:


    Current score: 0
  2. me says:

    wow, you’ve really given a lot of thought to this whole staff-fighting thing. Kudos.

    oh, and update more often? pls?

    Current score: 0
  3. Seeker of a good DnD game says:

    i suppose this is the end of seeker names… for now

    Current score: 0
  4. erratio says:

    Fuck yeah! Class is finally over and Mack actually got some praise from Callahan, which has gotta have an effect on her even though she keeps telling herself how much she doesn’t care what warrior jocks think of her.

    Typo report: “Another thing I learned was that it * really matter a whole lot what Gloria did if I actually connected, but if I didn’t then I regretted putting so much force behind it. ” I’m guessing there should be a “didn’t” at the *

    Current score: 0
  5. Lana says:

    This one was so totally worth the wait.

    Current score: 0
  6. cnic says:

    Callahan using “she” with Steph? Is Callahan using it as an insult or does she more than we think she knows? Or has this been doing this right along and I’ve been oblivious? Or is it author error? I know I’d probably make that mistake once in a while if I was writing the story (my view vs a character’s view).

    Current score: 4
    • Brenda says:

      I’m trying to remember if Callahan has ever actually used a pronoun to refer to Steff (not Steph… it’s short for Steffain). It’s possible she somehow heard about the potion’s effects… it definitely made her more *curvy*…

      Current score: 4
    • Cat says:

      I was actually just about to mention that. I think Callahan might know, but we’ll find out soon, I guess.

      Current score: 1
    • Steph says:

      “Curvy ass” — Callahan knows. …I wonder what Callahan thinks of it?

      Current score: 1
      • Mackenzie says:

        I think she likes it. I think she is bi. Callahan is one of my favorite characters.

        (oh man I know I’m behind in reading)

        Current score: 0
        • Taleshunter says:

          I’m pretty sure she said in a bonus story, that she’s only into folks with dicks. (She was annoyed that it was only the female fighter who was making out in the dressers room)

          Current score: 2
  7. Zathras IX says:

    Thanks to Callahan
    Gloria has now been left
    Without a prayer

    Current score: 2
    • Rey d`Tutto says:

      You power with words
      Drives me on towards feeling
      Uber – wordless.

      Current score: 0
      • Rey d`Tutto says:

        not You.

        Current score: 0
    • Wolff says:

      Haiku in comments
      continues to amuse me
      keep up the good work.

      Current score: 0
  8. Marx says:

    Hm. Ok, while a lot of people speculated that prayers might be a viable answer to Mack’s question at the end of the last chapter, I myself am quite surprised that it actually was the answer.

    Aaaand… you don’t commit deicide without having learned at least something about cancelling divine magic, I suppose.

    Current score: 1
    • Seeker of warmth(far from the cold wastes) says:

      you also (usually) get the now dead dieties abilities. Gotta fill the vacuum. Be funny if she was opposing dieties, like war and peace

      Current score: 0
  9. Ducky says:

    Mack doesn’t think fighting comes naturally to her? That was a pretty darn good use of a staff for someone who’s never cared for weapons before.

    Current score: 0
    • Brenda says:

      Well, she first tried it with the pitchfork, and before it went all possessed on her she found she had a good instinct with it. She’s used a staff in class a couple of times now, I think – at least once – with a borrowed staff. And here she is learning the hard way, through trial and error, what works. I’ve never fought with a staff in my life but I bet I’d start figuring out what works and what doesn’t after seriously sparring for an hour or two.

      Current score: 0
    • Jinzo says:

      Not so sure about what her strength is up to, but if she can punch though concrete walls, then it doesnt matter much how good her technique is. She hit you with the staff, you hurt. Callahans last words of the day were also to shape up her technique with the staff, implying its way behind (needing remedial).
      So wouldnt call it good use of staff. She held it. She whammied with it. All the training with Ammie could have improved her already high tolerance for pain (but Mack dont know that since she never really compares herself with others).

