476: Council of Counsel

on December 31, 2010 in Book 17

In Which Steff Is Majorly Creepy

Ian surprised me by showing up outside my dorm room the next morning. I could remember when the thought of setting foot in Harlowe had left him sort of pale and trembling.

Now he was showing up of his own initiative, and looking completely at ease with his surroundings… more so than I could often manage to feel. Still, my first thought when I saw him was to wonder what had happened now, to bring him over.

“Hey… what’s up?” I said when I saw him.

“What? Um, nothing, really,” he said, surprised by the question. ” I just thought… I mean, I felt like…”

“You wanted us to spend more time together,” I guessed.

“Yeah,” he said. He dropped his head a little. It was almost painful to see him acting so shy about it, after the things we’d gone through, but it was also adorable. “Things have been pretty fucked lately, even before the.. well, before any one thing you’d care to name… but it’s been fun, hanging out. Going into town together. Spending the day together. The reasons aren’t always awesome, but I generally like that it happens.”

“So you thought we should make it happen more often on our own?”

“I wouldn’t say I thought it through in that level of detail,” he said. “Though that’s a good idea. It’s more I woke up and thought, hey, we should go over and see what Mackenzie’s doing.”

“I don’t know what’s more worrying… that you talk to yourself, or that you do it in the plural,” I said.

“Only inside our head,” Ian said. “Seriously, I kind of woke up thinking about what we’d been talking about yesterday, about picking out a co-ed dorm for next year. You could be just down the hall. It would make it a lot easier to do things like go to lunch together, on days we’re not heading there from the same class. I… uh… well, sometimes I’ve headed over to the lunchroom and apparently missed you, or I don’t go because I’m not sure you’ll be there.”

He sounded kind of embarrassed to have said this, but I felt like there was a bit more to it.

“Ian… you don’t feel like we exclude you, do you?” I asked.

The idea sounded kind of ridiculous when I said it out loud… it was like being accused of being one of “the cool kids” or something. Ian was human, he was kind of good looking in a conventional fashion, he played lute and he fought in the arena. By law and ancient right it should have been impossible for me to exclude him… but then, our little social circle basically consisted of a bunch of girls from one dorm.

“Not on purpose or anything,” he said. “Except maybe Two, sometimes. But… it happens. You guys all live over here. If I want to match up with you, I’ve got to reach out a lot further.”

“I’m sorry,” I said.

“Oh, don’t be,” he said. “It was my issues that stopped me from reaching. I could’ve started walking over here in the morning any time. I started now because… well, like I said, I was thinking about the dorm thing. And also, I just… after the thing with the fish and the turtle and whatever… well, I feel a lot closer to you.”

“You don’t think there’s some kind of lasting effect from that?” I asked, remembering once again a mention of a “bond” of some kind. “Like, mentally… I mean, telepathically or whatever?”

“Nah,” he said, shaking his head. “If I thought that, I’d be a lot less sanguine about the whole thing. I’m not hearing your thoughts in my head…”

“We weren’t exactly aware that we were ‘overlapping’ when it was happening,” I pointed out.

“True, but now we know what that feels like, and this just feels… like me,” he said. “Normal. But we went through something intensely intimate with each other. That’s bound to lead to changes.”

“Yeah, I suppose so,” I said. “You know, I actually fell asleep thinking about the dorm stuff… I sort of woke up with other stuff on my mind.”

“Like what?” he asked.

“Dreams,” I said.

“Good ones?”

I shook my head.

“I had another visit last night,” I said.

“Not from the owl thing, I take it?”

“Nope,” I said. “The other guy.”

“Do you really want to talk about this?” he asked, leaning in close.

“Yeah, I think so,” I said. “But let’s save it for when Amaranth is here, too, so I don’t have to tell it twice.”

“Okay,” he said. “As long as you’re sure… I mean, couldn’t you get in trouble for…”

“I don’t really think so,” I said. “We should be okay.”

That had been on my mind since I’d woken up. Congress with demons was, in fact, illegal… but for one thing, we were talking about dreams. it would be hard to prove that there was an actual demon involved. Even taking the reality behind them as… well, reality… there was the fact that I pretty much spent them telling him how much I didn’t want to have anything to do with him. I wasn’t hatching plots or plans with him or accepting gifts from him, or aiding him in any way that I could see.

Merely having social contact with a demon wasn’t illegal under Imperial law. Since demons could pass for humans to all normal human senses, it would be really easy for demons to fuck with people’s lives or for humans to frame each other if it were otherwise.

In fact, that had happened in the past, during the infamous warlock hunts of earlier ages. The thinking had been that demons were the enemies of all humanity and without rights, so anybody who sided with them could expect the same treatment.

