458: The Good, The Bad, and the Better

on September 9, 2010 in Book 16

In Which A Giant Inspires Growth

Pala returned shortly after I emerged from the bathroom. I felt a surprising sense of relief at the sight of her, hunched over to avoid dislodging the ceiling tiles and carrying her stone spear horizontally. I tried to imagine her hurrying to classes with it… hopefully the strength and elemental might she got from whatever percentage of giant blood she had was enough for her to be exempted from the need to.

I was relieved because I wasn’t really keen on walking back to Harlowe alone. Sunset was still probably an hour or so away, but it was already getting dark out. I was worried that Iona wouldn’t be able to wait “a day or two”, or that I’d run into armed human students who didn’t buy the official explanation… or ones who did. Both Iona and Oru had implied that sticking to the paths wasn’t necessarily going to protect monstrous-looking students who went out after dark.

Even though I looked completely human, I also looked like myself, and I was pretty visible as freshmen went.

“There you are!” Pala said. “You shouldn’t run off like that. It makes it very hard to protect you when you aren’t here, you know!”

“I didn’t go anywhere,” I said. “I was in a locked room with no other exit when you wandered off.”

“Well, you should have said something,” she said. “I knocked on the door and I listened and I couldn’t hear anything.”

“I told you I needed to talk to my lawyer,” I said.

“Yes, that’s why I was worried,” she said. “When people talk, they usually make sounds. I have noticed this often.”

“We use a silence spell when we talk,” I said. “Sorry, it didn’t seem worth mentioning.”

“That is fantastic!” Pala said. “Do you read lips?”

“What? No, it just keeps sounds from getting in or out of the area around us,” I said. “It’s more of a sound-blocking spell than a silence spell, I guess.”

“Oh,” Pala said. “It is good that you have a lawyer, I suppose. My uncle says they are good at choosing words. Ian said he thinks this will be over soon. I hope he is right. I would not like to keep guarding your body.”

“Hey, I didn’t ask you to be here,” I said.

“This is true!” she said. “Ian did. I am not sure that I would have said yes to you.”

I hated the way she kept saying his name… by that I meant both the fact that she kept saying it, and the way she pronounced it almost as one syllable, like Yan. It grated on me. I also didn’t like the implication that she was doing this as a favor to him. Pala didn’t seem like a particularly sexual person, but that didn’t mean she couldn’t be interested in him.

“Why wouldn’t you have said yes to me?” I asked. I figured that sounded a little less jealous than focusing on why she did say yes to him.

“Well, I might have, I am not sure,” she said. “I do not like your friends very much, but until this afternoon I didn’t really have… feelings? About you, going either in one way or the other.”

If her feelings about a person could be swayed by the grumblings of the crowd, then bodyguard was probably not the best career path for her… people who were universally beloved didn’t generally need protecting.

“I don’t know what you’ve been listening to, Pala, but I’m actually the good guy here,” I said.

“You sound like the girl in my Pax class,” Pala said. “She is saying that all of the time. She acts like she is the hero of her own edda. She says I am plucky comic relief. What means ‘plucky’?”

“I don’t know,” I said. “Courageous and spunky?”

“Oh,” she said, crinkling up her nose. “I try to avoid spunk. She tells me not to stand too close to her, that I am a… scene-stealer. I tell her, you make enough scenes, who cares if anyone takes one? And then she throws her clog sandal at me. And the teacher excuses me from the class along with her like I have done something wrong! They take scene-stealing very seriously.”

“Believe me, I know how you feel,” I said. “Well… ish. But I mean what I said, and in a non-crazy way… if you had any idea how much time I’ve spent worrying about being evil…”

“So! There you go,” Pala said.

“What do you mean, ‘there I go’?”

“So worried about being evil, not worried about being good,” she said. “You should try it the other way around sometime.”

“I meant worried about not being evil,” I said, then added, in order to forestall any more confusion, “in the sense that I don’t want to be evil and was worried by the possibility that I would be.”

“You should try being good instead,” she said. Apparently some things just couldn’t be avoided.

“I just said I was!” I said.

“No,” she said. “You said you were trying to be not evil. That is different.”

“Okay, granted, there is a difference between not being evil and being good,” I said. Was I actually having a philosophical discussion about moral alignment with a twelve-foot-tall fighter jock? It seemed like I was. “But my goal’s still to be good… and I don’t know what you know about my heritage, but I think ‘not evil’ is a pretty ambitious start on that road, under the circumstances.”

“I think it is foolish,” Pala said. “If you want to be good, why not try to be good? Instead of not being evil.”

“You’re not making any sense,” I said. “I think we’re having a language barrier thing here.”

It seemed like the most charitable explanation.

“I know! I will explain it another way,” Pala said. “It is like as though you wanted to be a dancer, but instead of taking dancing lessons, you went to singing lessons and learned how to sing rather poorly.”