      Current score: 0
    • DisGuyz says:

      It could be that demons have a natural affinity for combat and its just that Mack’s human blood / her lack of interest in trying keep her from being one of the most effective fighters.

      I can’t wait till she realizes she can use some of that demon strength/agility (maybe imbue a little Hellfire) and REALLY do some work on her opponents. Please let next week (in story) come quick!

      Current score: 0
  10. Oni says:

    Hmm… since the title and the in-text bits make it seem this is a play on using “Bestow Curse”, I’m halfway curious as to if Callahan just cast that as a divine spell or not. Hard to say, since we haven’t seen a whole lot of her in action.

    Current score: 0
  11. Gryfen says:

    cnic, note the ‘curvy ass’ reference. Callahan clearly knows.

    Mack took staff in hand
    And fought the divine whirlwind.
    Shaken, but stirred.

    Current score: 0
  12. CK says:

    looks like Mack might be learning a traditional racial trait, never lie when the truth can do more damage.

    Current score: 0
  13. Miss Lynx says:

    Cool – Mack seems to be finally taking the class seriously, and actually learning from it!

    Also, another typo/word omission: “I glanced around the room and saw that we already did, but she across the floor, nodding in approval.” I’m pretty sure that wants some kind of verb between “she” and “across”.

    Current score: 0
  14. Brenda says:

    I think Mack choosing to stay despite her *real* injury was the best way she could possibly have shown Callahan that she’s really committed now – she’s serious about it.

    Also, not at all surprised at her reaction and response to Gloria’s cheating.

    Current score: 0
    • Brenda says:

      That is to say, not surprised at Callahan’s reaction.

      Oh, and I loved how Mack didn’t even shrug when Gloria insulted her grandmother. The one thing she’s NOT going to get defensive about!

      Current score: 0
  15. Ylistra says:

    If I was Mack, I’d want profanity lessons from Callahan immediately.

    Current score: 1
  16. l0stZ says:

    “I felt like I should have been insulted, but I was feeling kind of increasingly weirdly giddy.”
    This makes me fear that Mack’s “character development” is bringing more than benefits. Mack may be tapping into her demon side and not in a good way. But I may be over-analyzing choice in words.

    Current score: 0
    • David says:

      nah, I think that’s just the all-too-human reaction of “Oooh, I beat someone’s ass and am full of adrenaline, let us be giddy” than a demonic reaction of “Hahaha, little wimpling paladin girl thinks she can get under our skin.”

      Current score: 0
  17. Melissa says:

    Wow. Just wow.

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

    I have to say, I loved this ending for it. I wonder if Gloria has a new respect for Mackenzie’s skill yet. Also interesting to note that Callahan approves of Mackenzie’s progress and that Mackenzie herself stayed fighting until the very end of class. I think we may have a future for a favored half demon under this instructor.

    In any case, I guess it’s time to drop the Seeker part of my name after this. Maybe make it a bit of a tradition for some of us to post with Seeker names during the fighting class segments?

    Current score: 0
    • Seeker of Things that are in Vain says:

      I will keep my Seeker name, I started to like it.

      Current score: 0
  19. Zergonapal says:

    “didn’t know the language, and spAt.” Not spit.

    What a great chapter, it really felt like Mack was learning something 🙂
    Also damn, Callahan just gets more badass the more that is revealed about her 😀

    Current score: 0
  20. Lakanna says:

    Great chapter. I’ve been looking forward to this for a while now: Mack finally choosing to take the hard lessons and apply them.

    “Another thing I learned was that it really matter a whole lot what Gloria did if I actually connected, but if I didn’t then I regretted putting so much force behind it. ” – Not exactly sure there. It reads strangely.

    A few things that jumped out at me were Callahan referring to Steff as a “her” and remarking that Mack had some remedial reading to catch up on. I always figured Callahan was a dangeroud warrior, but it seems she’s incredibly observant too. Smacking down a blessing with some bad language and some spit? Yeah, Mack could learn a LOT from her. I imagine that the ability to nullify a blessing would be particularly useful to a demonblood. Would Callahan ever teach her? I think that she just might, if only to keep things interesting.