But according to the Bill of Prohibitions, a human’s rights could not be revoked by anything short of direct Imperial decree, and that was not tied to contact with demons or anything else. Successive decrees and Dread Tribunal rulings had expanded that principle so that any race recognized as “people” and not as an enemy of mankind was afforded the same treatment…

That could even be part of why the situation with Iona was so politically delicate that they were covering it up. It had been a long time since any race had been declared anathema. In fact, all such declarations predated the founding of the Imperium and had been inherited as a sort of common law. There was no precedent for it. Not that emperors were terribly bound by precedence, but I had the feeling they walked a little more confidently where tradition assured them that the footing was sound.

This was especially likely to be true for the current officeholder. With the emperor aged and the empress pretty much ruling in his stead, they’d probably have to be extra careful of where they stepped.

For that matter, I had to wonder how much direct awareness of the case either Magisterion XIII or Vera III had. There had to at least be some briefings on it because of the international implications, but I really couldn’t begin to guess how important something like this was in terms of the day-to-day operations of the Imperium. If the IBF and the Department of Law were expected to resolve things on their own… and it would take an imperial decree one way or the other for Iona to be dealt with as anything other than an ordinary criminal… well, it would be easy to see how things could get complicated.

But this was a lot of speculating about things that I would probably never know the details of, and I had something more important to occupy my mind: the details of my dream visit. I wanted to keep them fresh in my mind so that I could give some kind of a real account of them. Luckily breakfast was pretty uneventful. Dee was there… she’d broken out a full-length robe of some kind of dark fur that left me envious. My coat was pretty warm, but it wasn’t nearly as impressive looking.

Of course, me going around in a big black robe was exactly the sort of thing that would cause talk.

Two’s friend Hazel had also come along, seeming unusually subdued or distracted. Given that even Leda’s death hadn’t fazed her for long, that was kind of worrying… but maybe it just meant that she was taking the incredibly high chance that she was pregnant seriously. That I did not envy. It was hard to imagine anyone in their first year of college as being ready to have a child… the fact that she’d been so in denial about it suggested that she was particularly unprepared.

I wouldn’t have minded talking about my latest dream visitation in front of Dee and Two, but I wasn’t at all sure about Hazel’s discretion, nor did I want to dump my problems on her lap. Dee had to excuse herself for personal business while the rest of us were still eating, so I ended up sharing them with Amaranth, Ian, and Steff following breakfast.

“Assuming there’s any truth in what he said,” Ian said when I’d finished my story, “and that might be a stretch, though I can’t see why he’d make up those details in particular… but anyway, if it is true, it would mean you had a half-brother somewhere, at some point.”

“Yeah, well, demons are immortal,” I said. “I don’t think every demon’s of a temperament to have children with humans, but those who are will probably have more than one chance over the centuries.”

“Airships… the kind that are big and complex enough to be powered by an artifact rather than just being a boat that someone put a levitation spell on, or bound a massive elemental into carrying… are a relatively recent advancement,” Amaranth said. “So it’s likely this might be recent history.” She frowned, chewing on her bottom lip. “Hmm… you know, air travel is not exactly the safest form of transportation, but there’s still going to be a finite number of accidents caused by exploding levitation devices. It’s something we could look into.”

“What good would that do?” I asked. “I’m not exactly interested in getting to know that side of my family any better.”

“If nothing else,” Ian said, “it could turn out that sort of accident is rare enough that we can prove he’s full of shit and you can safely throw out any and everything that he says.”

“If he did have a son, baby, I don’t think you should automatically assume that anything you learn about him would be bad,” Amaranth said. “The other examples of half-demons you’ve come across haven’t exactly been… well… exemplary. But if he was on an airship? That suggests he was, for lack of a better term, civilized. That’s not the only thing I find suggestive.”

“It could suggest that he was playing gremlin and got careless,” Steff said. “Anyway, who says it’s a half-demon? Mack, he didn’t actually say if it was with a human or not?”

“Not that I recall,” I said. I thought about the trouble that had been caused by my adulterated bath products. “If he was that man’s son, it doesn’t seem impossible that he was trying to cause an accident.”

“We don’t know if he was raised by him,” Amaranth said. “I mean, you don’t have much of a tendency towards mischief, do you?”

“That’s got more to do with nine years with my grandmother than anything else,” I said. “Before she impressed on me the need to stay quiet and keep my hands to myself, I had kind of… an inquisitive nature.”

“That doesn’t always lead to bad things,” Amaranth said. “And I’m really not a fan of the theory that those years with your grandmother are the only thing that’s keeping you from running around committing sabotage.”

“Um, you know… sort of on the subject of your grandmother…” Ian said.

“What?” I said.

“It’s just… I remember when her bio was in the paper,” he said. “For the whole ‘Brimstone’ thing. It said her husband was in the air navy.”