“Oh, well, that clears it up completely.”

“Because a singer is not a dancer,” Pala said. “And a dancer is not a singer. So because you wanted to be a dancer and not a singer you went and learned how not to sing?”

“Okay, Pala… I’ve been accused of picking apart metaphors instead of addressing the content of their points before, so please understand I’m talking about the point when I say: huh?”

“That was an analogy,” Pala said.

“My point is that I’m trying really hard to do what’s right, even when conventional wisdom says I’m kind of damned anyway,” I said.

“Oh!” Pala said. Her cheeks burned an impressive red, and her hair danced and crackled weirdly. “I am sorry. I didn’t realize… it looked an awful lot like you were just standing by and doing nothing. I didn’t realize you were trying to do something. I’m sorry.”

“Um… okay,” I said. In this case, I’d done a bit more than just trying… time would tell if I’d accomplished anything, and I even sort of doubted I’d ever be confident it was the right thing even if things worked out okay, but in any event I wasn’t about to start spreading it around.

“I feel better,” Pala said. “A little stupid, but better.”

“Why stupid?” I asked. To my surprise… and a little bit to my chagrin… I could see echoes of Amaranth in the way she said that, the obviously painful embarrassment that accompanied it.

Nobody liked to think of themselves as stupid. I’d seen it all throughout my years of primary and secondary schooling: even the people who were clearly more proud of their physical attributes, the ones who showed nothing but scorn for education and for “brains” hated being called stupid. That was fighting words on par with questioning a guy’s sexuality or saying something about somebody’s mother.

I’d always thought of that as a matter of the truth hurting, but maybe that was a little simplistic. I doubted Pala thought of herself as stupid.

“Well… I thought you were just standing there while your friend was being so awful to me,” Pala said. “I should have realized that you wouldn’t… that nobody would… well. Never mind, please! Forget I said something about it.”

“Iona? She’s not my friend, whatever she said to you,” I said. “Not that I could have done much about that… I was already in the bathroom when she showed up, remember?”

“Oh, not her,” Pala said. She reached up and touched her own slightly frazzled hair. “The one who was in your class, with hair like mine, but longer? Well, less long, but longer on her. With a face like an alf but curves like… not?”

“What?” I said. “What the hell did Steff ever do to you?”

“You were there,” Pala said. “Or were you trying so hard to do the right thing that you did not notice?”

The worst thing was that she sounded absolutely sincere when she said this. There was no accusation and no sarcasm in her voice. I had the feeling that if I’d said yes, I had been so busy trying to be good that I hadn’t noticed then she would have forgiven me with a cheery formality that would have impressed Two and gone on with her newly reformed opinion of me.

But I hadn’t been trying to do the right thing with regards to anything Steff had been doing, because I hadn’t noticed any such thing in the first place… which I would have had to have done in order to try to do anything about it.

“What was Steff doing?” I asked.

“She was being very vulgar in an unwelcome fashion towards me,” Pala said.

“Oh,” I said. “That’s… well, that’s just Steff.”

“Yes,” Pala said, nodding.. “Nobody else was doing it.”

“No, I mean… you can’t really hold that against her,” I said.

“Why? Was she trying to do the right thing, too?”

“Well… probably not,” I said. “I think that’s pretty low on Steff’s list of priorities, honestly. But, I mean… she’s not really dangerous, except maybe to herself.”

“She’s certainly not dangerous to me,” Pala said. “Which is the only reason I did not slap her good. That and we are not supposed to let others taunt us into starting an altercation when we are guarding. I would lose my practical experience credit if I started a fight. Though I’m not sure that it would count as a fight. More like a hitting her once? I would ask the guard captain if that is counted the same as a fight, but he told me to stop asking questions.”

“My point is you’re overreacting.”

“But how? I didn’t react at all,” Pala said. “If she were a boy I would be reporting her because that is sexual harassment and it’s wrong.”

“I think that’s going a little far,” I said, though I had a growing uncomfortable feeling in my stomach that suggested that maybe she wasn’t exaggerating that much. I’d been more annoyed by the attention Steff paid to Pala than anything else… that Pala hadn’t wanted it had barely impinged on my awareness. “And anyway, are you suggesting that women can’t harass women?”

“Not sexually,” Pala said.

“That’s… a little naive.”

“No, it’s worldly,” she said. “I guess you don’t know about sex or else you would understand that.”

I could hardly blame her for having a blind spot when it came to lesbians. She wasn’t the only person in the world… or in a world, in this case… who’d had a sheltered upbringing. In any case, it really wasn’t my place to convince her that she should be reporting my best friend for sexual harassment.

Though, if the only thing that was standing in the way of her doing that was a misunderstanding about the nature of Steff’s sexuality… could I really argue that she was wrong? I could shrug off Steff’s more extreme impulses, but that didn’t mean that everybody who caught her eye should have to.