    It’s great to see Mack actually using that brain of hers. She was perfect in this chapter: she followed the lesson as it was set out, and hopefully learned quite a bit from it. Yes, she COULD have kept up enchanting the staff, but she rightly decided that the combat practice was more important at this time than the enchanting practice. She also correctly realized that Gloria was learning from the fight as well. Mask is usually a bit too self-absorbed to really notice what other people are doing until her attention is forced to it. Good to see that she at least has the presence of mind to not underestimate her opponent.

    Current score: 0
    • TheTurnipKing says:

      Arguably. she only noticed Gloria was learning too because Callahan pointed it out.

      Current score: 0
  21. Seeker of warmth(far from the cold wastes) says:

    it could have been a dispell, or a bestow curse, but I think she just did the easy thing and profaned. By using a strong enough swear word and her spit, she removed the blessing. Similar to the way pissing in a church cancels its blessings.
    Gloria will treat Mack with a bit more care, and Mack better pick up on Jilly’s implied(blatantly) reference to Amaranth.

    Good reading

    Current score: 0
    • Kylara says:

      Uh… what blatant reference to Amaranth? I didn’t see it.

      Current score: 0
      • Seeker of Win says:

        From Chapter 442, Callahan said the following.

        “Even the most faithful rarely get to have the kind of power that can obliterate you on the spot,” Callahan said. “If she does, there’s not much point in worrying about it. What she’s more likely to do is put you in a world of pain. So even if she’s swinging an illusionary weapon and not tossing faith at you, this exercise will help. Better would be if you had someone you could mostly trust not to kill you who could channel divine energy at you for funsies sometime. That, and remembering that you’ve got energy to throw around, too.”

        Mack knows two people who can toss around divine energy and don’t want her dead.

        Current score: 1
      • Seeker in the Bramblepatch says:

        Back in Chapter 442, when Callahan was talking about Mack learning to deal with divinity in a fight, she said, “Better would be if you had someone you could mostly trust not to kill you who could channel divine energy at you for funsies sometime.”

        This was pretty commonly interpreted by the fanbase to mean “Go get your girlfriend to help you out,” although some people did think that it might be a reference to Dee.

        Current score: 0
        • Ylistra says:

          Grandma Brimstone would probably be an even better fit to that description. Mack’s more divinely influenced friends can be rather reckless at times. Besides which, Granny knows everything that Gloria is capable of, plus an entire world of real fighting experience more.

          Current score: 0
          • Seeker of Insignificance says:

            Grandma Brimstone absolutely does not want a stronger, more Blessing-Resistant Mack. She wants a Mackenzie as weak and killable and afraid to spit as possible, as ‘kenzie going to hell anyway, regardless. Make her short, miserable life as safe for the community as possible, ‘couse the only reason Ganms is incapable of killing mack is that she won’t kill Direct Blood Kin. The life of the host is immaterial to saving the soul, but Mack is Damned, Absolutely and without fail, and the safest thing for Grams, Mack, and the community at large is for Mack to live as long as possible without giving in to her demonic side. So Keep her afraid of and too “weak” to act on her darker impulses.

            Who knows Calahan is not talking about both Dee and Amaranth? Funsies makes me think she knows who is in who’s bed, not which students are meditating/eating together, but i’ll not bet against being gleefully proven wrong at anytime. God-Slaying is likely only possible if you’re fairly perceptive (and dangerous…)

            Current score: 0
        • Brenda says:

          Dee seems to have more experience at actually *channeling* divine energy.

          Current score: 0
  22. Colette says:

    Hummmmm, very very well done.
    Gloria’s Faith is shaky, that would fit with her being so OTT with her Hate of Mack

    Current score: 0
  23. C8H9NO2 says:

    Alas, the God of Pain is departed and the Seeker of Pain Relief with him!