“Yes, Ian,” Amaranth said, nodding. “That was the other thing I found interesting… it’s certainly a suggestive connection, at the very least.”

“That’s an interesting coincidence, but I’m pretty sure my grandfather wasn’t my half-brother, if that’s what you’re getting at,” I said. “And anyway, he didn’t die in an explosion. At least, not that I heard of.”

“I wasn’t thinking that,” Ian said. “I’m just saying that maybe it’s not a coincidence.”

“How would it not be a coincidence?”

“If it wasn’t your half brother,” Ian said.

“I’m pretty sure my mother would have told me if I had a brother out there somewhere,” I said.

“Not to speak ill of your mother…” Ian said.

“I’ll say it,” Steff said. “She didn’t tell you about your father. Why would she tell you about this?”

“I don’t even know what she did or didn’t know about my father. Besides, it just doesn’t work out, time-wise,” I said. “She was pretty young when she had me.”

“And no fiend from hell would be so evil as to knock up a teenager,” Steff said. “I’m not saying I believe this little theory… or that I don’t. I think it’s a waste of time debating if we can just throw out everything your creepy dream-invading demon dad can say or not.”

“Well, you’d be the expert on creepy,” Ian said.

“Ian, let’s be nice,” Amaranth said.

“No, he’s right… I mean, I am pretty much majoring in creepiness,” Steff said. “And yeah, I am the expert, apparently, if I’m the only one here who sees that it doesn’t matter if he tells the truth this time or that time. If you don’t have to deal with him, Mack… and you really don’t, as far as I can see… then you can’t win the game by catching him in a lie. You lose by paying attention. I mean, that’s the way these guys work.”

“What guys?” Ian asked. “You’re a second-year necromancy student, not a diabolist.”

“Smooth-talkers,” Steff said. “Con men. Bad guys who don’t want to seem bad. He’s trying to build a rapport. If I’m getting the right idea at all from Mack’s description of the conversation, he wanted to keep her there listening to him.”

“I’m not discounting the whole evil thing,” Amaranth said, “but isn’t it within the realm of possibility that he’s honestly lonely and wants to talk to his daughter? Or even anyone who’s not going to go running away from him or try to attack him?”

“If he wants to do that, he just needs to walk up to someone who’s not warded with holy symobls or who looks like a demon hunter,” Steff said. “He looks like a human.

“I think Steff’s right,” I said. “And the thing that really chills me by the light of the day is the way he talked about wanting more than ‘surviving’. It sounds like he has a plan… one that involves me.”

“See, this is just another reason to brush up on mental defense,” Ian said.

“I do wonder what he knows about Mr. Embries,” Amaranth said. “That he would specifically warn you about him… it’s like Ian said before. It’s not so much that we should assume he’s honest, but why would he randomly make up these particular things?”

“Well, I see two possibilities,” Ian said. “Either he really is dangerous and you should keep away, or your father’s trying to trick you into going to see Embries to spite him.”

“Don’t call him that,” I said. “Please don’t call him that.”

“Sorry,” Ian said. “The point is that the sensible thing to do is to stay away.”

“Are those really the only possibilities you can see?” Steff asked. “How ’bout, he wants Mack to stay away from the old guy, but not because he’s dangerous to her… he could be trying to prevent an alliance of some kind.”

“Between a freshman and a senior administrator?” I asked, though I knew that Embries had quite a bit of power… it wasn’t so hard to believe that a demon would view someone who could hold an audience enthralled like that as a worthy adversary.

“I’m just saying that you aren’t looking at all the sides here,” Steff said. “I mean, every time you say ‘but why would he make up those details?‘, you’re totally illustrating exactly why people add details to their cons. ‘Once upon a time, in a far-off land, there was a man with no name… ‘ is how you start a kid’s story. ‘Last Tuesday, in Westphale, one Albert P. Smith…’ is the beginning of a credible account. Why is it credible? Because no one would just make up those random details. They make it easier to debunk, but they mean that a lot of people will just swallow it without a second thought, or a first one.”

“So, which do you think it is, then?” Ian asked. “A bluff? A trap? A real warning?”

“Don’t know, don’t care,” Steff said. “I told you, it doesn’t matter whether one specific thing he says is true or not. Once you’ve decided not to trust someone… barring situations where you have to work with them… you don’t trust them. You don’t trust anything they tell you. That doesn’t mean it’s a lie, it means you don’t trust it. If a trap is baited with fool’s gold or real gold, it’s still a trap.”

“So we just do nothing with any information he gives Mack?” Amaranth said.

“It’s not information,” Steff said. “It’s noise, just a bunch of random whispers on the wind. You ignore them until they go away.”

“And what if they don’t go away?” I asked.