Suddenly I thought I understood what Pala had meant with her insistence that there was a difference between trying not to be evil and trying to be good… if that was what she was insisting.

“You’re giving me a lot to think about,” I said.

“Oh!” Pala said. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to.”

“No, it’s okay,” I said. “I mean, I’ve got a lot of things on my mind to begin with… which I guess is the closest thing I have to an excuse. I’m sorry I wasn’t trying harder, Pala… to be good, or to understand what you were saying. I guess I’ve been sort of writing off what you say.”

She nodded.

“Because you think you’re better than I am,” she said.

“What the hell makes you think that?”

“The fact that you think you’re better than I am,” Pala said. When I didn’t say anything in response to that, she added, “It is not exactly… subtle?”, and it was my turn to blush.

“I guess you wouldn’t be the first person to accuse me of being a little bit of a snob when it comes to that sort of thing,” I admitted. “It’s something I should probably work on… something I’ve been trying to work on, have been working on… but there are a lot of things going on, and I can’t exactly put everything on hold to work out my issues.”

“That’s okay,” Pala said. “As long as you’re trying. No one can blame you if you’re trying.”

“I think you’re underestimating other people’s blaming abilities,” I said.

“Yes, well… if you’re trying and they blame you, they’ll be wrong,” Pala said. “And you’ll be right. That is something, isn’t it?”

“It’s less of a consolation than I’d expect.”

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88 Responses to “458: The Good, The Bad, and the Better”

  1. tgr says:

    โ€œThatโ€™sโ€ฆ a little naive.

    is missing the final quote-mark. Otherwise, great update (finally:) had been looking forward to it already!), love Pala!!

    Two more comments: It would be nice to have a “Preview” button for comments, and: please just let us know what the current status is! I wouldn’t mind having to wait longer than usual for an update, but it’d be really helpful to know “oh, there’s some problem and it’s going to be two days late” or “coming up tomorrow” or “possibly the day after tomorrow, but not sure” — or even “no idea when the next update can be”, rather than having to wonder when it’ll be, and checking… So the gist is, I guess, try not to promise stuff you can’t keep, but at least say you won’t be able to say anything anymore for x days, and provide a general idea of the timeframe for the coming update:) Hope that’s helpful?

    Current score: 0
    • blue_x says:

      I think AE mentioned (On Twitter? I can’t remember where I saw it, but I don’t see it on the blog now) that the issue was more that she lost track of time and didn’t realize how long it had been since the last update. I’m not sure how someone can do a status update reliably when the issue is pretty much just forgetting to update.

      Current score: 0
      • It’s a bit more involved than just forgetting to update, though of course Twitter’s not great for explaining involved things. This was more about isolation and stress than memory… if I had been doing “status updates”, I would have had more sense of time and a feeling of connection to events. After the slew of concerned messages following my absence, I’m going to start using Twitter a little bit more… actively, I suppose, to let people know what I’m doing and what’s going on, not just when I think an update might be done (especially since that can be affected by so many things).

        To anybody who wants to know without constantly re-checking when there’s more story to read, you can now sign up for email updates: https://www.talesofmu.com/story/email-updates

        Current score: 0
  2. Zergonapal says:

    And it is written that the halfblood will tell the buxom one to cease its torment of the tall one and this will be the seventh sign of the apocalypse.

    Current score: 0
    • Tomo says:

      yea, and then the field-women shall abstain from carnal relations, and a famine will settle over the land. A plague of locusts shall appear from the east, devouring everything, twitching their ears and flicking their cat-tails.

      Current score: 0
    • Riva says:

      Hey, she only just became buxom. Give her a little time to ease into the title, eh?

      Current score: 0
  3. Dan says:

    I really like Pala now! It’s about damn time someone put the snobby judgemental bitch in her place!

    Current score: 0
    • Drudge says:

      Agreed ten thousand times over. When you think about it this entire chapter is sort of painted with the “I’m better than you to the point where I won’t listen to you on subjects I started learning about last month” attitude makenzie needs beaten out of her. With a very large stick, with some nails through it.

      Current score: 1
      • Arakano says:

        Yay violence! Because we are all perfect and Mackenzie isn’t because she has some prejudices! HOW DARE SHE!

        Current score: 2
  4. moxicity says:

    Yeah, actually, about time. Steff’s behaviour towards people she fancies is pretty abhorrent. Pala said a very good point here – she would have reported Steff for sexual harassment if she were a boy (leaving aside the ignorance about lesbianism and women harassing women). I’ve always thought Steff’s modus operandi is, in certain situations, just awful and I thought you weren’t going to deal with it or thought it was appropriate… I’m glad I didn’t start bitching then.

    She is a broken person and has simple mortal flaws, but that doesn’t excuse fucking with other people’s boundaries and making them feel unsafe & uncomfortable.