    Mack staying despite real injury, that was what really showed Callahan she’s changed her outlook on the class. Sure, her not complaining about Gloria cheating too, but that’s not the real change.
    She doesn’t seem too awful at this staff-fighting and she certainly has a high threshold to pain. I’m just wondering if she might not benefit from actually fighting divinity sometimes, as I fear it’s an entirely different sort of pain.

    Current score: 0
    • Rethic says:

      Lol… tylenol nice.

      Current score: 0
      • C8H9NO2 says:

        Or Paracetamol, as the substance is better known by this side of the pond.

        Callahan is, from what I can tell, hinting at Mackenzie that she (Mack, not Callahan) will eventually need to be put down (or at least the imperials will think so), and she (Callahan, not Mack) will be the one tasked with doing it.

        Current score: 0
    • erianaiel says:

      She did start out the lesson by arriving early (a first) then proceeded to question and trying to second guess everything Callahan said (business as usual for her).
      She did then show that she wanted to proceed with actually learning like she had promised, by first changing the defensive enchantments for a more offensive one (which Callahan may or may not have recognised) and then by staying with the spirit of the lesson instead of the letter (again a first for her). So I guess that Callahan’s question if she was going to keep up or backslide by next weeek was justified. Mackenzie is still a whiny little brat that fails to understand -why- she must learn to fight, but at least now she is showing some real willingness to make the effort.

      As for using the stick, she seems to be using it as a zweihander for the most part and to compensate the lack of a cutting edge with brute force. The book she should have read would have taught (or at least shown) her that there are far more effective ways to use a staff that do not require her to completely commit herself and her weapon to an offensive strike, leaving her horribly vulnerable to a counter strike by an opponent agile enough to dodge her attack and dart in quikly. Swinging a staff like a club is definitely not the best way to use it as a weapon and it does not need great perception from Callahan to notice that Mackenzie did either not read or not pay attention to the staff fighting book she has assigned her.

      Two other points that are possible interesting for the future. The first being the implicit promise by Callahan that she has (currently) no intention to come and kill Mackenzie for whatever reason (and the warning that Gloria is only going to be the first and not the most skilled of the many who -will- try and kill Mackenzie).
      The other is that she expects Mackenzie to pass on a message to Steff.
      I guess also that I could add that she is using Gloria to teach Mackenzie that she -has- to learn to defend herself, and that is using Mackenzie to teach Gloria that if she has a career of demonslaying in mind she is going to be able to do a lot better than being slammed into the ground by an untrained and uncoordinated half demon.

      And I am guessing that Callahan will be in a catastrophically bad mood when she returns (and in her case that word has to be taken quite literally …)


      Current score: 0
      • bob says:

        “Swinging a staff like a club is definitely not the best way to use it as a weapon”

        Someone as strong as a half demon could be wagging that thing back and forth like you or I might swing a flyswatter or a fencing foil, yet be putting enough power into each swing to send someone on impact. I wouldn’t want to be anywhere near that and neither did Gloria.

        Whenever mack fights, I always picture her fighting style looking like Kamikirimisu from Soul Calibur 4. In case you have not played the game, here is a video. Kamikirimisu will be the fair, petite, redheaded demon violently swinging a big staff like a club:


        Current score: 0
      • TheTurnipKing says:

        Mack didn’t modify that staff to be +1 Whamminess permanently. The offensive enchantment was temporary, for the sake of a single blow.

        Current score: 0
  24. "Endless Crescendo" says:

    Ha, lovely I figured Gloria’s prayers had something to do with shrugging off pain.
    Great “arc” (is that what I’d call this? haha), I really enjoyed this one. Mack is finally starting to learn.

    Current score: 0
  25. Arancaytar says:

    “When I get back into town, I’m either going to be in a really good mood or a fucking catastrophic one.”

    Knowing Callahan, her mood will depend on whether she manages to kill the fuck out of whatever she is going to try to kill…

    Current score: 0
  26. Aaaw. No more Seeker names until “next week”? Guess it’s back to being plain old Lunaroki for me then.