“That’s the beautiful part,” Steff said. “If you’re ignoring hard enough, you won’t even notice.”

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69 Responses to “476: Council of Counsel”

  1. drudge says:

    “Ignore the problem and hope it goes away.”

    Because that strategy has worked SO well for you people in the past.

    Current score: 1
    • drudge says:

      Of course, your interpretation of Macbeth and My interpretation of Macbeth are different in the extreme. I’m of the interpretation that, like I’m getting the feeling of here, nobody is nearly as smart as they think they are. Hence why the Witches make a passing reference to a dragon wandering around the scottish countryside they happen to be in contact with and never use except for a single scale as a potion reagent, as opposed to cutting out the middleman and using it to burn the castle down and cause the chaos in the first place.

      Of course, all that “useful information” he keeps spreading is pointedly ignored. If this was a one off thing I’d probably understand. But Mackenzie has ignored every, single, thing that comes up and given them no thought. We’re lead to believe Mackenzie is intelligent but she’s had a handful of moments at best, with the rest of her story involving her asking precious few questions.

      It’s just bugging me even more now because AE just posted her original plans on livejournal. Those plans involving a proactive Mackenzie actively trying to figure this shit out alongside crazy Half Demon Sooni, who’s requirement of vital organs imply she’d actually know a thing or two about dealing with it.

      Now we’ve got Mackenzie either oblivious to or actively ignoring every problem while calling a deranged and useless Sooni crazy for wanting to get involved in any way despite it being obvious she’ll need to at some point regardless.

      Current score: 0
      • Your interpretation of my plans and my interpretation of my plans are also among the set of things that are “different in the extreme”, just so you know. I was never planning on writing about “a proactive Mackenzie actively trying to figure this shit out alongside crazy Half Demon Sooni, who’s requirement of vital organs imply she’d actually know a thing or two about dealing with it.”

        Current score: 3
        • Though it sounds like good wacky fun.

          Current score: 1
          • drudge says:

            It does, doesn’t it?

            I apologise but this story has been getting rather frustrating and cyclical, followed by you posting abandoned plans that would remove a large part of what’s making this seem frustrating and cyclical.

            Also, a tiny bit of advice you’re free to ignore: While changing plans is an essential part of writing, you shouldn’t change them because you’re worried people are going to guess them. For example, Andrew Hussie, the author of Homestuck, recently did a “plot twist” that half his readers guessed a mile away. When asked about it on his formspring he basically said “I dropped a few hints that were picked up on, not everything needs to be shocking. Besides, if you have enough readers ANYTHING YOU COULD POSSIBLY DO will be guessed.”.

            Short version: When planning a story, it’s best to ignore comments and guesswork.

            Though if you’d bother to answer, quick question: How many times have you revised Puddy’s role? I mean her being Mackenzie’s actual friend and her killing Mariel via domestic abuse strike me as things that, if not going together badly, seem rather incompatible.

            Current score: 0
            • Your interpretation of my plans and my interpretation of my plans are also among the set of things that are “different in the extreme”, just so you know. I was never planning on writing about “a proactive Mackenzie actively trying to figure this shit out alongside crazy Half Demon Sooni, who’s requirement of vital organs imply she’d actually know a thing or two about dealing with it.”

              Current score: 0
            • drudge says:

              You mentioned Mackenzie trying to figure things out by sneaking into her room. The only major change you mentioned about Sooni was that she’d be a half demon. I was exaggerating, but you mentioned changing Mackenzie to be Oblivious to the things around her instead of finding definitive answers, which sounds more proactive to me. In any case, I assume we both have better things to do than argue over something I already apologized about so I’m not going to say anything more.

              Current score: 0
            • Kevin says:

              This whole line of thought could have been avoided if more people had seen the movie zombie strippers.

              Current score: 0
            • The only major change you mentioned about Sooni was that she’d be a half demon

              Yes. Exactly. Therefore your comment was utterly baffling to me… as baffling as your advice that I shouldn’t change things to avoid people guessing them.

              (That’s a drastic oversimplification of why I changed Sooni’s origin… if I didn’t want people to guess things, why would I be happy that there are enough clues for readers to put together the other mysteries in the story?)

              Sooni was always going to be Sooni. Mackenzie was always going to be Mackenzie. Changing these two things about them would never give you the story you want to read about the people you want to read about. It was always going to be them. It was always going to be me writing them.

              It was always going to be you reading and commenting about how you’re OMG THIS CLOSE to giving up on the story forever.

              so I’m not going to say anything more.

              Oh my gosh, are you serious? Please be serious. If you never say another word here, I will cherish you in my heart of hearts forever. This is never going to be the story you want it to. Neither it nor I am ever going to behave in accordance with the extra shades of context you manage to find for every thing I write, fiction or otherwise. The things that bother you about the story aren’t going away.