    Current score: 2
    • Sometime I should compile a list of all the things people have thought I was approving of/asserting/advocating based on the actions of characters… it’s worth remembering that I’m writing about 17-19 year olds who are out on their own for the first time. I saw (and probably did, and definitely overlooked) some pretty egregious things when I was in college.

      Current score: 2
      • jc says:

        Is there a simple term for attributing a character’s attitudes or beliefs to the author? With actors, it’s part of “type casting”, but I haven’t heard that used with authors. This is a common complaint of writers, of course, but I don’t recall a word or phrase used for this logical error. I’m always a bit impressed when a story contains characters with radically different beliefs, outlooks, attitudes, etc. who are all treated sympathetically by the author. Most people make moral judgments on people (even fictional people) who are different from them.

        Current score: 0
        • themann1086 says:

          I can’t find the exact trope for this, but there’s a trope that people are assuming: Author Appeal. Contrast with Write What You Know.

          Also, first comment woooo ๐Ÿ™‚

          Current score: 2
          • erianaiel says:

            Author appeal most likely is the reverse, an author adding what he or she is interested in to the story (sometimes excessively so).
            Readers inferring that something is author appeal of course would fit.

            Current score: 0
        • Arakano says:

          Must really be a nightmare. The thing is, even those authors who cannot manage to write chars that are nothing like them (and there’s lots!) rarely create true clones of themselves. For example, I might write a story in which one char had my sexual kinks, but was actually very differently employed and having a different social environment, changing him/her a lot. Another char may share my political views, but at the same time do things I’d consider wrong and criminal. Etc. So even if someone finds some parallels between an author and a char… there’s so many other issues they might differ in!

          Current score: 0
          • zeel says:

            And that doesn’t even get into all the characters who are intentionally in opposition to the author’s views. Assuming you know the author’s reasons for writing anything is a great way to ruin your own enjoyment of the story. I see so many commenters on here, and elsewhere, that fall into this trap.

            Current score: 0
      • moxicity says:

        Oh, my verbal skills! ๐Ÿ™‚ Yes, I definitely understand what you’re saying and once again I forgot to comment appropriately. I read your blog among other things and I understood you are in favour of *not* being sexually harassed. Pretty basic feminist concept, that. I guess I wasn’t thinking it all the way through when I wrote “I thought you were condoning”. I mean, yeah. Dumb.

        It’s just… the story is so evocative, you know? I get pissed off at Steff all the time for the stupid shit she does and am glad when she has personal victories and progress. Of course you are writing about college kids who go through changes, and they’ve all gone through considerable changes already – but I tend to forget the whole background from time to time ๐Ÿ™‚

        And yes for the list ๐Ÿ˜› Humour value should be good. Anyway… sorry for… yknow. I swear, I do this like 8/10 of the time when I crawl out from under the rock to comment. Augh. Learning time, maybe?

        Current score: 0
    • Kitten says:

      I don’t think it’s so much that Pala doesn’t believe in lesbians or that women can harass women, I think it’s that she has the distinct understanding that nobody /else/ does. She could report it, but it would never stick. At least, that’s the impression I got.

      Current score: 0
      • Arakano says:

        I got a different impression, because she said due to being a woman, Steff COULD NOT harass her SEXUALLY… ๐Ÿ˜‰

        Current score: 0
    • Arakano says:

      It’s all the weirder because Steff was actually very aware about the issues of boundaries etc. earlier, when Mack and Amaranth first started with their dom-sub relationship – things like black/white lists, safewords, etc., that Amaranth had not even thought of, nor Mack, obviously. Was it because she cared about Mack? Or because she had a lot of experience with such a relationship herself?
      Then again, I suppose the changes and experiences Steff has been going through – being raped and being “womanised”, for lack of a better word – would be enough to explain even greater inconsitensies…

      Current score: 2
  5. Melissa says:


    Current score: 1
  6. Martyn says:

    It’s hard for smart writers to write long conversations for dumb characters. You’ve done a good job with Pala but a couple of her comments grated on me a little (this is very much a personal judgment):

    1) โ€œThat was an analogy,โ€ Pala said.

    I think: “That was an example,” would have been more in character.

    2) โ€œThe fact that you think youโ€™re better than I am,โ€ Pala said. When I didnโ€™t say anything in response to that, she added, โ€œIt is not exactlyโ€ฆ subtle?โ€, and it was my turn to blush.

    I don’t have a suggested replacement for this, but it seems too much what a guy who was too proud of his logical intelligence would say (me when I was a teenager ๐Ÿ™‚


    She nodded.

    โ€œBecause you think youโ€™re better than I am,โ€ she said.

    (These two paragraphs should be one paragraph, if I followed the conversation correctly.)


    I loved the last four paragraphs. Keep up the great work.

