457: Fishy Propositions

on August 24, 2010 in Book 16

In Which Mackenzie Should Really Probably Consider Just Avoiding Bathrooms Altogether At This Point

I froze up completely. Even with Iona looking perfectly human… or perfectly like a human wearing a skin-tight pair of scaly pants… I felt caught by her gaze, like she’d skewered me with her big, unblinking eyes. So much of my thoughts had been focused on mermaid teeth that just looking at her pearly white human-style teeth and her lips… which were a bit unusually red but otherwise very normal and very nicely shaped lips… filled my head with an image of a yawning black abyss framed by a mouthful of needle-like fangs.

It said something about just how powerful an image it was that Iona could walk around completely topless… completely naked, in fact… and I still ended up staring at her mouth.

Where was Pala? I doubted Iona could have dispatched her, but that obviously didn’t mean she couldn’t have got rid of her in some other way. What had we been thinking, trusting such a total airhead to watch my back? Of course, she hadn’t been the one who decided to lock me up in a room and throw a soundproofing spell around it…

“Mackenzie,” Iona said. Her smile widened just a bit, and every part of me that she or Feejee had ever bitten felt a twinge. “I’ve been looking for you… well, that’s not exactly true.”

She shoved me back away from the door, with just a touch of her fingertips in the center of my chest. I didn’t resist it… the part of me that still felt free to resist felt pretty sure that it was better to step backwards than to fall on my ass in the middle of the dirty, damp, toilet-paper-strewn floor.

“I’ve been seeking you,” she continued, closing and locking the door behind her. “You’re never that hard to find, and I figured out your schedule days ago.”

I shook off my surprise… that was mostly what it was… and took stock of the situation. She wasn’t armed, that I could see. This was important. The mermaids could tear an ordinary person apart with ease, but my flesh wouldn’t part for any amount of force or savagery unless there was magic backing up the muscle. If she was unarmed, that meant she’d either just come to talk, or she’d made a big mistake.

I was invulnerable, I was stronger than she was, I could use fire and magic to defend myself. There was no way in which she was a real threat to me.

It was just a matter of convincing even the smallest part of my body of that.

Or better still, a useful part… like my arms, or legs, or even my mouth.

“I’m guessing you saw the press thingy,” Iona said. “Since you were in class during it… I have to tell you, I’ve been slightly worried a couple of times during the past few days. I guess I didn’t really ‘get’ what Leda was, or understand how she was different from everybody else… well, not that different, as it turned out.”

“Iona,” I said. It wasn’t much, but it was all I could force out past lips that barely wanted to move. But saying it was enough to break the dam and let other words spill awkwardly out of my mouth. “I know… I know it seems like you’re getting away with…”

“I am, aren’t I?” she said, and she laughed. “I kind of understand what they mean when they say ‘getting away with murder’, but this is even better. It’s not even murder, it’s just hunting… even the human authorities acknowledge that. You heard what they called it, right? It’s a monster attack, that’s all.”

“You might not feel so relaxed about that idea if you get identified as the monster,” I said. Okay, not the smartest thing I’d ever said… the last thing I wanted was for her to think I’d turned her in… or maybe even worse, that I was going to, and therefore she had something to gain by stopping me.

“You think I haven’t thought of that?” she said. “I really don’t mind. I mean, from their point of view, I suppose it’s true. I am a monster… and if some intrepid monster hunter sees me prowling around in the dark, I’m fair game for them. And so are they, for me. The system works.”

“That’s not a system.”

“Isn’t it?” she said. “I think it’s a rather nice set-up… rather too nice to be completely accidental. Everybody risks their lives going out after dark… them by being prey, us by being threats. No one has to go out at night, so anyone who does, the risk is on their own head. The school denies responsibilities. The authorities barely investigate, and even then only if it’s somebody important.”

“You’re talking like you think it’s set up that way on purpose.”

“Why not? The investigators don’t seem interested in finding out whether or not the monster was a student. They don’t seem interested in finding her. They did the bare minimum and now they’re walking away,” Iona said. “Even that much attention is a huge, uh, fluke. Sorry, I can barely say that with a straight face.”

“How exactly do you figure that?” I asked.

“Because it’s not like I just started hunting on Veil Night, or that I’m the only one who’s done it,” Iona said.

“What do you mean?” I asked. “Who else is out hunting at night?”

“Well… I don’t know, exactly,” she said, and a look of uncertainty flashed across her face before being quashed by a much more determined look of extreme certainty. “But I know I can’t be the only one. It’s just nature, you know? There are too many hunting folk here, and so much prey…”

“It’s not a good idea to think of humans as prey,” I said. “They didn’t build two of the biggest empires the world has ever seen by rolling over and dying.”

“We don’t hear much about their empires where I come from,” Iona said. “And we live by the shores of some of their islands. It’s just not that big of a deal. I heard in one of my classes that humanity controls a quarter of the dry land… have you ever looked at a globe of the world? That’s like a quarter of the quarter of the world. Less, really… I mean, a globe only shows the surface. Humans only have a sixteenth of the skin of the world and they act like they’re running the whole show.”

“Yeah, but they’ve… we‘ve done things no one else has,” I said. “We’re organized. We’re innovative.”

“You’re food, and you know it,” Iona said. “I don’t mean just you, well… kind of especially you. But everyone else knows it. The whole world is folk and food, people and prey… and deep down inside, everybody knows where they fall. Look, Feejee’s people live out in the middle of the ocean. At the deep crossings. They would never, ever encounter humans or other land-dwellers if nobody ever built a great big boat and sailed out over their hunting grounds. Each tribe gets maybe one or two ships an average year, I think. And that’s obviously a small enough number compared to the number of ships lost to other natural causes that nobody blinks about it.”

I didn’t think she realized how hard it was to determine why a ship went down with no survivors… divination was out of the question, and communication magic was severely hampered in the middle of a vast expanse of moving water. Even necromancy… classical necromancy, that is, communication by summoning spirits of the dead… was not a great option. Souls that died violent and sudden deaths were dangerous to deal with, and it was hard to wrest lives claimed by the sea back up to the surface.

But if ever there was a moment to get hung up on being all pedantic about that sort of thing, this wasn’t it.

“Iona, I think you’re underestimating the difficulty of finding out what happens to a ship lost at sea,” I said. There again I was having the problem of convincing my mouth what my brain knew.

“Well, maybe I am,” she said. “But… I don’t really care. Look, last year, my first time among humans, I was probably a lot like you. I thought that up here, everybody was folk… we’re all just people, you know? I wondered how it would affect me when I got back to the seashore… and then I found out that it didn’t. Even then I still thought… oh, I don’t know, that there was some kind of bright line dividing life here and life in the water. Feejee still thinks that, kind of. The deeper folk are a bit insular, you know, a little backwards. They still put a lot of stock in all the old stories.”

“Iona, why are you here?” I asked.

“Well… I had to talk to someone,” she said. “I can’t talk to Fee, obviously… that would be like talking to one of your Khersian friends about sex outside of marriage, if I understand the drift of things there. She’d never understand it. She’d never forgive me. And she’d make sure my folk find out about it.”

“So Feejee hasn’t been… hunting?”

“Oh, no, of course not,” Iona said. “Well… just you. If you can call that hunting. She’s so darned amiable about it… I don’t know what’s more pathetic, the way she’s trying to be friends with you or the fact that it’s probably going to work.”

“What do you mean?”

“Well, we are going to eat you, Mack… unless you wise up and start acting like people instead of prey,” Iona said. “I don’t see that happening, really, though I am sort of open to the possibility… I would love to have a hunting partner, Feejee’s sort of out of the question and I can’t really get a read on any of the girls on the skirmish team… but otherwise, well…” She shrugged. “Yeah, I’m going to eat you. What are you going to do?”

“Offhand? Stop you,” I said. “Fight back.”

“Come on, Mack, you’re a pushover,” Iona said. “You’re going to be the most deliciously accommodating meal I’ve ever had, and we both know it.”

“I’m less of a pushover than you think,” I said. “I’ve been practicing a few things.”

“Yeah? Fighting? Throwing magic around?” Iona said. “None of that matters, because what you haven’t practiced is not being a victim. Listen, I’m going to get myself a magic knife, I’m going to slip it right inside your little mammal-dimple here,” she said, poking a finger into my navel through my shirt,” and just… unzip you, all the way up to the bone. The stuff that spills out will be plenty vulnerable, once it’s separated from you. I’ve been reading up on this.”

On eating demonbloods?, I wanted to say, but her touch and her closeness were shutting my ability to speak down again.

“Oh, well, look at you,” she said, looking down at me. The whites of her eyes darkened just a bit. “I should have brought a knife with me. How long do you think it would take me to find someone to lend me something sharp, Mackenzie? Not long, I’d bet.”

“Feejee…” I said. As objections went, it was pretty lame.