              If you won’t stop reading like you’ve kept promising to, will you at least stop grumbling about it all the damned time?

              Current score: 7
            • Rey d`Tutto says:

              Thank you for the entertainment. Especially as how you are providing it free of cost, and with few advertisements.

              I have always been astounded by the gall of those folks who, when displeased by the Free content they have stumbled over in their quest for time wasting, complain that they don’t “like this aspect of it, and I’m gonna stop reading/watching/reviewing”. If you are a known entity on the web-sphere, and many people read you critic’s blog/site/e-zine, then commenting that you are disappointed in a free-content provider’s content has value. Especially valid if you can pinpoint the problem areas (usually with structure or flow) that cause the lack of glee. If you are random web-twit 789054, and you want to tell the author you won’t be reading their work, so what? It’s not like the internet won’t have what you want. If you don’t like it, change the fricken channel. According to Rule 34, someone somewhere has posted what you need.

              AE, Please disregard unhelpful & pedantic criticism. I have been enjoying your writing for the past year or so, and I will continue to enjoy it until
              a) I don’t, or
              b) you quit, or
              c) the “Inevitable Revenant Reanimation” causes the question to be moot.

              Keep it rolling. You entertain me mightily.

              Current score: 4
    • zeel says:

      I personally would like to see Mackenzie turning things around on her father. Try to get as much from him as possible. let him teach her how to keep him out. Just because he is trying to get her to trust him doesn’t mean she shouldn’t let him do anything that could build trust. As long as she doesn’t trust him she’s okay.

      Her completely ignoring her father a waste of a very good educational experience. Even if you assume everything is BS. I love the chapters where Mackenzie is in class, I love learning, even if it isn’t even real. In Mackenzie’s case though it probably is real simply because It would be stupid for him to just make stuff up. Plus much of it can be verified.

      And as readers we know he isn’t totally full of it.

      Current score: 0
      • drudge says:

        Mackenzie learning is indeed a good thing. Mackenzie learning things that’ll be immediately applicable is an even better thing.

        Of course Mack Daddy is nowhere near as smart as he thinks he is. I mean he sort of blurted out a lie that’d be easily revealed if she ever finds out about Aiden. Of course “this antagonist isn’t as smart as they think they are” seems to cover Every Antagonist, so it’s not really that noteworthy.

        In any case, Mackenzie would probably hold her own if she keeps her wits about her, in the short term at least. Granted her being more paranoid is exactly what he WANTS, so the situation would come out with him winning regardless.

        Current score: 0
        • Kevin says:

          What lie did he tell about Aiden? All he said was that his son worked on airships, (which he did) was injured when a magical object on said airship exploded, (which he was), and that he was never the same afterwords (he is still horribly scarred from the experience.) All of this being proven true where is the lie in what he said?

          Current score: 0
          • bramble says:

            Exactly, this. Like many truly deceptive people, The Man doesn’t seem to like to outright lie if a half-truth will do. If Mack decides to investigate and finds that she has a perfectly socialized brother with a loving wife and an adorable adopted quarter-dragon son, her response probably will be exactly what drudge thought – “Oh wow, you lied to me! This proves I can never trust you!” To which The Man can easily reply that no, everything he told her was true, and he’s deeply disappointed in Mack for not trusting him when he said he was being honest with her.

            Current score: 0
  2. Fairyblue says:

    Lovely little thing to read at the exact moment I was wishing I had something to read, and refreshed the page.

    Current score: 0
  3. Dj Gilcrease says:

    From the tone and content it sounds as if Steff has been taken a time or two by smooth talkers and took the time to learn enough to defend herself.

    Current score: 0
  4. Da9iel says:

    See! I knew Steph was good for something. Preach it, creepy sister!

    Current score: 0
  5. David says:

    Wondering if this is a mispelling.

    but those who are will probably have more than once chance over the centuries.”

    (Is it “once” or “one”???)

    Current score: 0
  6. beappleby says:

    About the mermaid situation:

    Something interesting that occurred to me: What if the Empire knows that there are “sea devils”, as The Man put it, who prey on ships and eat sailors… and just don’t know that they are mermaids in shifted form? If they are shown to be the same creatures who are already designated a threat, would that be enough of a precedent as Mack was speculating here?

    Current score: 1
    • squidsinger says:

      I rather like that idea. I hadn’t thought of that.

      Current score: 1
  7. Peter says:

    Steff’s advice is fascinating. Pick the underlying reality, decide how to deal with it, then ignore anything on top.

    I love “If a trap is baited with fool’s gold or real gold, it’s still a trap.”

    And this is one of the aspects I love about well written fiction. It can illustrate deep truths that apply everywhere.