    Current score: 0
    • ayla says:

      I disagree, and I kind of think describing Pala as a “dumb character” misses the point of this chapter. And of Mackenzie’s side of the conversation. Pala has a very different cultural upbringing and worldview than most characters which we’ve encountered so far– fittingly, as she is from a different culture and indeed a different world. Storm giants– and Pala is 100% giant, though a short one– surely have a completely different culture and society than that found at MU. If you think about it, most of what has made people assume that she’s unintelligent is her different or literal interpretation of words and phrases. This doesn’t mean she’s stupid, it means she’s a non-native speaker of Pax. Pala may be a bit uninformed about her new plane of residence, but she’s only been there a little while. This has, thus far, caused Mackenzie and others to write her off as being “dumb,” or at least credulous, but I think this conversation shows that’s she’s a lot more observant than other people think.

      Current score: 3
      • Miss Lynx says:

        Yes, very much agreed. That was the most interesting part of this chapter, for me – finding out that Pala is NOT stupid, she’s just got a more literal and direct view of the world than most people in the society she’s now living in, and a limited grasp of both Pax as a language, and the social norms that apply there. All of which is due, as Ayla says to being from a very different culture.

        It’s a bit reminiscent of the way Two and to a lesser extent sometimes Celia can manage to pinpoint contradictions and inconsistencies that no one else notices. Sometimes an outsider, who is actively trying to make sense of the context they’ve found themselves in rather than just assuming it already makes sense, can be more perceptive about certain things than those used to that context are.

        Current score: 3
        • Arakano says:

          Also, she IS somewhat naive, I agree with Mack there. Doesn’t mean she is stupid, though.

          Current score: 2
          • Anthony says:

            Come on, people. Remember the Veil costume party, in which we learn that she’s just as big a fan of Pretty Neko Science Princess as Sooni? There’s really no excuse for calling her “not stupid” after that… ๐Ÿ˜›

            Current score: 0
  7. Claire says:

    “‘You sound like the girl in my Pax class,’ Pala said. ‘She is saying that all of the time. She acts like she is the hero of her own edda. She says I am plucky comic relief. What means “plucky”?'”

    ROFL! I loved this line!

    Current score: 0
  8. potatohead says:

    More and more, I’m hoping that the next Other Tales is Pala-focused

    Current score: 0
  9. Bov says:

    lol, Pala just might be the most grounded and intuitive person in this story! (and Coach Callahan of course.)

    Current score: 0
  10. Nilych says:

    People mispronouncing “Ian”….oooooh I hate that. Yan. EEN. Ion. Aeon. Eye-An. From an Ian, a sincere Thank You, Mack.

    Current score: 0
    • Yann says:

      Try it from my side! It’s unbelievable how many mispronunciations people make up for as trivial a name as Yann, just because they don’t recognize it. Half the people around here assume I’m mispronouncing my own name and start calling me “Janne”. As for John, I thought it usually was a variant of Johannes, not Ian.

      Current score: 0
      • bramble says:

        Well, technically, they’re all variations on the Latin Iohannes, which is from the Greek Ioannes, which is from the Hebrew Yochanan. Other common forms of the name include Giovanni, Ivan, Juan, Sean, Jack, Eoin, and any number of variations and alternate spellings of any of those. It’s one of those names that really gets around.

        Current score: 0
        • Arakano says:

          And Hans. Let’s not forget us pesky Germans. ๐Ÿ˜‰ Nor the French: Jean.

          Current score: 0
    • Dazey says:

      “Yan” is actually not an incorrect pronunciation, Ian is a form of the Czech name Jan, which is also a form of John/Johann/Gianni/Juan/etc. And the name “Jan” is pronounced like “Yan” in Czech and other eastern European dialect. It is most likely pronounced that way in Norwegian or whatever the Scandanavien equivalent to Pala’s culture is, so her calling Ian “Yan” is no different than say a Greek pronouncing “Johnny” like “Yanni” which I’ve also heard.

      Current score: 0
      • packrat says:

        while the name “Jan” may in fact be pronounced as “Yan” in Czech, that’s not really the issue here. The issue, is that Ian, (both the poster and the character) grew up with his name pronounced in a particular way and identify themselves with a particular vocal and written symbol. Telling someone whose name is Ian that it is correct to pronounce his name “Yan” is the oral equivalent of telling someone who spells her name “Sarah” that they did not make a mistake by writing “Sara.” (or vice versa) Essentially, the only person who gets to decide how their name is spelled/pronounced is that person (and possibly whoever named them, but we’ll ignore that for simplicity). If a name cannot be pronounced the way that person wishes because of differences in accent and/or linguistic development, that’s something that cannot be helped, but otherwise, it is in fact incorrect to use an alternate pronunciation.

        Current score: 0
        • singingdragon says:

          Data has the most concise explanation ever of why alternate pronunciations of names are bad.