    A thought I had last update but didn’t get around to posting: If divine magic hurts infernal beings then it stands to reason that infernal magic should also hurt divine beings. All things being equal, it seems like an infernal being should be able to inflict as much damage to a divine being of the same level using only infernal magic as that divine being could inflict on the same infernal being using only divine magic. Not sure if that’s the way it works in D&D or not but it seems reasonable. I just have to wonder if Mack, or most people generally, ever considers that aspect or if they all just believe that the ability to inflict magical harm only flows in one direction between divine and infernal beings.

    Current score: 0
    • erianaiel says:

      You are right, but that is assuming there is something like infernal magic. Mackenzie is associated with fire, not with infernal. The later seems to be the description of her nature (or at least her parental heritage of it).
      It already has been mentioned once or twice that if Mackenzie burns somebody then that burn is not going to be healed easily by divine healing. I would have to read back but somebody did warn Mackenzie that when he or she was being treated for burns there were some pointed questions trying to link those burns to Mackenzie. I think in that scene, but it may have been at some other point, it was also mentioned that divine magic did not work well on demonic burns.


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      • Seeker of warmth(far from the cold wastes) says:

        infernal magic works like divine, it has to have a connection to a certain plane, and intent. Mack’s ability with flame is a direct result of her infernal makeup, and links her to the infernal planes and to the elemental plane of fire. So, if she acts with intent, the infernal energy suffuses the fire, She can actually use the infernal energy to make a water attack infernal. Since there is a link, it is harder to heal simply because the infernal energies are linked to the victims wounds, and feed the wound to prevent healing, meaning more divine power than usual is necessary So, when two beings of opposing forces fight, it comes down to skill and “other” abilities..

        Current score: 0
        • C8H9NO2 says:

          The arcane affinity to fire and the infernal nature are as far as I can tell not directly related. The infernal/demonic is a connection to one plane (or whole set of planes) while the divine/celestial is a connection to another plane or whole set of planes. There’s also been nothing definite been said about whether all divine energy and all infernal energy works the same. Maybe there’s specific divinities that do not have adverse relationships with specific infernals and the opposite. We only know about those we have seen and those are specifically human deities or deities strongly associated with humans, and on the infernal side demons who are predators on humans specifically.

          Another thing is, why should divine and infernal be strongly hurt by each other? Most systems in games, and in alchemy, have circles of relations, where A beats B, B beats C, C beats D, D beats E, and E beats A.

          Current score: 0
      • Altima says:

        It was mentioned when Two summoned the demon and, somehow, was burned by it. She required special, specific healing that Amaranth could not give.

        And then again when Mackenzie flipped out and severely burned Amaranth, thinking it was Puddy. They poured a buttload of healing potions all over Amaranth, and the healing had a notable lack of umpf that so many potions would have.

        Several things to consider though–first, this is not D&D, and there are more ways to heal someone other than divine magic. Both Arcane magic and Subtle Arts have methods of healing someone. If healing by these classes of magic is also retarded by demonfire, then it’s safe to assume that infernal magic isn’t a specific antithesis to divine magic, but simply a very, very nasty sub-category of magic–possibly arcane–like necromancy is.

        Second, Mackenzie isn’t a full demon. So it’s safe to assume that a real demon’s fire is much, much nastier than what Mackenzie can throw around, by virtue of either her diluted blood or that she is unable to ‘train’ her fire up in that way.

        Now what would be really interesting is if demon fire could affect creatures normally immune to flame. Now that would be scary.

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    • erratio says:

      Since when has the Mu world been shown to be reasonable? Besides, the gods were already immortal and close to omni-everything while demons didn’t become invulnerable until Khersis tried to destroy them, so there’s a clear asymmetry there.

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      • Ylistra says:

        What I suspect happened was that there were simply another set of gods prior to the rise of Khersis the Warlord. Just as Mercy is attempting now, Khersis gained enough power that he was able to contest the divinity of the prior gods.