    Current score: 0
  8. slaxor says:

    Hey, I just realized MU’s updating every other day! Way to go, AE!

    Current score: 0
  9. Jen says:

    AE, you are in spectacular form lately! I don’t keep up with your LJ, but whatever positive changes you’ve recently made in your life, it’s showing with brilliant colors. This is the AE I originally fell in love with… frequent updates, mindbending and memory-challenging chapters with witty, complex dialogue, and good old nose to grind plot (& world) dev with pieces coming together.

    It’s truly exciting to once again SEE your gears turning and know that you have a hidden little map in your head of all the plans you have in store for the MUniverse… to reveal to us in a tantalizingly slow fashion of course.

    WELCOME TO 2011! May it be fantastic!

    Current score: 1
    • Thank you for noticing. 🙂

      Current score: 1
    • jc says:

      It is interesting that the serial publication of fiction, which was once common in the magazine industry, mostly died out decades ago, but is being revived so successfully on the Web. I wonder if anyone has data that could compare the success rates of the serial-novel authors back in the 1930s or 1950s with the current online authors. It was known as a low-paying job for most authors back then, because you were at the mercy of a very small number of publishers who could say “Take it or leave it”. I don’t know of many that are really making a living at it now, either, but the reasons are presumably different. The Web tends to make things available cheap …

      Current score: 0
  10. Zathras IX says:

    “Congress with Demons”
    To me, that phrase somehow sounds

    Current score: 0
  11. Not that girl, the other one says:

    “I’m not discounting the whole evil thing,” Amaranth said,

    Ah, Amaranth. He’s a freaking *demon* and you’re still trying to see his good side.

    AE – nice going on the brief look into the larger cultural picture there. It didn’t linger too long (as Mack is apt to do) but it helped give the story more dimension. Looking forward to the next update!

    Current score: 0
    • zeel says:

      It is possible that aside from eating people, and hating that his race got banished to hell, he isn’t a totally evil person. He could have just eaten Mackenzie’s mother. . .

      Current score: 0
      • Not her, the other girl says:

        I was thinking more that it’s such an Amaranth thing to do, which is totally consistent with her character but it’s also why she’s not one of my favorite characters. If the whole story centered on Amaranth’s POV I probably wouldn’t be reading, but it’s good in bits as a contrast to others.

        Current score: 1
        • zeel says:

          Yes it is a very Amaranth thing to to say. But my question is: Is he actually “Evil”? Are most demons actually “Evil”? Enemy of mankind and evil are not the same thing.

          It doesn’t sound to me like demons want anything more than the life they had before they get sent to hell (hunting and eating humans) but It doesn’t sound like they game other races any problem.

          Current score: 0
          • Gorgonopsid says:

            Well, it’s not like we’ve been given as much info on the other races aside from their interactions with humans, so it could just be that we’re not hearing about what the demons are doing to the goblins or elves. Or, it could be that, due to the overwhelming dominance of humans (at least on this continent), they’re simply the most readily available target and if we were given a few of someplace where humans aren’t as common, like Sooni’s homeland, they’d have their own demon problems.

            Or maybe humans just taste better.

            Current score: 0
            • Kevin says:

              Dee said that demons are of little consequence to her people as they are a human problem (also Dark Elves are a notoriously evil race) and the only problem an elf has yet had with a demon is the Elven history professor lost her (human) husband to a demon attack. That pretty much covers that they don’t bother elves, as for goblins their problems are a little vague, and it has been stated that the Yokai don’t have natural predators.

              P.S. Look yokai up some time as I believe their name has something to do with demons.

              Current score: 0
            • zeel says:

              the OT “In The Beginning” read the first story:


              This story seems to be saying that Demons were created by other gods (not Khersis) for the purpose of harassing humans. And Khersis didn’t like it so he locked em up in hell. note this is “A Khersian Account of Creation” so the fact that they are called “Evil” is from the perspective of Khersians.

              Current score: 0
            • bramble says:

              I’m pretty sure that the yokai aren’t any more demonic than, for instance, nagakin are – in our world “yokai” is often translated as “demon,” but mostly because in western culture, just about everything in myth and legend that isn’t readily identifiable as a Judeochristian angel has been classified as a demon at some point. We might as well say that Steff is half-demon, because fairies, including elves, are by some traditions considered to be demons or at least fallen angels.

              (Also, I wouldn’t be at all surprised, given how stratified their culture still is, if at some point in history the Yokai made a habit of preying on each other. Their Emperor is a dragon, after all.)

              Current score: 0
            • Kevin says:

              Well I think you got the point of the yokai demon translation down, as for interyokai predation in the past I hadn’t really thought about that but it does make sense. It also leaves room for yokai criminals who still prey on what they see as “lesser” yokai.