          “One is my name. The other is not.”

          Current score: 3
  11. jc says:

    Well, my given name is “John”, which is a *really* egregious mispronunciation of “Ian”. ๐Ÿ˜‰

    Anyway, Mack’s confusion about being told that being “not evil” isn’t the same thing as being “good” reminds me of a scene I once saw somewhere. Two people, call them A and B are in a car. A is driving. B says “Don’t turn left here”.

    A says “OK” and keeps driving straight ahead.

    B: Hey, you didn’t turn right back there!

    A: Huh? You didn’t tell me to.

    B: Yes I did.

    A: No, you said “`Don’t turn left.”

    B: But that means the same thing as “Turn right.”

    Of course, as so often happens, there’s a third “neutral” way between the two opposite choices, which is the choice Mack is taking. Pala clearly understands the distinction, and is trying to get Mack to take an actively “good” approach, rather than just not being actively evil. She hasn’t learned that this doesn’t necessarily keep you safe; it merely means that people don’t have your actual acts as an excuse to attack you. But she is aware that people might attack based on her “heritage”, so maybe there’s hope for her eventually taking actions for the good of the people around her.

    So far, Pala seems the character with the best understanding of the world around her. She just doesn’t speak the local language fluently yet. But she doesn’t need a Logic 101 course.

    Current score: 1
    • Andy says:

      Pala urging Mack to be “good” rather than “not evil” actually bothers me a bit. For most people, it wouldn’t. But then, most people don’t need to worry about completely losing control once a month and eating people simply because they’re there.* Given the circumstances, I think Mack shooting for “not evil” is pretty good.

      *PMS doesn’t count. ๐Ÿ˜€

      Current score: 0
      • Drudge says:

        The once a month seems to be more a product of Mackenzie yet again doing the bare minimum at a life threatening problem.

        Danny has the same basic biology except gender and he’s so good he got an award for sheer goodness. He’s basically got his libido, hunger, and strength in check and turns it all to the benefit of the people around him.

        Mackenzie tries to not kill everyone, Danny saves lives even when risking his own.

        Current score: 1
        • erianaiel says:

          Yes. Another thing Mackenzie can thank her grandmother for.

          And why it would be a collossal mistake if she ever speaks to her again without a lawyer and a small army backing up Mackenzie.

          Current score: 0
  12. Rethic says:

    I like how ‘stupid’ Mack doesn’t realize that Pala is talking about Sooni. Either that or completely doesn’t think or say anything about it. Hehe Mack sounds like Sooni, I bet she’s hate to hear that.

    Current score: 0
    • Arakano says:

      I think she does realize it. After all, she tells her that she “knows what it’s like” or such… ๐Ÿ˜‰

      Current score: 1
  13. Billy Bob says:

    The amusing part to me is that Mack **is** the star of her own story. This means that a some level things that don’t involve her actually don’t mater very much. Characters that oppose her will invariably end up losing in some way, with the best they can hope for to be to provide some sort of inconvenience as part of Mack’s development.

    Characters in books seldom realize the power of “being the hero” in a story. It’s a meta-power that is hidden from them. A great exception is Cohen the Barbarian in “The Last Hero” by Terry Pratchett. In the story a lone Captain Carrot attempts to arrest Cohen’s horde. While initially intending to attack him, Cohen realizes that being a single brave man outnumbered by his foes (and probably a king in disguise), he is a Hero and therefore their defeat is certain. So instead the ever-practical Cohen joins with Carrot. The situation is very interesting: if you live in a universe that is someone else’s story then at some point you might notice that Hero Logic applies.

    Current score: 0
    • Melissa says:

      I think of it as being more like stories are simply us looking into an alternate universe and, since we want entertainment rather than mundanity, we look for ‘heroes’.

      Current score: 0
    • Drudge says:

      Except Mackenzie’s life really doesn’t work like that. We’ve been through five novels and so far all her enemies are doing just fine. By the this point in any other story at the very least they’d have killed a minor threat by now. Probably either Brutus or Cassius if not both somehow, or else Puddy’d have been dealt with more quickly. Mackenzie is too damned lazy to fight her enemies back, or think of reasons to or not to, so they’ll stay there until something else either does it for her or forces her to do it. Which at this point is a deus ex machina either way.

      Of course this could just be the whole story dragging it’s heels.

      Current score: 0
      • Billy Bob says:

        “Doing fine”? I think the general consensus is that Iona is walking dragon chow. I guess we’ll see what happens.

        Current score: 0
        • Drudge says:

          Probably walking dragon chow. But then Emberis is at the level where he’s almost literal deus ex machina.

          Certainly not Mackenzie having some climactic character developing battle where she poves beyond a shadow of a doubt she’s not helpless and actually uses the combat spells she has, revealing to the watching world there’s things worse than demons much better at hiding.