        This is reflected in The Man’s opinion of divinity – A god is a god when there is no one strong enough to contest the fact. But what if someone strong enough shows up later? They become the new god and the displaced one becomes “the ancient enemy”.

        One day you’re a Lightbringer fighting off the heretic followers of a ruthless warlord, next day you’re condemned as a demon and the heretic’s call themselves Paladin. There isn’t anything inherently different between a Lightbringer/Paladin aside from some spat between a couple immortal beings that occurred so long ago that you would need to be hundreds of years old to remember it. And it doesn’t help that the Paladin’s wrote the history books.

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    • Dani says:

      > then it stands to reason that infernal magic should also hurt divine beings

      And if scissors cut paper then it stands to reason that paper should cut scissors?

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    • TheTurnipKing says:

      Depends on the cosmology setup. But essentially, you’re right. To use scientific terms, they’re both basically a source of extraplanar energy, one is positively charged (holiness/defensiveness) and one is negatively charged (demonic/offensive).

      Of course, science doesn’t work in the MUniverse 🙂

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  27. Seeker of Ends and Beginnings says:

    That is kinda cruel AE. We have these truely awesome chapters and we won’t see Calahans class for one of Macks weeks?! Can we please, please, please have a random meeting of Calahan and Mack at some point?

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  28. Sarah says:

    I’m very much enjoying this plot thread 🙂

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  29. Lakanna says:

    The whole discussion of divinity and infernal nature is a very interesting one, and one that we just don’t have the information about yet. The Man claimed that demons weren’t immortal before Khersis cast them out, but also claimed that they were part of the balance, and that Khersis was prevented fromdestroying them not because he hadn’ the power, but because he hadn’t the right. Who gives those rights? Who can enforce them, and who can revoke them?

    Anyway, Mackenzie has a strong connection with elemental fire, and a weakness to elemental cold. These are really both abstract concepts and real forces in the Mu universe, I think. Pure elemental fire can actually exist there. It seems, though, that her ability to set herself on fire and not be consumed is part of her demonic heritage, and the flames there have a (weak) infernal aspect to them. We know that MU hosts a demonology department. I wonder what types of forces (real and abstract) they deal with there? Since we can guess that “infernal” is just as real of a trait as “divine,” Mack might actually benefit from learning just how strong her infernal connection IS, and how strong it canbecome. The bad part is, “infernal” usually also means “corrupting.”

    We’ve already figured out that “divine” doesn’t always mean “good” in MU. The question only the Author can answer at this point in time is, does “infernal” always mean “evil?” Certainly The Man has shown himself to be manipulative and probably VERY dangerous, but his intentions towards his daughter seem to realyl be to keep her safe and help her to grow strong and smart. Playing demon’s advocate for a moment, what if all he really wants is what every father wants: to see his child grow up safe and happy? He’d probably act almost exactly as he does in her dreams, prodding her towards the things that are good for her even when she seems determined to do the opposite.

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    • Altima says:

      “Who gives those rights? Who can enforce them, and who can revoke them?”

      The obvious answer would be a power greater than Khersis. Perhaps deities are constrained by certain divine rules of the universe. Perhaps there’s an Overdeity similar to Ao in Forgotten Realms–he really only exists to other gods, but is quite omnipotent and focuses on keeping the gods in their place, instead of shaking creation into pieces. Heck, it’s even possible that the demons had a deity of their own that failed them (thus explaining their utter contempt for them), or they were a race of atheists who believed they were their own gods and their collective belief was strong enough that they could not be outright destroyed.

      There’s probably a reason deities need to act through proxies in the world instead of solving all the problems of their followers themselves.

      “We know that MU hosts a demonology department. I wonder what types of forces (real and abstract) they deal with there?”