“Oh, I could bring her back something, and let her make up her own mind about where I took you,” Iona said. “Really, it would be so much easier than messing around with getting you into the water somehow. I’ve been kind of splitting the difference so far. Leda was in the fountain, I took some guy in the pouring rain… the other one, well, I don’t really have much of an excuse for her.” She laughed. “Oh, but I’m afraid I’m teasing you… and myself, as well. I didn’t come here to eat you. I’m not even that hungry. I was just so relieved, you know? I’ve had some… tense… moments these past few days, Mack… and you, you’re not telling anyone anything, are you?”

I was suddenly glad to be all but paralyzed with fear, because if I’d had any animation or power of speech at the point she said that, I was sure I’d have given something away.

“Oh, well, of course you aren’t,” she said. “You just don’t have it in you… you’ve got all the self-preservation of a sailor climbing into a boat, or a girl swimming alone, on the far side of the rocks from the beach.”

“Iona… I’d be careful, if I were you,” I said.

Careful?” she asked. She managed to pack an impressive amount of disdain into the word. “Of what?”

“Even if they’ve closed the criminal investigation, that doesn’t mean they’ve given up on catching the monster,” I said. I wasn’t sure exactly what I was hoping for with this… I didn’t exactly want to put Iona’s guard up, but it seemed like a good idea if she could be persuaded to be a bit more cautious until things… well, until whatever was going to happen happened. “There are still imperial investigators on campus.”

“Yeah, wrapping up that conference thing,” she said. “Over at the admin building. Far from here. Nobody’s paying any attention…” She froze, staring at me right as I was wondering if they wouldn’t have Iona and Feejee under surveillance. If so, then they would have heard her saying that she killed Leda… if that was the case, then what were they waiting for? Were they really that devoted to keeping things quiet. “What? What is it?” Iona asked. “Do you know something?”

“I just… they’ve had their eyes on me from the beginning,” I said, surprised at how easily the half-truth came to me under pressure. “I’m kind of the number one suspect when it comes to monsters.”

“You’re a meat pie with legs,” she said. “And without all the annoying flaky stuff, and vegetables.”

“To you, maybe,” I said. “But humans don’t see my human side.”

“Right, that’s why you had the tall gladiator watching your yummy little behind,” Iona said. “Though she was easy enough to get rid of. After you deadened the sound for whatever reasons… well, it was obvious to me that the bathroom wasn’t empty, just silent… but it didn’t take much to convince her you’d left.”

“Well, yeah, that is why I had her with me, actually,” I said. “If people saw me as just another human… or as a ‘meat pie’… I wouldn’t need a bodyguard. Even if the authorities aren’t interested in hunting monsters, there could still be a backlash… I’m not exactly the safest person to be around right now. Um… sorry I didn’t mention it before.”

“Oh, well, you can hardly be blamed for that,” she said. “I kind of took over the conversation… and I can hardly be blamed for that, it’s just the natural order of things.”

“Right,” I said. “But now that you know… well, it’s probably best to keep your distance until things die down. And for you to keep a low profile, I mean, hunting-wise. There might be more eyes and weapons around campus until things get back to normal.”

“I have been keeping my head down,” Iona said. “I figured things would be back to normal, now… but I suppose you’re right. What’s another week or so? Or at least a few days. Well, I suppose I can at least pop outside tonight looking like this and see if anything looks sketchy.”

It looked like my gambit might accomplish something in terms of getting Iona away from me for the immediate future, but it wasn’t going to change her habits beyond that… she had thrown patience and any real sense of caution to the wind. The uproar over Leda had scared her a little, but only just a little.

“Of course,” she added, “if you’re going to be treated like a monster anyway… I mean, if the rest of the prey are going to be looking at you like you’re a predator…”

“You called me a meat pie,” I said.

“Food is as food does,” Iona said. “Folk, too… like I said, I like having someone to talk to. I wouldn’t mind having someone I could share things with, regularly.”

Telling her no seemed like a bad idea. Saying anything that sounded even halfway like I was considering it was probably a bad idea, given the possibility that someone was listening in. Saying nothing seemed like it was handing control back to Iona, putting myself back in the role of food.

“I should probably go find Pala,” I said. “I’m sure she’s still looking for me… she’s bound to double back here before too long.”

There… that was probably the best thing to say.

“I suppose you’re right,” Iona said. “And I’m supposed to be meeting Feejee. Well, I’ll be seeing you in a day or two… think about what I said.”

I nodded. I wouldn’t be considering her offer in the usual sense of the phrase, but I was very sure I’d spend many moments thinking about exactly what she’d said to me.

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128 Responses to “457: Fishy Propositions”

  1. Well, that seemed to go over a bit better than it could have…

    Current score: 0
  2. Amelia says:

    “if some intrepid monster hunter sees me prowling around in the dark, I’m fair game for them. And so are they, for me” Didn’t Iason pressure James into making and adventuring party? I see hilarity and horror in someone’s future.

    Current score: 1
  3. Zergonapal says:

    Gods Mack, grow a spine and snap hers, you’ll be a fucking hero and feel better for it as well.

    Current score: 1
    • Arakano says:

      YES, that’s a BRILLIANT idea, Zergonapal!

      “I killed a fellow student, but you know, she just confessed to me that she killed Leda. What do you mean, you don’t believe me because I am a half-demon? SHE was a man-eating sea-monster! I swear! What do you mean, you don’t believe THAT, either? Why is everyone gathering in lynch-mob fashion? Oh…”


      Current score: 9
  4. Joe says:

    Yeah, I have to agree with Zergonapal – what is the point of Mack’s “personal growth” if at the moment she needs to show any sort of strength of conviction, we get paralyzed whimpering? Last chapter she’s indignant at the lack of justice and now she’s a sputtering imbecile. She handled Belinda better than this and she was actively attacking her. I understand it’s relatively short time for a personality to change… but the story is years long and 456 chapters. Throw the readers a bone!

    Current score: 0
    • Rey d`Tutto says:

      There is a bit of difference between Mortal-Fear and Sexually-Laden-Mortal-Fear. If Mack wasn’t excited by Iona, she’d be able to handle her a bit better, imho.
      Belinda’s overt animosity and attacks towards Mack are entirely different in nature and flavor from Iona’s Dominating Death Threats.

      The fact that Mack got off while being “Preyed Upon” most likely reinforces the Dominant-Submissive dynamic here.

      Current score: 4
      • Syn says:

        Speaking as someone that acts in the ‘submissive prey’ capacity in a relationship herself, I would say that you’re likely right on the money. I know that I can safe out and all the “I’m going to eat you” play stops, but there’s something very enthralling about it, too, so I don’t want it to stop.

        Current score: 2
  5. Greenwood Goat says:

    Mack could take Iona out, at least in theory… however, she’s not really the offended party, and there are others who would be better able and also willing.

    ‘We thank you,’ said the Queen of Mariinsky Lake formally, ‘for while this cannot bring our daughter back, we can at least bring this back,’ at which she eyed the struggling form of Iona, ‘ and exact our rightful vengeance. And so, farewell.’ She turned and swept across the twilit events ground towards her coach.

    The two white-feathered huntsmen, standing over Iona, took hold of the silvery net that bound her and went to follow their queen. Mack stood rigid, holding the small velvet bag that the queen had given her. She hadn’t looked at the contents, but they seemed hard and heavy, and held the possibility of covering a few incidental expenses. As the coach door closed, Mike Gregory touched her on the shoulder.

    ‘We need to talk,’ he murmured, ‘unofficially. For now.’

    A significant look from Vice Chancellor Embries told her that he wanted a word, too. And she didn’t need Feejee to be present to know that the mermaid would also be wanting to discuss Iona’s disappearance at some point.

    Current score: 1
  6. Sapphite says:

    That was intense. Almost thought Mackenzie would char the bathroom in defense of herself and future victims.

    Current score: 0
  7. Jennifer says:

    OK, Mack. All very well and good. Now go back to your room, call Lee again (with silence spell) and tell him what just happened. I rather suspect that if a murderer CONFESSES TO YOU, legally you have a duty to report it.

    Current score: 1
    • slaxor says:

      Even if the authorities did have a name (and evidence), couldn’t the circumstances still make it, technically, death by monster attack?

      Current score: 1
      • Jennifer says:

        Even if they classify it that way, there is a difference between a mindless monster that you might accidentally stumble into – like the ghouls – and one that actively hunts and reasons. If the school knew of such a creature – not only knew of it, but knew where it lived, how it hunted, and who it had killed – PLUS they were trying to sooth over a diplomatic incident, it seems to me that they would take SOME action, and could just say they have “captured the monster responsible for this attack and dealt with it accordingly” or some such.

        And don’t forget that the press conference reeked of cover up.

        Current score: 3
        • Oitur says:

          And the difference between an unknown monster and one with a name and an address on campus

          Current score: 3
      • CB says:

        In that case, wouldn’t that give Mackenzie carte blanche to kill as well? They consider her a monster, anyway. I’m surprised she isn’t indignant that one homovore student that hunts humans is allowed to stay on campus without incident whereas she’s always being looked at sideways despite the fact that her diet is sated with virgin blood.