          Current score: 0
      • ayla says:

        It might be worth pointing out that this is not, in fact, a novel. Or several.

        Current score: 0
    • packrat says:

      unless it’s a tragedy

      Current score: 0
  14. barnowl says:

    If she thinks Steff’s bad, wait until she meets Semele. Ouch! Actually, Steff and Semele are made for each other. Why haven’t they met?

    I think Mack probably did realize Pala was talking about Sooni – she said ” I know what you mean”. It was ambiguous, anyway.

    Current score: 1
    • erianaiel says:

      Because Steff is a boy elf and only really interested in boy elves (*), while Semele is a girl elf and only really interested in girl elves.
      And of course Steff is a complete and utter freak even by Semele’s standards.

      (* actually he is only really interested in Victor, but he likes to pretend to be interested in anything that can be held still long enough. By elven culture he should be interested in boys only and Semele may be an outcast from pale elf society but she still mostly lives by its rules, she is not in the least interested in boys and even less in sexually deviant boys)

      Current score: 0
      • Matthew Tereau says:

        Are you saying Pala thinks Steff is a boy elf or are you saying that Steff is a boy? Sorry I’m a bit confused and I was curious.

        Current score: 0
        • erianaiel says:

          Pala clearly thinks Steff is a girl, or she would have already reported his behaviour as sexual harassment.
          What I was pointing at that in elf culture the genders are extremely segregated, to the point that they apparently have as little contact as possible (just look up why elven women wear veils. It is rather disturbing and has absolutely nothing to do with modesty). Semele and Steff would feel they have absolutely nothing in common as far as they themselves are concerned. Outsiders might see that both play up the creepy to ignore the fact that they are social outcasts.

          Current score: 0
          • Confused Lurker says:

            Look it up? Where? I’m curious now.

            Current score: 0
            • CB says:

              Try looking in More Tales of MU. There are scenes from Treehome in it.

              Current score: 0
  15. Zathras IX says:

    Mack worries about
    Being evil rather than
    About being good

    Current score: 1
    • jc says:

      Hmmm … I don’t worry about being good, either. I wouldn’t imagine that many people do. ๐Ÿ˜‰

      Current score: 0
      • Lunakitten says:

        Actually, I worry all the time about being good. I try and constantly focus on doing what’s right and being helpful, because doing the easy thing and being lazy, or more focused on my personal wants and pains means someone isn’t going to get help. I do social work, and I’m pretty sure I went this route with my life because I’ve always been terrified of being thought of as bad, so I focus all the time on being good, and I help people for a living so I can at least act good, even if I’m really not inside. My own insecurity, and I’ve recognized it so I’m trying to deal- but it’s why I worry about being good.

        Current score: 1
        • Lunakitten says:

          Wow. No one should let me post while buzzed. I didn’t mean to imply I’m always good. I screw up, get lazy, make mistakes, have bad days, get frustrated, and sometimes am just selfish. But I do worry about being good, especially when i know I haven’t been.

          Current score: 1
        • Rey d`Tutto says:

          We all know what the “Road to Hell” is paved with, and it is not Enlightened Self Interest.

          “Do-Gooders” are often Misguided, Stubborn, and Righteous in thier activities, as they know they are Good, and thus they are doing good.

          Ask a biologist if helping baby turtles into the sea when they hatch is a good thing.
          Altruism can not only be the grossest form of Hipocracy, but can also be a force for great evil. Anyone remember hearing about the Crusades?

          I don’t think about it, on purpose. I cannot think of anyone who would paint themselves “Villian” colored. We are all the Star of our personal Show, and thus the Hero. Justification is the method our mind uses to enable us to do what we want, regardless of the true reason.

          Current score: 0
          • Drudge says:

            Of course there’s the reverse. Not helping those turtles means there are less to breed in the future, which might cause them to go extinct and mess up the entire food web, dealing a serious blow to the ecosystem.

            Everything has conseqences. Not all of them are bad. Damned if any of us can see what those are or what they’ll ultimately play out as.

            You are however more likley to do lots of helpings and have a few fuck ups trying to be good than going around raping babies.

            Current score: 1
            • JS says:

              Actually, you miss Rey d’Tutto’s point. Helping turtles into the sea ISN’T the proper action. What is proper is making sure they have the same atmosphere they had before humans invented bright lights, fast cars, boats and jet skis. Giving them the time, without human interference, to get into the ocean, is the right thing to do. Do Gooders often try to do what they consider to be the right thing, before they have considered all that must be taken into account when deciding what is and isn’t the “right thing” to do in a given situation.

              Current score: 1
            • Drudge says:

              You sort of missed MY point. You can’t judge things 100% or how they’ll turn out in the REALLY long run. They might go extinct due to being just short thousands of years in the future and turn out just fine because of it, only to be eaten later because of some weakness bred into them because of it. The saved ones may be too weak and get eaten soon after anyway. YOU DON’T KNOW.