      Most likely they study demons in ways to either increase their own, personal power, or in ways to minimalize the damage demons can do–maybe even turn demonic abilities against their masters. After all, we know demons can leave cursed artifacts in their wake, and that they’re quite proficient in magic, especially that related to fire and portals (remember, creating permanant portals was banned after the demons figured out how to use it to open a portal to their realm and use it to enter the ‘real’ world).

      On the other hand, the fact that a diabolist was mentioned as a possible solution to Mackenzie being trapped in the clinic would leave me to believe that they’re very, very good at countering divine magic, which would certainly have its uses.

      As for The Man…well, he is either using Mackenzie to further his own goals, and the fact that he wants her to live long enough to actual fulfill her role is what motivates him, or he is probably the most ass-backwards parent in history. Or both. Given the way he basically toyed with Mackenzie’s mother, I don’t see him having any sort of compassion for Mackenzie.

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  30. Kelsi says:

    I absolutely love this. I love that Mack is finally getting it together, and I love that Callahan recognizes it in a positive but in-character way. Eee!

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    • Wysteria says:

      I love that we have another three days of classes before we get another six months of weekend. Classes are awesome.

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      • erratio says:

        Agreed! I’m sad that so many classes get skipped over these days due to Mack daydreaming, swan princesses getting killed, and the like.

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        • Wysteria says:

          I think on par we’re trending sideways on classroom time, not downwards. Even when the story started, we didn’t get to see all her classes. For a few years we were trending downwards on content per chapter, and then we started trending upwards on content per chapter but downwards on chapters per week, so that the same slowdown effect is still going on.

          I’ve done graphs of MU chapters over time in a couple different dimensions. The only thing I can say for myself is that I don’t go around showing them to people.

          Current score: 1
          • erratio says:

            Really? I read through the early chapters again quite recently and it seems like back then we got to see every class but logic. Now we’ve stopped seeing enhancement, largely stopped seeing basic thaumaturgy (because Mack keeps daydreaming through it – I’d much rather hear magical theory than listen to Mack fantasizing about Sooni or Feejee..), gained a little on combat and been steady on history and elemental invocation.

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            • Wysteria says:

              I could have sworn I replied to this. In any case, I think you’ll find if you backtrack that outside of the first week when she was introducing all the teachers AE has pretty consistently averaged one out of two T/T classes per week, and one to two out of three M/W/F classes per week. Enhancement, for example, is not shown as often as you might think (it’s often summarized in half a paragraph).

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          • Mackenzie says:

            I’d love to see the graphs.

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  31. J says:

    One thing about sword v. staff, or actually sword v. any blocking weapon that doesn’t have handguards, is that it’s very easy for the sword-wielder to damage the opponent’s hands. On a blocked hit, all the sword-wielder has to do is slide the sword down the length of the blocker’s weapon toward their hands. Not a complex or difficult move, and I’m surprised Gloria didn’t do it. I imagine a very skilled staff-wielder would have a way of avoiding it (like never letting the weapons stay in contact for more than a fraction of a second), but I don’t think Mackenzie would have any easy way of countering at her skill level. Except for her invulnerable hands, of course 🙂 but that wouldn’t help in this pain-fight.

    Incidentally, this is why all dueling swords have hilts or some other style of handguard. The only swords that don’t are ones that aren’t intended to go up against another bladed weapon.

    Great story arc, probably my favorite one so far. I’m sad it’s ending :(. And no class til next week? That means, what, a few months in real-world time? (not sure about my MU-to-RL time conversion, maybe I’m way off)

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    • erianaiel says:

      A skilled staff fighter (which Mackenzie clearly is not) would never attempt to outright block a sword strike with his or her weapon. Unless the staff is made of steel, or something equally strong, that would be a sure way to get your staff cut down into a pair of drumsticks…
      Instead staff fighting is more resembling fencing (as far as countering is concerned), you use the weapon to swipe away the enemy’s slashes, and step out of the trajectory of the thrusts. The advantage of the staff over a fencing foil is that it is equally effective at both ends so if you swipe away the sword’s thrust or slash you can step in and reverse the weapon to make a quick strike with the other end while your opponent is out of position. If they have a shield that will not do you much good and you best bet is to try to hit your enemies sword arm or neck with a quick jab or short swipe before he bashes you with the shield. Against somebody who is fencing the staff is the superior weapon (assuming it is as strong as the sword).