        Current score: 0
        • Andrea says:

          HOMOVORE! I love it.

          Current score: 0
          • Reina says:

            Homo doesn’t mean human. It means “same”.

            Sapievore would mean “one who eats inteligence” (As in “a creature of”.) And that could mean any “intelligence-having life-form”.

            Current score: 0
            • Kanta says:

              Or it could mean a creature that literally eats intelligence, like some sort of though-absorber. Or one that eats brains, like an illithid.

              Current score: 0
    • Rhai says:

      I really, really, really hope she does this. I feel bad about how the backlash will affect Feejee, who’s relatively naive and innocent about all this, but Iona really needs to be put out of action, and soon.

      Current score: 2
  8. Loki says:

    I agree! And she not only killed Leda, but two other students as well!

    Current score: 2
    • tjhairball says:

      Yeah, I was actually surprised to find out that Leda has three murders to her name. And moreover, confessed them to Mack.

      It’s like she’s daring Mack to go to the authorities to turn Iona in. And Mack is being all confused and gawping, because she thought she already WENT to the authorities…

      I think she’s frozen not because she’s afraid, but because she doesn’t know what to do. Wonder if she thinks to give Mr. Gregory a call…

      Current score: 1
  9. Zathras IX says:

    If Iona had
    A surname it’d likely
    Be “Pieceofyourass”

    Current score: 2
  10. James says:

    if its still silent, is lee still monitoring?

    Current score: 0
    • Durragh says:

      i was kind of wondering that myself, if Lee had caught the first few words before he hung up, might he keep listening when he realized what he was hearing? i could very well imagine the next installment starting with Mack hearing Lee call her name and realizing at that point the phone is still on, and him directing her to wait for his arrival, that he was getting her to protective custody and talking to Gregory.

      Current score: 1
  11. Azran says:

    Mack should eat Iona, just for the irony

    Current score: 0
    • jc says:

      Nah; she wants to get on Embries’ good side, and stealing away a nice meal isn’t the way to do that.

      Current score: 1
  12. slaxor says:

    I think Iona’s right about the system. Everyone risks their lives after dark. It’s simple, sensible and shows a commendable tolerance and respect for beings that would generally be exterminated out of hand. I’ve always thought that humans consider their habitat to be wherever they happen to be at the time, and it’s nice to see that things aren’t so simple at MU.

    Current score: 0
    • Tiri says:

      Except what Iona isn’t considering is that if the monster gets identified as a Merperson and it gets out that merpeople eat humans, things would get ugly back home.

      Current score: 1
  13. Kirine says:

    I really hope that Iona gets what is coming to her and it’s most definitely NOT Mack on a platter. I find her arrogance and bragging about killing Leda, disturbing. Not to mention that she’s not been dissuaded from planning to eat Mack.

    Current score: 0
  14. Dwight says:

    I agree with the general sentiment here. If Mack doesn’t do something, anything, to put a determined and final end on the Iona threat… it will seriously bother me. It really will become enough of an issue that I think it might destroy my suspension of reality around this story. If Mack just wants to be a completely feeble bint, then at least let her get some advice from someone else who deals with it effectively. Her whole circle of friends must have some way to deal with this between them.

    Get the authorities to finish it some how, set Iona up to be discovered for the next crime, become a vigilante, whatever. Go talk to Gregory.

    Ok, maybe I don’t have perspective on “hidden forces lurking in the dark” or subtleties that Alexandria understands that I don’t, but there’d better be a pretty compelling logic for a plot device that leaves Iona walking around as a threat to Mack after this story arc.

    @Greenwood goat, thanks for a wonderful story that would make sense….

    Current score: 0
  15. Ylistra says:

    I’d say it’s a good bet that Iona would leave her alone if her topless chest was branded with the shape of Mack’s flaming handprint. But that’s just me.

    Current score: 0
  16. Lee says:

    Meat pie… cute nickname for Mack x3

    I’m not surprised that Mack didn’t react all badass… she’s only been at school for what, a couple months? And she didn’t even accept the idea that weapon/fighting training was something she should really work on until very recently. It’s probably going to take her a lot longer to change her way of thinking, considering all the pressure and reasons to not act aggressive that she’s had to deal with in her life.

    Current score: 0
  17. Billy Bob says:

    So the last half-demon “destroyed half of campus” either that’s a huge exaggeration or the MU world is more like DnD and less like real world. In the real world (for some definition of real world), a sniper with a magical arrow could take out the half-demon with a well placed head-shot. But in DnD an arrow would only do 1d6+whatever and that’s it. In the real world it’s hard to be a hero character because it takes just one lucky shot and you’re KIA. But in games that would suck because people would constantly be losing characters. Movies and many books explain this phenomena by making lots of wounds into tolerable flesh wounds and making heros very, very lucky.

    Current score: 0
    • Koan says:

      Actually, the Demon Massacre was a riot that a half-demon was a part of and ended with 56 people dead (I think). According to the Elven history prof. (the name escapes me for some reason) he lead the attack but again there were other participants. I agree that this whole thing seems very unlikely in a world of magic, one devout believer and the half-demon would’ve been toast and as for the other rioters, who were never named, your magic sniper or anyone with enough skill and magic would have taken them out. I really don’t understand how this could happen in a school filled with people who are good enough in their field that they got a job in the top magic school in the center of the human land. The whole thing reeks of secrecy and cover-ups to me and I would gladly pay to see this explained in an OT, who’s with me?

      Current score: 1
    • Drudge says:

      I think that it’s more that half demons are immune to most things, affect the mind, and can smash through enchantments without thinking. This more or less means that a riled up half demon could blindly smash through half the campus if their mind has gone far enough. The fact that humans seem to have the self preservation of a random normal in the marvel universe and needlessly antagonise them generally doesn’t help things.

      Current score: 1
    • Arakano says:

      No offense, but… there simply ISN’T a sniper in a good position around everytime you need one. I mean, I hate to bring up such a depressing real world example, but Littleton proved that some teenagers with guns can cause a lot of damage in a school environment.
      As for the teachers, not everyone teaching magical theory is an accomplished battle mage. I mean, not every physics prof can build a nuclear bomb, not every military history prof could command an army, etc…

      Current score: 0
  18. Colette says:

    Basically Iona’s mindset is that of a Serial Killer from our world. Well portrayed!
    Iona will keep on hunting till she runs up against Something/One that can fight back and WIN.
    But she doesn’t really believe in that possibility.
    It will be interesting to see if Embries goes a-huntin…..
    Mack is still Mack, growing but slowly….

    Current score: 1
  19. Morten says:

    I was that Leda was eaten by Feejee while still under the lingering effects of Mack Daddy’s inhibition lowering potion. Darn it.

    And Mack can’t just reduce Iona to a lump of charred scales – students are not to attack each other outside of class. Also I think her fighting instincts are tied up to the context of holding a staff and being in class. So many things are much more context dependent than we realize.

    Current score: 0
    • Nigel says:

      Surely you wouldn’t be averse to Mack Breaking a few teeth out of Iona’s head and offering them up for forensic comparison?

      Current score: 0
      • Morten says:

        Not a bad idea. She just has to temper the punch so she doesn’t end up with her hand sticking out of the back of Iona’s skull.

        Current score: 0
      • Andrea says:

        Ah, but the teeth might shift back to being normal and human-looking once they’re removed from the mermaid — and THAT’s assuming Mack would even be able to get Iona alone with her teeth in predatory form.

        Current score: 0
  20. Rethic says:

    I think it will/would be horribly ironic if/when Embries eats Iona. The predator becomes the prey. Also Mack can’t tell investigators that Iona confessed to her. All of a sudden she goes from aquaintence to personal confidant? She would have too many questions she couldn’t answer.

    Current score: 0
    • bramble says:

      Too many questions? I think she’s got a perfectly good explanation. “They told me about it at great length at a party once because they thought I might be sympathetic to the way they eat humans, and it really creeped me out. I didn’t tell anyone then because I didn’t think they would actually have the nerve to hunt at school, and after Leda died, I asked my lawyer to handle the information as an anonymous tip because I was kind of afraid that they’d come after me if they knew I’d turned them in.”

      Current score: 0
      • Andrea says:

        It is a good explanation, and they probably would believe her, but she might get in trouble for withholding the info for as long as she did. Plus the mermaid(s) could still come after her if the investigators didn’t take IMMEDIATE action.

        Current score: 0
  21. Disappointed says:

    So many outcomes that could have finished this arc on this page, its really sad that Mack chose *whimper and somehow re-enforce the serial killer’s viewpoint that what she’s doing is right.* Seriously, open your mirror behind your back and you have Lee listening to a confession of three murders; crack Iona with your fist; light her on fire; scream, yell DO SOMETHING. This world of Mackenzie’s is making less and less sense. There is no being of any intelligence when told to their face after being forced into a corner, “I’m going to kill you and eat you,” that wouldn’t freak the heck out and not pull either a fight or a flight move but would instead stand there and hang around, especially given if that person is Mack who could slap the hell out of Iona.