              Current score: 0
            • *sigh*

              And this right here is why I didn’t make Sooni a half-demon.


              Current score: 1
            • squidsinger says:

              “Or maybe humans just taste better.”

              Do humans taste better than those who are not? ^_^

              Current score: 0
          • Brine says:

            Zeel, I’m a wary fan of the man too, but even if the man didn’t eat Mack’s Mom, he did probably allow events to occur such that Mack did eat her.

            To all of you that object to that theory, look at the rest and show me a dramatic element that fits better.

            Current score: 0
            • Kevin says:

              I think with the way Mack’s mom’s death is tied in someway to Mack’s awakening demonic power it is more likely that she died in a blast of hellfire. Also as the mother was not a virgin (unless sexual congress with a demon does not count as loss of such, which could be very bad for Ian) Mack would not get anything out of eating her mother, I would however say that in the events leading up to mother’s death Mack likely hunted down a virgin for their blood hence Grandma Blaise knowing that Mack needed virgin blood.

              Current score: 0
        • Gorgonopsid says:

          Amaranth definitely falls into the “stupid good” trope.

          Current score: 1
      • bramble says:

        He could have eaten her, but then what would he have done with whatever long-range plans he has that apparently require one or more half-demon children?

        Current score: 0
    • Brine says:

      I’m with Amaranth in that the man gives good advice. Perhaps I’m too pragmatic, but if Mack would bother to define what her principles were, she might find that listening to what the man tells her, when it does not conflict with her principles is valuable.

      Alternately There is the Augustine quote from yesterday, which is also good advice, but “better the devil you know. . .” and Mack hasn’t taken the chance to know which of the two devils her father is.

      Either way for a troublesome, submissive, and apparently tasty, to anything that’s a man eater, girl like Mack staying away from a Greater silver dragon invested in the school’s smooth running and not letting him know she isn’t influenced by his majesty seems like a good idea.

      Current score: 0
      • JS says:

        I see taking anything The Man says as truth, or trying to work with whatever he says, is like trying to “correctly” word a wish. You’re always missing some part of the puzzle and are unable to truly get it right.

        Current score: 1
  12. beappleby says:

    The question is not “Are demons evil” or “Is he evil because he is a demon” but simply “Is he evil?”

    Current score: 0
    • drudge says:

      One wonders how this is a question, given he was grooming a small child with a bloodline based ability for sex. Pedophilia is usually a good marker for “evil bastard”.

      Current score: 2
      • zeel says:

        He is centuries old. S the difference between her and an eighteen year old is negligible.

        Current score: 0
        • Um, no.

          “The difference between her and an eighteen year old” that the law (and morality) cares about isn’t a number, even though we use numbers as benchmarks. “The difference” is a change in mental and emotional maturity, and that’s not relative to his age in any fashion.

          If you put your dick in someone too young to consent, she doesn’t become old enough to consent because you’re a wise and ancient immortal being.

          Further comments defending pedophilia are gonna be deleted, and the commenters banned.

          Current score: 3
          • zeel says:

            I’m sorry, that was poorly worded. I was not intending to defend pedophilia (for it is a horrible thing).

            I was trying to say that my impression was the man wanted Mackenzie’s mother for the fact that she was a female. Rather than because she was a young one. If he was doing it for that reason (which i believe you are saying he did) then my view of the man is changed quite a bit. I had not realized the man was intended to be a completely evil character.

            I was mistaken.

            Current score: 0
            • Okay, I’m trying to straddle a line here that’s hard to straddle in making things clear without being “NO NO YOU’RE INTERROGATING THE TEXT FROM THE WRONG PERSPECTIVE.”

              I’m not sitting here telling you “The Man is completely evil.” I’m not even confirming for you that he cared about her age. I’m just trying to get you to understand the implications of what you’re saying when you say that it’s “different” (or even worse, justified somehow?) if he didn’t target her because of her age.

              a. “A man who has sex with an underage girl because she’s underage and that’s what he cares about.”


              b. “A man who has sex with an underage girl though she’s underage but he doesn’t care about that.”

              I’m not trying to bring in definitions of Absolut Compleat Evil or the author’s “Word of God” that a character is evil here.

              I’m just pointing out that you’re staking out man-b there as somebody worth defending compared to man-a.

              And it’s creepy.

              And I don’t want to see it.

              Current score: 2
      • Oni says:

        Pretty much came to say “B”. You can’t know that “babies” was even necessarily the goal, though he didn’t let the fact that she was female slip his mind as she got older either.
        To the point, while he was grooming the girl, “for sex” wasn’t part of the equation and from the technical standpoint of an entity that is both immortal and basically dates back to “Old Testament” times “pedophilia” is pretty much out the window as far as being applicable.