      Current score: 0
      • Ylistra says:

        Wasn’t her staff specifically given a hardness boost? Since she can easily shatter a normal wood staff with her bare hands if she swung it at full force, the staff has to be magically enhanced just for her to use it. Probably explains why it’s able directly block a steel blade, anyway.

        Current score: 0
  32. Dave says:

    An excellent arc – I’ve been looking forward to each part far more than usual. And as usual, interesting discussion.

    But I don’t understand why people are making such a meal of what happened to Gloria and how Callahan undid it. It’s right there in the chapter heading, ‘Blessing, Curse’.

    I don’t know D&D rules, but I used to play on MUDs. A blessing was one way to remove a curse, and vice-versa a cursed object could remove your blessing – you had to be careful what you picked up!

    Gloria appears to have blessed herself at the start of the fight (she is a cleric of sorts is she not?). Presumably the blessing had the property of suppressing pain. Her blessed state also explains why it was painful for Mackenzie to hold her.

    Once Callahan realises what has happened, she removes the blessing with a curse; the spitting would be to seal the curse, just as some people spit on their hands to seal a bargain.

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  33. 'nym-o-maniac says:

    Hey, I just realized that Mack got bumped back up to Emo Kid.

    (This has been your random observation of the day.)

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  34. Tolai says:

    See Callahan can be cool,
    in a walking, talking WMD kinda way…

    Current score: 1
  35. readstospouse says:

    Heh, much as I mourn the fact that at this pace our author will die of old age before Mack graduates… if Mack continues learning and improving her attitude even a hundred times slower than she did over the course of this last class she WILL survive and graduate.

    I really enjoyed the in depth front row seat to Mack finally getting serious about Callahan’s class, and a new less spoiled fool protagonist would go great with all the existing amazing support characters.

    In more boring writing there would need to be shallow weak foils to drive conflict, but the author has no trouble developing dense hedges of thorny issues for Mack to hack through:

    A murder mystery
    A ruthless slaver
    A legal suit
    A persistant racist underculture
    A fleet of fascinating and demanding professors
    An overbearing ex-ward
    A pair of hungry murderous mermaids
    A constellation of troubled yet amazing friends
    And a relationship with as many bonds and pillars as the golden gate bridge (and good amount of tension, hidden in the still structure)

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  36. “She seemed single-minded in her devotion, but I supposed that could be a sign of being insecure in her faith as anything else.”


    “One was that just as the whole length of the staff was its striking surface, it was also all handle. I couldn’t just hold it one way the whole time and use it effectively. Some grips worked better than others. There might have been a right way to hold it in a given situation, but the situation kept changing.”


    Great chapter ^_^

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  37. Ursus says:

    was that it really matter a whole lot -> was that it really didn’t matter a whole lot
    (I think)

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  38. Stacey says:

    “Another thing I learned was that it really matter a whole lot”
    It really matter? Mattered? What did this mean?

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  39. yamaraion nokota says:

    Can anyone contest that Jane Lynch, playing Coach Sue Sylvester on GLEE, is the perfect person for the role of Coach Callahan when TALES OF MU goes to TV or a movie?

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  40. Yumi says:

    Well, I’m finally close to being caught up with the story (just in time, too– summer’s almost over), so I’ll probably be commenting regularly soon. My need to make my first comment on here was prompted by Callahan’s second-to-last sentence; at first I stared passively at the screen for a second, and then a grin broke across my face and I squealed.

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  41. sengachi says:

    Callahan speaks infernal? … Shit.

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  42. Sher says:

    Oh, thank you, thank you, thank you! Finally, I can respect Mack! This was the best chapter – the BEST so far in all 445 I’ve read. It was brilliant. I loved it!

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