    Current score: 0
    • Drudge says:

      Frozen in terror is a viable move but …

      I gotta agree with you. While it makes sense, it’s still disappointing. I mean, Mackenzie has done nothing but whimper and act passive the entire story. A bit of development speeding would help things along something fierce. I mean, we’re what, four, FIVE novels worth of text in at the very least and there’s no real change.

      I mean, there’s at least half a dozen less frustrating options in this situation. All of them would have sped this lot up rather significantly, given the infrequency and lateness of updates, that’s sort of needed here.

      I mean, is there anyone who’s development isn’t entirely outside their heads at this point? Every single damned person just makes the same mistakes over and over, never pausing to think for half a second. On my first reread I thought I was somehow caught in a loop.

      Can we please have somone ACT differently, instead of having Mack mention things being different, having her talk slightly differently, and having the least possible amount of actual CHANGE in the dynamics?

      Current score: 0
      • EvilToast says:

        I’d give it a bit more time before we judge Mack. Although I agree that entire scene was semi-painful to read, seeing the main character cower in any novel makes you feel a bit exasperated with them.

        I find it a bit more surprising that Mack hasn’t even got a hint of guilt running through her head after its confirmed lots of people have died at Iona’s hands. I mean its not her fault at all, she couldn’t really have prevented them without making the situation worse, as well as not having any proof. But who wouldn’t feel a tad responsible when you are so closely connected to a murder with even the slimmest chance of preventing it.

        Anyway, by Mack apparently not doing anything but pee her pants here any future confrontation where she does in fact lay down some ‘whoop-ass’ (either by clever planning or a long awaited fight scene) will only show the contrast and character growth more. I mean she has already shown it to be possible during the labyrinth and the early ghoul fight. So I’d at least wait till the next Iona confrontation before we label her a coward.

        Current score: 0
        • Drudge says:

          Mackenzie is kind of a bitch like that. You’d think that when confronted with the news that there was a society that was killing thousands of people RIGHT NOW and pretending to be good she’d so something. Instead she puts it out of her mind. Mercy’s killed probably dozens of sentients by now and the only time Mackenzie thinks about it is when it relates to her directly and not a moment before. Mack Daddy is clearly hiding a lot of things and has the occasional “tell”, but she’s so self absorbed she only cares about what relates to her when it affects her.

          I’m not bitching on the “oh no my main character isn’t badass!” idea. It’s more she’s showing all the signs of being a lazy self absorbed cunt with no actual redeeming features. We’re five damned novels in and she isn’t smart, she isn’t brave, she isn’t compassionate, she isn’t charismatic.

          The real issue is pacing. Alexandra herself has admitted that the whole “daily pace with infrequent at best updates” doesn’t work. Things need to move faster IRL or in universe. Of course given Miss Erins pattern recognition and health issues, I don’t have much hope for it being rectified in any way.

          Current score: 0
          • Nigel says:

            I feel your pain, but I do have to point out that Mack is Smart (to say nothing of strong); but only when she’s not paying any attention to her own bullshit preconceptions e.g. The lengthy (and Occasionally sound) internal monologues, the mid-combat enchantment (Appears to be a highly advanced technique), The principled egalitarianism (that disintegrates the moment her anger stops distracting her).

            The frustration is of watching a character with options be pathetic by (mostly unconscious) choice.

            Current score: 0
            • Rey d`Tutto says:

              As smeone who was raised in a Religion they no longer subscribe to, I can state that Mak is doing Awesome in Overcoming YEARS of abuse.
              Don’t any of you remember Brimstone Horrifying a young Mack with the Hand Gambit? It terrified her so much she gained minimal controll over her Flame-outs (at least enough to supress them while sleeping).

              Isn’t this still a few months into her Freshman Year? It took 3 Years of military service (a lifestyle completely different, yet disturbingly similar to my growing up) and living “off the reservation” for a few more until i realized i was a worthwhile human being, and not a useless sinner in need of saving by a mysoginistic, xenophobic, and hateful diety’s confused child.

              I got better. Mack’s life growing up is by far the more horrific and abusive. I got Guilt Trips, and Sinning, and all that, bt noone told me I was Eternally Damned, regardless of my actions, due to my birth. Give her a little time, and she may grow into the confidence that standing up to Iona would require.

              Current score: 0
            • Drudge says:

              I’m not saying it’s not going to take a while. I got off easy in the whole “break away from family religion” bit, but even that took me a long time.

              The issue is PACING. Every chapter is a second by second description of her actions, lengthened by her extremely long internal monologues. Mackenzie getting on a bus and having brief conversation can and has taken a whole chapter.

              Again, five novels in, no signifigant changes that will actually WORK.

              Steff talks vulgar
              Mackenzie gets aroused
              Jamie is totally going to deal with Iason
              Steff does something stupid
              Another revelation added to a pile that barely advance,
              Soonie’s actions injure someone
              Introduce a backround character tied to someone’s backstories unlikely to show up for several novels, if ever again.
              Mack Daddy shows up, acts criptic, doesn’t really answer any questions, and nothing he says seems to do anything REAL.

              Repeat ad nauseum. It’s been the same cycle almost three times now, for years on end, for multiple novels. In any other series we’d have

              Current score: 0
            • Arakano says:

              Alright, I know this is an annoyingly simple answer, but: if it bugs you SO MUCH, why not stop reading?

              Seriously, I understand some of your and other people’s criticism, but by exaggerating like that it just makes you sound like someone hating the series but forced to read it against their will, and that’s a rather ridiculous idea. 😉

              Current score: 0
            • Wysteria says:

              It’s not a few months into her school year, it’s five weeks. Only five weeks.

              Current score: 0
            • Drudge says:

              Which really doesn’t change my point any any way whatsoever. It’s the same three days playing over and over again at this point. I honestly can’t bring myself to care about some things anymore. Steff will get better, only to horrificly injure herself in a way a six year old would have avoided. Some random dormmate will show up and do something with no effect on anyones day to day life, and then dissapear from our view. Then some antagonist will do someting with no effect on anyone’s day to day life and dissapear from out view. Then maybe Jamie shows up to do something with …you get the idea.

              Current score: 0
            • fatefox says:

              Actually, my freshman year of college was a series of constant repetitive mistake making for my whole circle of friends. It sounds about right to me. After 5 weeks of drama, nothing had changed because the situations themselves were so very new. As another of the repressed children of (funda)MENTAL parenting, I can empathize with the fact that Mack’s got *volumes*, not just issues to deal with.

              I have a feeling she’s going to do the right thing regarding Iona, but her confession was just too much to try and process after the press conference/call with lawyer questioning his motives. I’d rather have her wait and act in a calm, rational, dare I say human manner than fly off the handle in any way with her demonic nature and feel even more guilt about her blood down the road. Cowering is a shitty way to hide, but that’s the self-defense mechanism she needed to deal with Grandma Brimstone. Eventually she’ll stop hiding, but I doubt it will happen for at least a few months, maybe not even until the end of her sophomore year. It’s gonna be a while.

              Current score: 0
            • Drudge says:

              I get that some mistakes will be repeated over and over. I understand this is a new experience for all of them.

              Except Steff. She’s past freshman year and her mistakes aren’t “Dealt with the wrong person, bad consequences”. It’s “Mess with nearest shiny looking object I’m explicitly told not to mess with in the specific way I’m warned not to mess with it, endangering my life over and over and over.”

              Current score: 0
            • Drudge says:

              Different kinds of smart. She’s the whole of one out of a wide spectrum, and thats ALL she’s got going for her.

              Given she isn’t smart enough in other respects to apply it in a way that’d be useful without much prodding, this’ll take years to benefit her in any way besides having gotten her into MU in the first place.

              Her enchantments are a start, but they’re just that, a start. She’s got three useful tricks out of her specialization that are useless unless she spends all her time with her staff. She however doesn’t spend ANY time with the staff outside class and practicing, meaning if anyone, anywhere came at her with any kind of magic item, she’d be reduced to a big clumsy target.

              Thats my main grievance really, We see Mackenzies thought process change, we see her get slightly better talk wise, but when it comes to actually DOING something that will affect anything outside her own head, in and out of a fight, she never goes through with it. Remember when she was a minority rights spokesman? Or her attempts to defend herself, which ended with her thinking about spending minimal effort due ot incredibly bad logic?

              Lengthy internal monologues and quick enchantments are neat and all, but they’ll have absolutly no effect on anything serious that happens.

              Current score: 0
  22. Drudge says:

    It’s not her disturbing nature that grabs me, it’s that she’s do damned arrogant about it. It’s a good thing there’s a long list of SMART man eaters with some reason to/are angry enough to kill her. With all that’s going along she’s got maybe a week before someone tears her in half.

    Current score: 0
    • Colette says:

      Exactly, IF there is another Hunter out there, they are NOT gonna be happy at the Publicity Iona’s Stunt drew.
      I can just hear Embries now, ala Anthony Hopkins’ Hannibal; “Perhaps you’ll do nicely, Sauteed in a light Lemon Butter Sauce….”