              Meanwhile Rey over there seems to be saying ‘do nothing, because trying to be nice in any way whatsoever results in milliions dying’.

              Current score: 0
            • Zergonapal says:

              “All it takes for evil to flourish is for good men to do nothing.” While I am sure this wasn’t in reference to turtles it is still applies.
              You can stand by paralyzed by indecision and watch evil triumph or you can blunder on perhaps doing more harm than good, but at least you are TRYING to do good, which is 100% more than someone doing nothing. Sometimes all it takes is for a single voice to cry out “No more.” and a thousand other voices will echo that cry.

              Current score: 2
  16. Helen Rees says:


    It either needs one ‘.’ or three ‘…’

    Two is just confusing.


    Current score: 0
  17. Kurt says:

    Add me to the list of people who love Pala. I liked her before, but after this bit, I really love her. Nicely written character… You nicely brought out that unworldly and not quick-minded is *very* different from unobservant or stupid. Good writing!

    Current score: 1
  18. Dazey says:

    Oh it is so cool of you to address Steff sexually harassing Pala. While I realise you were not advocating that treatment I also appreciate you giving Pala a voice to address her harasser. I truly do love her character, and the way she sees the world.

    Great update ๐Ÿ™‚

    Current score: 2
  19. MindWright says:

    Pala reminds me a lot of a high wisdom, low intelligence Paladin I used to play years ago. She is often clueless about details. She has trouble explaining concepts and the reasons for her actions, and there are lots of words she isn’t sure about. But all that is contrasted with a deep understanding of the big picture and the world around her, combined with insightful and deeply ingrained moral values.

    Some of the apparently low intelligence may be the Imperial as a second language issue, but the high wisdom seems like a given to me. I’ve played a slightly above average intelligence character with language issues more recently, and it took some of the other players a few sessions to realize he was actually fairly bright.

    Current score: 0
    • Rin says:

      She reminds me of a saying I once heard, though I can’t for the life of me remember who said it.

      “Do not mistake a lack of knowledge for a lack of intelligence. To do so only demonstrates your own lack of both.”

      Current score: 2
      • Jack V says:

        Yay, Pala!

        I think Pala is being a _little_ bit clueless in apparently not realising how much of the confusion is possible due to language issues, but she’s being 100% awesome, for telling people to do good, and pointing out the problems with Steff.

        Current score: 0
    • Zergonapal says:

      Ha! Roleplaying! Let me tell you about roleplaying. You might be roleplaying the wallflower who speaks quietly and carries a big stick, but if no one else wants to take charge or are off doing their own thing, you might find your fighter with a -3 charisma stat speaking for the party to the local lord.

      Current score: 0
  20. anthony says:

    Steff has a face like an Alf? So it’s all fuzzy and she has a big snout?

    And add me to the list of those who want to see a Pala/Sooni story for the next OT!

    Current score: 0
  21. Adrienne says:

    In Old Norse/Old Icelandic “alf” or rather, “aelf” or “aelfr” means “elf.” I love that AE went to the trouble to finding that out so us language geeks can squee in joy!

    Current score: 1
  22. Pala = Awesome. The girl’s no dummy.

    Also I’m surprised Mack didn’t catch the Sooni reference.

    Current score: 0
    • Zergonapal says:

      No, Mack understood who Pala was talking about, but the subject changed to trying not to be evil rather than dwelling on Sooni’s antics.

      Current score: 0
      • erianaiel says:

        Besides, if people had to dwell on Sooni’s antics nothing would ever get done again.

        Current score: 1
        • Zergonapal says:

          Yes ToMU would just become a musical with a chorus line singing “ohhh Sooni” with choreographed face palming.

          Current score: 1
  23. Bilbo says:

    I just realized: AE just HAS to get Two and Pala alone in a room somewhere.

    They’re both so matter of fact, but I suspect they see a different series of facts.

    Maybe they could bump into each other on the Dream Plane due to a mis-cast spell.

    It would be like “Who’s on First”, with the Ridiculous Owl-Turtle Thing doing color commentary.

    Two is busily sweeping up non-existent dirt when Pala comes along, wondering how she got here, and where her Spear is.

    Pala asks Two a question about Steff and a series of bizarre misunderstandings ensue.

    Current score: 1
    • Roadbug says:

      The conversation between Pala and Mack was enough of a headache to understand… Two and Pala would be a verbal lobotomy…

      Still, it might be interesting to see the results of such a conversation…

      Current score: 0
  24. Roadbug says:

    Glad to see you back, Alexandra

    Current score: 0
  25. Mackenzie says:

    I love Pala

    Current score: 0
  26. Erm says:

    Pala is like a super-sized Two. ๐Ÿ˜€

    And a well-timed What The Hell Hero speech there.

    Current score: 1