      Current score: 0
      • Drudge says:

        It’s not a question of IF. Mack Daddy is out and about, if nothing else going through Macks mind. Nothings stopping him from moving in the area surrounding MU. Mercy has an entire list of man eaters who would rather not have attention drawn, not to mention having her own buisness on the legal line, and this being a person who can tie them together in a way thats inconvenient. Viktor is a violent man who’ll tear limbs off in an argument. Emberis’s REAL job is to stop this specific sort of thing from going on.

        Anyone who doesn’t know knows someone who does or could easily find out quickly.

        Current score: 0
  23. Chips says:

    I’m rooting for Viktor dealing with her. No one real specific reason. Just a lot of little possibilities coming out of said dealing that would be more fun than having Embries do the job.

    Mack Daddy would be good too, but it would be too hard for her to trust him again.

    Current score: 0
  24. Nigel says:

    Alright, I think I understand; a lifetime of abuse and repression doesn’t produce a person with a properly adaptive response to even the strongest stimuli. But I have to disagree with the execution, I find it “Extremely unlikely” *emphasis there* that a person so unable to muster an appropriate response to such a believable and “Present” *more emphasis* Death threat would be able to function as well as Mack does in everyday life. Yes, I said she functions well; in that she has a reasonable expectation of being able to care for and feed herself, I know it goes against the running theme of her being a lovable doof. Most of the time her GAF http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Global_Assessment_of_Functioning seems to be somewhere around 64 and then something happens and our lovable doof’s behavior becomes downright pathological. Speaking of doofuses her high intelligence only exacerbates the issue, at some point we crossed the line from Stark illustration of a fictional life into Cartoonish Caricature.

    Its actually a little ironic; if she really does have a major psychological disorder then she’s a little moving too fast be believable but if she doesn’t then this behavior is inexplicable. I know that puts

    The contrast between her normal function, her Peaks when she somewhat less inhibited and the Lows brought on by her total lack of self knowledge are now too unsubtle for believability, unless Mack has had multiple personalities this whole time, I can’t countenance it.

    Granted, on some level this is just griping, This is still a fun read: I just can’t really accept it on its own terms as well as I did before, that seems like it is important in writing (about which I know nothing). I hope I have rounded the edges well enough to avoid regretting having to eat these words later.

    I’m still eager to see what happens next, and I can’t help hoping involves the words retaliation and/or comeuppance.

    Current score: 0
    • Erianaiel says:

      To Nigel, and all the others who want Mackenzie to lash out with fire and fury at Iona.
      We all have to keep in mind that Mackenzie is effectively under a ‘delayed death sentence’ and that in parts of the empire the delayed part of that is only as long as it takes to find sufficient men with blessed weapons to kill her.
      She is half human half demon. Demons are destroyed on sight and only a tenuous ruling of what supposedly passes for supreme court in the MUverse, allows that her being half human entitles her to human rights. But only for as long as she demonstrates that the human half of her heritage is in control of the demonic half. The moment she does something that is perceived as demonic the mob with the blessed weapons will come out to play. She will not get due process and there is not going to be any appeal to the death sentence and immediate execution thereof.

      Regardless what we as readers might think of her lack of spine (and the fact that she is such a good little doormat that like to be stepped on), it is what is keeping her alive at the moment. Until Mackenzie has a much greater legal, social en economical protection the last thing she must do is get involved in fights, and even less involved in fights with demon fire and demonic strength.


      Current score: 1
      • EvilToast says:

        What you say is completely true; however watching Mack behave isn’t that thrilling. While she would likely get in trouble for fighting Iona, it would be a damn site more interesting than watching her call the police after the fact. Any fallout from a fight would be fun to watch as well, after all we are not Mack, we are the readers. When bad things happen it’s exciting!

        Current score: 0
        • erianaiel says:

          And then half a dozen priests, backed up by a paladin (or simply the feds), swoop in, cut off Mackenzie’s head with a blessed sword and the rest of the story is really really uninteresting from that point on.
          I can live with a story that is occasionally slow paced over one that has all the thrills of a child kicking down the tower of stacked blocks that he has spent the last hour laboriously building. It might make a satisfying crash, but it is irrevocably destroyed all the same.
          Within the context of this story, at this point, the drama is only going to come from Mackenzie trying to manage something resembling a social life for the first time since she came to live with her grandmother. It will take years, even if she miraculously understands the need within the next few days (she is only trying because of her promise to Amaranth and Coach Callahan), to learn to fight adequately against a moderately skilled opponent who has trained to slay demons. It will take centuries for her to learn to handle herselfs against groups of highly trained demon slayers. It will also take centuries for her to earn a position to economically and socially powerful that she will not be lightly assaulted. And I can not see what could drive Mackenzie to learn how to shatter blessings the way Coach Callahan can. For all that the faith is inimical to her, she is a rather devout Khersian in her heart still (even if unable to practice). If she is serious about her self defense lessons Mackenzie might learn enough in the next few years to escape an angry mob armed with (blessed) pitchforks rather than being overwhelmed by them. But until then any attempt to make the story more ‘interesting’ in the way you describe will either have serious impact on consistency of the world building, or steer the story into dangerous munchkinism territories.
          Yes, it would be nice if Mackenzie were less of a pushover, but being mentally and physically abused for the last 9 years is going to leave a mark on her for a long time to come, and will never be completely undone.


          Current score: 0
          • EvilToast says:

            Again, all true. Mack turning into a badass would be fun for about 5 minutes, but wouldn’t really make sense in context with the story. I guess the point I was trying to make was that by Mack holding true to her slow but steady development, there is little room for excitement (don’t mistake this with tension and build up, this story has plenty of that), and any relationship/character interactions can feel repetitive after a while.

            I love parts of this story, the world setting, races, history and characters are all very unique and make the story worthwhile on their own. But as you said, any true control and development would take Mack years if she develops at her current rate. Which would mean it’s never likely to be written given this series pacing.

            All we can really hope for from Mack is instant reactions to immediate threats, which may cause her to reach out of her repressed state. And given the amount of opposition Mack faces already (mermaids, Mack daddy, Mercy etc) I’m sure further opportunities for ‘my description of interesting’ lie ahead.

            Current score: 0
          • Drudge says:

            Centuries in MU pace is Milennia in our world given the way we’re progressing. We don’t have that kind of time.

            Again, not expecting Mackenzie to become some sort of one liner spouting two dimensional anti hero. I do however expect that after two and a half years of reading, we have some development that has any effect on anyone’s daily life more than once every trilogies worth of text.

            Current score: 0
  25. Zergonapal says:

    Heh, I really didn’t expect my comment to snowball like this.
    I’m keen to see what AE does with this.

    Current score: 0
  26. Aelfgar says:

    A lot of great thought here, but I perceive a possibility that has either been overlooked or forgotten. While Mack has defended herself outside of class effectively (remember the whole fist into the wall thing?), it was always against a bully intent upon bodily harm and never against someone threatening impending death. The thought processes (or lack thereof) involved in a fight-or-flight situation are different depending on the person (and Mack has always been meek) and the amount of danger that the victim perceives themselves to be in. I have seen (and experienced) this time and time again in my years as a martial arts instructor and working in security/law enforcement.

    On top of this, what about the possibility that Merfolk exude a certain amount of Charm? Something like a D&D Hold Person spell or some kind of silent Siren Song. It could go a long way to explain how they can take human sized prey without having to have a mouth entirely like a that of a shark. If this is the case, it may also explain why Mack is so easily frozen in terror by this encounter.

    And lastly, not all protagonists in fantasy stories have to be badass. I seem to remember Thomas Covenant specifically, not to mention Apropos of Nothing, that got along with living out their respective lives despite being almost abject cowards… especially in physical confrontations. I will admit, though, that I read the White Gold series in its first publication run and do not remember all that much about it (head trauma does odd things to memory).

    Current score: 0
    • CB says:

      “On top of this, what about the possibility that Merfolk exude a certain amount of Charm?”

      The only charm Iona appears to be exuding is the fact that she has bare breasts and that Mackenzie is Mackenzie.

      I’m not expecting her to be badass… I’d just appreciate her being more assertive when it actually counts rather than aggressive in situations that don’t really matter.

      Current score: 0
      • Erianaiel says:

        But Mackenzie has been trained for the past 9 years to immediately and completely cave in in the face of self assured authority. And her brainwashing started before as a child she had gotten very far with expressing her own wants and self interest. (at 9 years children are not totally passive but they are not exactly assertive either).

        So it should not be that much of a surprise that every time somebody steps up to her and starts giving her orders and generally acting dominant Mackenzie has not the slightest idea what to do. Simply because she missed out 9 years of growing up where children gradually work out such things.
        And it makes perfect sense that she is contrary and argumentative only with minor issues, because those are exactly the ones that nobody is expressing any position of authority over. Her outbursts are signs of a much belated emotional puberty. She is acting childish and immature much of the time because her emotional development pretty much got frozen by her grandmother somewhere between the age of 9 and 14.

        Any excitement in the story has to come, for the foreseeable future, from the zany antics of Steff and Sooni, and any other secondary figure.

        Current score: 0
    • Mechazar says:

      That might be a bad example, though.
      Everyone I know who read the Chronicles LOATHED Thomas Covenant

      Current score: 0
  27. Disappointed and more than a little bored says:

    I have to agree with Drudge and Dwight. I’ve been with Tales of MU since the beginning but it’s getting harder and harder to *want* to check for updates. Mack shows all the character development of a slow-growing cactus. The story is interesting and I wouldn’t have stuck with it for so long without really enjoying it, but PLEASE help the story move a little faster and please don’t keep Mack so stunted. If folks start to dislike the characters, why should they stick around?

    Current score: 0
    • Drudge says:

      Indeed. There was a time I’d check multiple times daily. When Erin’s twitter account said “ToMU up soon” I’d refresh every minute for hours.

      Now it’s like “so?”, and I’m back in a couple of days at best. The only reason I even checked THIS chapter was because I thought “hey, maybe Mackenzie will use her swirly firey death spell that breaks magic effects. That’ll mix things up and maybe break Ionas illusion!”

      Instead she does the same thing she always does, moving at a mental pace too fast for someone with her backround, but too slow to be a quick and interesting character at this point.

      Really if someone doesn’t act in an extremly predictable way, or at least intelligently, within a few chapters, I doubt I’ll have a reason to stick around.

      Current score: 0
    • Natalie Ford says:

      You have written here what I was about to write. It has got to the stage where I need ten or more episodes to read all at once to keep my interest. It is getting a bit same-old-same-old and reminds me of how I felt when I tried to read the fourth Harry Potter. I could not get into it, did not care as much as I had in the first three books and did not bother to read any more. I would hate to have that happen here because I have enjoyed ToMU up until now and have even paid out for a (as yet to arrive and more than I could really afford) MU diploma. I want to care about Mack (and Alexandra Erin), but I have my own health issues and real life comes before teh intarwebz I am afraid.

      Current score: 0
  28. Dave says:

    I agree with Aelfgar; it is not in Mackenzie’s nature to attack someone who is not immediately physically threatening her or her friends. Threats to eat her in the future are not sufficient to overcome that.

    In addition, how would it look if she DID kill Iona? She’d say it was in self defense (hard to prove given that Iona was weaponless), and say that Iona had killed Leda. But would she be believed? Or would people assume the half-demon had gone feral, and was now inventing excuses? Far better and safer to let the authorities deal with Iona – or even Viktor, though I think that unlikely.

    Current score: 0
  29. Andrea says:

    I actually loved this chapter. As someone who’s dealt with mentally unstable and unpredictable people, I think Mack did exactly the right thing. If someone’s going to kill you, or if you’re unsure of their intentions, make no sudden moves. Do whatever it takes to get out of the situation intact. Besides, if Mack had told her off or killed her, she might never have heard Iona’s confession.

    So what if Mack injured or killed Iona? As Dave said — how would that look? There are sooo many people who are just waiting for an excuse to throw Mack out of school or righteously kill her. In their eyes, Iona would be a sweet and innocent bystander. With that dynamic in mind, do you really think that the investigators would believe Mack if she justified her actions by saying, “She just confessed three murders and said she was going to kill me!” No, if Mack killed Iona, it would just give the investigators more reason to believe that mermaids are innocent and defenseless.

    Current score: 1
    • Dwight says:

      Andrea, I agree with you that Mack probably did the right thing during this encounter… I’m just hoping that she next does something proactive and productive. All it has to be is going to one of her friends with this information and they then put a plan in place for her. If she doesn’t share this (friends, Lee, Gregory, Embries, someone!) nor act on it herself (less advisable given who she is) I think it’ll ruin her believability for me. She’s now been presented with a clear mortal threat to herself, that’s got to provoke some sort of reaction! And she has been shown capable of acting in moments of extreme duress.

      So yes, my first emotional reaction to this was to feel very frustrated with Mack, and that’s good writing, to get me engaged with this character emotionally. Just if there isn’t some sort of serious reaction on Mack’s part next, if, for some reason AE wants Iona to stick around as a villain, there’d better be some pretty solid reasoning as to why Mack couldn’t find a workable solution or her solution(s) didn’t work. Else, my exasperation with Mack’s impotence will probably destroy my emotional connection to her. She has so many assets to use and possible strategies that could work so she’s got to find one of them.

      Current score: 0
  30. Zergonapal says:

    Ok AE your off the hook, for whatever that is worth. After all Mack did make a point of looking for any weapons and when she didn’t see any the threat level was reduced,
    I guess I am guilty of projecting, if someone came at me with a credible threat to kill me even though they weren’t armed, my first impulse would be to kick the shit out of them. But then I’m only human.
    Yet forewarned is forearmed, I will be most disappointed if Mack doesn’t something about this threat.

    Current score: 0
  31. Mr. Sir says:

    It would have been nice if Mack had kept that mirror activated when Iona went off on her sociopathic Hannibal Lecter monologue. However…that is something that kinda bothers me. The verisimilitude of stated facts do not quite make sense. I can buy the idea water and distance mess up all the fancy magic people are throwing around like nerf balls…but Iona is a coastal hunter and Leda was inland.
    It has been established that the Imperial investigators have what is the equivalent of our forensic science. As there do exist monsters, once would assume that you would have experts about feeding habits, their kinds of teeth marks, and so on. Also, there are apparently subtle artists running around, one of whom we know does not or cannot shut it off.
    Also…one has to take into account the fact that Leda was killed in a fountain…surrounded by the protective magic trail. Now, unless there is some kind of Lythuainian Leaping Lizard hopping around in this world… It would point to a student’s involvement. In addition to this, Leda was ROYALTY. Oh yes, the official investigators might sweep it under the rug to save face, especially at the behest of Mr. Vice Chancellor-who-regularly-eats-his-secretaries. But just like in this world, I have noticed a trend where the rich and powerful end up getting a better class of justice than average John Q. Public. For example, although killing slaves and making someone a slave by contractual obligation is legal, As Mercy pointed out, parents and family of the victims can, and do contest the treatment. The reason why ce succeeds is because ce is unbelievably rich and has the power that comes with that. Now, the same case could apply for Embries. In addition to being a powerful being and wealthier than some minor gods, he has a prexisting legal arrangement. He is there to prevent further riots and prevent the large scale student deaths and property damage that are bad for the press. In this he probably keeps his obligations. We have no canonical knowledge of what happens after the “dismissals” of his assistants. However, it would be reasonable to assume that he would not want to have their families or spouses raising too much of a huff so he would either employ ones that have none, or he would smooth things over by being discreet about it, paying the family a generous pension, and donating a hundred plats or so to the local constables. At the very least his internal dialog implies that he considers his partaking to be something of an indulgence, something he would do for special occassions…and of course he tries to justify it to himself in the same manner an alcoholic would. But he seems to acknowledge that he cannot do it all the time.
    See, again, it is all about relative cost. A Great Dragon is an unblievably powerful creature, I believe it has been stated that they are about on par with a physical avatar of a god. Now, if he started gulping down senators and their spouses by the dozens, in a crude and indiscriminate manner, and started laying waste to cities. Some super powered heroes or the grand army of the empire would devote the resources and time necessary to exterminate him. It would be a collosal undertaking, and thousands of soldiers and wizards would die in battle, but the dragon would be slain.
    So, the whole idea is to not be too be of a problem for people to justify killing you or, as is more more likely in this case, refusing to trust your word and do business with you.
    Now the above situation partially applies here. Iona, is not a smart serial killer. She is too arrogant. She just murdered someone and because of her past meals along the coast drawing little attention, was surprised that people were making such a big deal about it. Oh yes, she might wait for people to be alone or prey on people she sees as vulnerable or unpopular, but she seems to kill more or less indiscriminately. She was making a big deal of how much she is suppressing herself and making a point of not killing Mack…yet.
    So, what this means is that we have a history of murders or deaths that would fit her M.O. and have matching teeth marks. Coinciding with her arrival at the school…either the investigators are more complacent about people being murdered and eaten or this is intended as an example of where the internally consistent logic begins to taper off.
    In any case…Leda’s family was rich. Even if the official case cuts off that does not eliminate private investigators, bounty hunters, journalists wanting to get a scoop…
    Or the fact that the investigators want the murderer to think they got away with it become complacent so they will screw up…and get caught in their net. Investigators do that thing all the time by planting false or incomplete information to the press. It is the explanation that makes the most sense and allows for the dramatic cliffhanging climax where you have Iona bearing down on Mack or somebody else…

    Now that I am done thinking out loud…MACK! Talk to your frickin lawyer and go to the police! And if it is legal…put down that plat you got as payment on a bounty in the event you get eaten…to have Iona killed with extreme prejudice.
    See, that is the part I dont get about the merfolk, the only reason people are not shooting them on sight is because they see them as those nice harmless pretty humanish people who swim around in the ocean. Does she really want to fuck that up and just not partake during the school months for 4 years?

    Current score: 0
    • Sapphite says:

      >So, what this means is that we have a history of murders or deaths that would fit her M.O. and have
      >matching teeth marks. Coinciding with her arrival at the school…
      Actually, more coincident with Feejee’s arrival…

      I like the bounty idea!

      Current score: 0
  32. Potatohead says:

    I think this is also what worries me, that Mack’s lack of initiative will kick in here just to maintain the status quo as described above. Her reactions here make sense in context – confronted by an admitted murderer who openly states that you’re on their hit list, it’s smart to just play nice until you’re out of immediate danger. But if Mack doesn’t immediately go to someone – Gregory, lee, someone who should knowa bout this, it’ll seriously damage my sense of immersion. Mack has to have survival instincts of some sort, and if this doesn’t trip them, nothing will. Heck, even Amaranth with her love-everyone-forever attitude would (hopefully) be sensible here.

    Current score: 0
  33. Oitur says:

    So to all who call for Mack to develop & do something, remember that we in the real world wait like a week between chapters, but they take like five minutes in the MUniverse. Or longer–this one seemed like about five minutes. Mack’s been out from under Granny’s thumb for five weeks and like Rey d`Tutto said it takes a lifetime to overcome an abusive childhood (sorry Rey if I oversimplify your post). But that’s all been said.

    What about this: Mack doesn’t fight back because that’s what a monster would do & she doesn’t want to be a monster. Where Iona uses the dichotomy of “Folks/Food”, Mack (and maybe most folks) uses the trichotomy (?) of “Food/Folk/Monsters”. While her demon heritage puts her in the gray area between the last two, her upbringing & instincts tell her to repress her monster side. So while she /could/ flame on & turn Iona into blackened tuna she /won’t/–and a good thing too for all of the reasons posted above. She’ll take the legal route and leave the monstrous details to Embries.

    Current score: 0
    • Rey d`Tutto says:

      –> it takes a lifetime to overcome an abusive childhood (sorry Rey if I oversimplify your post).
      No problem. That was the point.
      Attach a heavy weight to a sapling, and it will not grow straight. It will take years for the tree to appear straight to an observer on the ground. And even if you remove the weight after a while, the Bend in the trunk will be permanent.

      Current score: 0
  34. Oitur says:

    Looking a little closer at this, when I assume that Mack & other folks use the trichotomy of “Food/Folk/Monsters”, I don’t mean that folks (or Mack on a normal day) look at their /neighbors/ as food–just cows & chickens & such.

    Current score: 0
  35. l0stZ says:

    Many people are on an uproar about Mack not responding to a clear threat.
    Feejee had already threatened to kill Mack and, when Mack pointed out the shortcomings of such a plan, threatened to kill AMARANTH. This is on top of the many people who have openly claimed they seek to kill her along with every devout Kherisian.

    Leda’s family is royalty so this cover-up can’t possibly be the end for them, though it will be in the public’s eye. The question is what they are going to do: kill / imprison Iona, expel her from school? Iona drew a lot of unfavorable attention on the school as well as murdering a VIP. I can’t imagine the Embries is going to sit on this… or what he could possibly be so happy about at the press conference.

    Mack’s character development has been slow due to the pacing, but it has only been 5 weeks? The pacing has definitely made it seem longer (should have been at least a couple months). I’m glad I was able to archive binge most of the earlier chapters.
    Given Mack’s character, and her thoughts during this chapter, I’d actually be surprised if she held this chapter’s information in. Old Mack, from the beginning of the school year, may have kept her head down. New Mack has juuuust enough guts to confide in someone. I can’t imagine her friends wanting to sit on this info after compelling Mack to go to the authorities just the day before.

    In short, I’m satisfied with the way ToMU is developing, though it wouldn’t kill me to see it move a little faster.

    Current score: 0
  36. Dave says:

    Some people seem to assume the cover-up by the authorities to the public also applies to Leda’s parents. We do not know that, and to me it seems unlikely. If they were only told what the public were told, they’d suspect a cover up, and they have enough influence / money to find out inconvenient truths; they’d not go home quietly.

    Much more likely that the authorities have told the royals some of what they know, and made some sort of agreement that satisfies them – perhaps a promise that the real culprit will be dealt with in secret, or even that she’ll be handed over to them to punish. Though if so, why is Iona currently free? Is she being covertly (subtly) monitored in the hope that she’ll give herself away? If so – she just did.

    Current score: 0
  37. Jamie says:

    I don’t want Mack to turn into a flame weaving bad ass. I just want her not to be a chump. Yes as others have said it’s a pacing issue. Can’t have much character development in such a short time. The problem is that that argument does nothing for the reader. Nothing at all. You can stand around and say “she’s only been out on her own for five weeks!” all you want, but my perception is going to be based on the years involved in getting this far, and quite frankly I’m tired of the chump. I check for updates so rarely at this point that I’m starting to wonder when I”m just going to stop bothering at all.

    Current score: 0
    • Mechazar says:

      Pretty much my opinion also. We can’t help but look at this from the years that we’ve spent waiting for updates. 457 chapters = 5 weeks of school. If this were looking at my school then there’d be another 1000-odd chapters until the semester break. There’s the unfortunate clash between story time and IRL time. In the years I’ve read this I quit university, started at a polytech, and now I’m months away from becoming a Probation Officer. In that same time Mackenzie has learned to think before speaking. Sometimes.
      Things have happened. And they’ve been exciting! But I’m not sure I want to spend another year waiting for her presentation on the LaBelles and 2 years for the mid-semester break where Mackenzie finally faces down Iona and learns to decisively beat Gloria. And then to have the Next Big Challenge formula start afresh.
      And yes, this has turned into a rant. And yes I’ve suddenly realised that I have entitlement issues and that I could just stop reading… but in the beginning the pace was fast, and I was excited to read about the next magic class or the latest insight into Mack’s behaviour, and now I’m just wondering what happened.

      Current score: 0
  38. Thomas Mack says:

    I bet Iona tastes like shellfish.
    And I think she will get a taste of her own medicine eventually. I’m thinking a mob will hunt her down. That would be nice. 🙂

    Current score: 0
  39. Arancaytar says:

    Now I’m wondering if the other two murders have been mentioned before. Was one of them the corpse (safely assuming it was one) lying off the path after Veil that caused Mack to need a slap?

    Current score: 0
    • Andrea says:

      I wondered the same thing! It could have easily been someone else though since it sounds like death is somewhat common on Veil.

      Current score: 0
  40. Sallysedai says:

    You know, the merfolk have probably worked pretty hard to maintain their image as harmless, attractive, non-murdering sea-creatures. No one knew what they are capable until now for a reason! Do you really think that if word got back to them about what Iona is up to that they would just ignore it and let her continue to risk their entire way of being and food-supply?
    I bet Embries is going to either just let the Merfolk leaders know what their little Hannibal Lector is up to and let them deal with it or possibly blackmail them.

    Current score: 0
    • Arakano says:

      Well, Iona DID express worry about Feejee informing her folks about what she did. So yes, it would surely not be just ignored.

      Current score: 0
  41. Andrea says:

    So, I’m guessing Mack will go back to her room and “call” Lee to tell him what just happened, and InvisibleGirl will invisibly slip inside the silent bubble, hearing the whole thing. Or she’ll pull Amaranth into her room and tell her the whole thing in whispers, making it even easier for InvisibleGirl (Gwen? Is that her name?) to hear. Of course, that’s assuming that IG slipped into Mack’s room before Twyla told her to close her door.

    Current score: 0
  42. Erianaiel says:

    I am wondering if we were listeing to the new home of the pitchfork?

    Current score: 0
  43. athsryk6l says:

    I wonder if we’re going to get an update soon.

    Current score: 0
    • Rethic says:

      Yea, although I’m really wondering what happened in MD that has cause her not to update her twitter in 9 days…. I hope everything is ok.

      Current score: 0
      • carson says:

        Twitter, blog, everything. I was considering starting to worry earlier today, and may proceed with that plan. Although I just realized. . .someone’s approving comments!

        Current score: 0
      • Drudge says:

        We can go weeks between updates. In general I’ve worried enough about AE’s health it’s sort of become sort of boring. You can only worry about someone being seriously injured so many times before it starts piling up.

        Current score: 0
        • athsryk6l says:

          I don’t care about her health i just want to keep another update. Its too sporadic these days.

          Current score: 0
          • athsryk6l says:


            Not sure how “keep” got there..

            Current score: 0
          • carson says:

            Updates can’t happen without health.

            Current score: 0
            • Wysteria says:

              And health can’t happen without income (very easily), which becomes an unfortunate chicken and the egg thing.

              Current score: 0
      • moofable says:

        She’s fine. Her older brother’s getting married and she’s busy with that.

        Current score: 0
    • FalseProphet says:

      No. 😀

      Current score: 0
  44. Havartna says:

    I’m starting to wonder if Alexandra is OK. It’s been a long time between updates before, but usually we see some Twitter activity or a blog post. I’m hopeful that I’m just being paranoid (wouldn’t be the first time) but our lady appears to have fallen off the grid.

    Current score: 0
  45. Scarlett says:

    Yeah I’m starting to worry too. A couple of days maybe, But it’s been almost two weeks! Can anyone call her and check up??

    Current score: 0
  46. Durragh says:

    or maybe she read all the post of people complaining about her story and either got upset/depressed or angry and said screw that, i’ll update when i damn well feel like it.

    i hope everything is ok, and I for one LIKE the story and will be here to read it whenever she decides to (is able to) update.

    Current score: 0
  47. potatohead says:

    I guess we just have more respect for AE’s literary ability than you do? She’s a fine writer, enough to be able to take commentary (both good and bad) and criticism without flinching. If people didn’t like the story, they wouldn’t be here reading it, or speaking up so strongly about it.

    Current score: 0
  48. NDO says:

    Reading this story, with the pacing and the sporadic updates, is like watching the original DragonBall Z. I feel like a chump for paying so routinely for all these months. I’m just gonna start donating by the update.

    Current score: 0
  49. beappleby says:

    I just realized my current frustration is invalidated by the fact that today was, in fact, Sunday, and NOT Monday…

    Current score: 0
  50. Mr. Sir says:

    Now it is. LOL.

    Current score: 0
  51. FalseProphet says:

    Think of that song from the Proclaimers.
    And change “Walk” to “Check” and “miles” to “update”. Or something to that effect.
    It’s true, you know you will.
    You’re an addict.

    Current score: 0
  52. Mickey Phoenix says:

    I really liked this entry. To my inner ear, Mack reacted *entirely* in character for someone who had been severely abused as a child. She was terrified, paralyzed, and frozen.

    As to the (regrettable) number of people saying some form of “Mack is changing too slowly/this story is paced too slowly/I want more excitement and adventure”…honestly, I think you’re all suffering from the pace of updates more than the pace of the story. It’s true–my appetite for MU is about ten times AE’s pace for writing new entries. I honestly miss the days when I first encountered Tales of MU, and spent days on end doing nothing with my free time but reading through the archives. But I can get myself a small taste of that experience by just coming back to Tales of MU every couple of weeks or month, and reading the entries that have accumulated in the meantime.

    Sure, I wish AE could produce an entry or two a day. And if I thought that donating enough money would make that happen, I’d dig into my wallet and pull out pretty much whatever it took. But that’s not, realistically, going to happen–and I’d hate to see the story, or the characters, rushed in story-time just so that “exciting” changes happen faster in real-time.

    AE, please keep up the wonderful work. Please keep building this rich, beautiful world and these engaging, believable, three-dimensional characters. And please…write new entries as fast as you can? I pine to know What Happens Next[tm]!



    Current score: 0
    • Zergonapal says:

      Its certainly gives me something to think about. Perhaps it is not ToMU that is to slow, but rather general fantasy that is too fast. All to often the hero, even if he is just a boy seems to adjust to his situation remarkably quickly and that is just if he was brought up with a minimum of fuss. Mind you with the Wheel of Time the three heroes Mat and Rand seem to be channeling past selves, but Perrin seems to change quite rapidly with little outside influence and Egwene goes from being a innkeepers daughter to leading a rebellion in a startling transition.
      Another example is Mara of Acoma from the Empire series, from her position as an initiate to a temple she quickly ascends the hierarchy of the empire to eventually become the mother of the emperor. All through methods far removed from her traditional upbringing.
      I guess what I am trying to say is that I’m sorry. I’m sorry AE that I’ve been expecting Mack to grow in leaps and bounds while you are trying to craft a story that follows a logical progression. I keep forgetting that a web serial is not like a conventional novel and you don’t need to accelerate the protagonists growth so that she is ready to slay the dragon/ lead an army/ rebuild the world by book two.
      Still you may want to consider painting the picture with a broader brush, as much as I enjoy the little moments it sometimes gives the illusion that the story is treading water.

      Current score: 0
    • Mickey Phoenix says:

      Four years later, I’m rereading ToMU from the beginning, and I run across this comment that says exactly what I’m thinking. And I’m about to heart it, when I realize that it’s my own comment from four years ago. And I still agree with it.

      I was abused as a child, as was one of my partners. I can attest that Mack’s character development is entirely realistic in in-universe time. And I, for one, continue to absolutely adore AE’s writing. You don’t get this depth of world-building, character development, and plot without this many words. And this many words takes time to write.

      Quite frankly, the only way I can imagine some of the complainers being satisfied is if ToMU were made into a a TV series by Joss Whedon, in which case things might actually move at an apparent pace that pleased them. But since that is unlikely to happen, I’ll take a slow real-world pace along with the grand trifecta of quality (world, characters, plot).

      Current score: 0
  53. This one guy says:

    Well, not to be pedantic, but actually it’s Wednesday now. :p

    I like the story, by the way.

    Current score: 0
  54. A longtime contributor says:

    Well…I do not know about anyone else, but I am officially DONE donating. I give no apologies or explanations, I just choose to stop.

    Current score: 0
    • Mickey Phoenix says:

      I am increasing my Patreon donation by $1/month to make up for your withdrawn support. In fact, I think I’ll make that a general policy. Any time someone posts that they are stopping donating, I will up my Patreon donation by $1/month.

      So there. 🙂

      Current score: 0
  55. A longtime contributor says:

    I am also tired of the censorship. Every time I submit a comment…It has to await “moderation”. Assuming the author actually reads these things…I am leery of any service or organization that alters or prohibits the freedom of speech…even if the speaker is a misanthropic asshole. If the author wants honest feedback this feature should be removed. Also, to clarify. I have no problem with the artist’s creative vision nor any aspect of her writing, but I choose, as an individual, to not donate my money or time to it when the author choose to not do the same. I wish you well in the future, and good day.

    Current score: 0
    • Hey, you. Do you see your comment? Your comment right here? That’s displayed on my site? Where you post opinions I obviously disagree with? And you announce your intention not to support me? It kind of makes you wonder what exactly I’d censor, doesn’t it? What kind of “honest feedback” do you think I’m suppressing, if this comment gets through?

      Let me actually take a look at what’s been blocked recently….

      Oh, here’s one from “free-sex-games[dot]biz” telling people to click to get their degrees.

      Here’s another one that says “This is a very interesting point of view. Your blog is refreshing, but I wish one could find more content, though. I am looking forward to reading more from you. Keep up the good work. thanks.” but links to a malware-laden scam site.

      I choose to believe that more “honest feedback” would be driven away if the comments were a cesspool of spam, scams, and phishers than by the mere fact that comments are held in moderation. (Especially since if you use the same alias, contact email, and website or lack thereof each time you comment, the system usually remembers when you’ve been passed through moderation.) Take a look at any given chapter you please and see if it looks as though the comments have been scrubbed of dissent and criticism. Tell me if it looks like I’m only allowing people who kiss my ass, as the vernacular has it, to get through.

      And none of this is getting into the fact that freedom of speech doesn’t mean anything like what you’re using it to mean. Does the Google homepage come with a feedback form where whatever little thought crosses your mind appears to all of Google’s users? Do books in the library aggregate and display feedback to other readers?

      No. Of course not. And your rights are not being infringed by the fact that not everything you interact with in the day provides you a free (in terms of both cost and rights) platform for your speech. The internet as a whole is an organ of free speech. If it’s that important for you to be able to share your thoughts without even the risk of me filtering them out, you’re more than welcome to do so in your own space. After all, I don’t get to put political signs up in your front yard. I don’t get to advertise my website on the seat of your jeans.

      It’s your yard. It’s your jeans.

      It’s my site.

      And it’s your money. If I were to “censor” your comment above, I would do so because of the baseless, off-topic, and actually kind of insulting ruminations about free speech, not because you’ve chosen not to support me financially. The only thing I have to say to that is: thank you. I appreciate the support you’ve given me, and I hope you’ll continue to enjoy the story. Paying for it has always been… and will always be… optional.

      Current score: 3
      • zeel says:

        Oh man, I’m so glad I didn’t skip the comments on this chapter. This is pure gold.

        Current score: 0
    • Mickey Phoenix says:

      Okay. For this one, I’m upping my Patreon donation by $2/month, because seriously?

      Current score: 0
  56. Peter says:

    Any chance of putting in an option to be notified when updates happen? The recent glacial pace has made it hard to stay interested, but if I knew that when a chapter went up, I’d get an email, I’d just relax, and enjoy the story as it comes.

    I did enjoy the early pace far more.

    Current score: 0
  57. I find it interesting that Mack is immune to Embries’ fascination aura, but Iona has the same effect on her with no magic at all.

    I’m not into vore play at all, but the predator/prey interactions between the ‘maids and Mack are super hot.

    Current score: 0