        Current score: 0
        • At the risk of breaking death of the author, I’m going to point out that people’s dicks don’t just fall into other people. If you want to quibble about the difference between “he groomed her and had sex with her.” and “he groomed her for sex”, go find another place to do it. I don’t want to see this creepy ass shit here.

          Current score: 0
      • a-And if we go back to the incident where The Man groomed an underage teenager in Modern America Equivalent in order to have sex with her [for whatever reason], we realize we’re not in ancient Greece and we don’t have to ask just which side was the victim.

        b-In the scenario as you present it, you can’t say he didn’t groom her for sex. If somebody stabs someone to death to get their wallet, the stabber is still as guilty of murder as they would be if it wasn’t a step along the way to robbery.

        Your name sounds familiar. Are you the one who wanted to defend Mr. Embries from being taken advantage of by all his lascivious secretaries? If so, please stop using the spaces I provide to comment on my work. There are almost an infinite number of places you could go and share your opinions on these subjects, but I’m done paying bandwidth for you to share your issues with the world.

        Current score: 0
  13. Ali says:

    “If he wants to do that, he just needs to walk up to someone who’s not warded with holy symobls or who looks like a demon hunter,” Steff said. “He looks like a human.

    Should have a closing quotation mark. Also, I think it should be “…or who doesn’t look like a demon hunter…” in order to correctly convey the meaning. Also, should be “symbols”.

    Current score: 0
  14. readaholic says:

    Om nom nom nom nom. Oh, excuse me… Thoroughly enjoyed this chapter. I like the way the advice given reflects the characters giving it. Amaranth’s “Oh maybe he’s just lonely”, and Steff’s “Ignore it, and even if it doesn’t go away, you won’t notice, so what’s the difference?”.

    Current score: 0
  15. Eric M. says:

    The title made me think that Jenkins would appear in this chapter…oh, well.

    Current score: 0
    • cnic says:

      While I liked the chapter, I have to agree. I was half expecting Jenkins as well. We’ll probably hear from him soon enough. Isn’t Mack still suing or ws that resolved?

      Current score: 0
      • Oni says:

        If I recall it was decided between the two to propose a settlement, but nothing has been heard since so I assume it’s still proceeding.

        Current score: 0
        • Zergonapal says:

          Bear in mind that the storyline is still moving at a relatively slow pace and even then the gears of any legal system are slow to turn no matter the world.

          Current score: 0
          • Eric M. says:

            That’s not necessarily true, but it certainly seems true in the Imperium. The Imperium’s legal system appears to share some important features with the U.S. system that can make things go very slowly. It also possesses some features that could make delays even worse, such as arbitrators that don’t care how much time passes.

            Current score: 0
  16. Durragh says:

    I am SOOO in favor of Mack looking up her brother, she could learn a lot from him, as far as living a normal healthy life goes. I do wonder if the adopted half? quarter? dragon child though, that makes me wonder if there isn’t a connection there to Embries, and if that somehow interefered with Mack-Daddy’s plans.

    Current score: 0
    • Durragh says:

      almost forgot, another EXCELLENT chapter AE! I really like the way the characters are evolving. A better wording is I like how you are writing their evolution and developement, regardless of the direction that evolution is taking, although i like the direction also 🙂

      Current score: 0
    • zeel says:

      That would be very interesting. Together they might be able to get the man away from Mackenzie for good. Since we now have the definitive answer that he is, in fact, evil. Her brother is the most likely candidate for someone who can truly help Mackenzie with all her problem living in the real world. He seems to have done fairly well for himself at least.

      Current score: 0
      • I’m honestly sorry if it seems like I’m ragging on you, but… you have literally no information you didn’t have before. Stop acting like I told you something new.

        i wrote a story where a charming man gained the trust of a child, then encouraged her to keep secrets, and then had sex with her. More than once. You have obviously read this story.


        Why am I having to explain this? He gained the trust of a child, then used that trust to do things that get people pregnant. This is not new information. Confirmation that he’s definitively evil?

        What the actual fuck?

        I’m on the cusp of jettisoning this character and his plotlines completely, because this is just… argh.

        I’m learning things about my readership that I didn’t want to know.

        Current score: 2
  17. Anybody who’s determined to ride the “The Man Is Not Evil” train all the way into the station, please consider: do you have any better evidence than the fact that Mackenzie doesn’t like him and she’s annoying and often wrong, or the fact that Martha is not as good or smart as she thinks she is and thinks that demons are evil?

    Because as far as I can tell that’s the whole line of reasoning here: The Man is cool, Martha and Mackenzie are annoying, therefore he’s got to be the good guy and they have to be wrong about him.

    But you’re defending someone who manipulated and impregnated a child. Twice. That you know about. And who you know is lying through his teeth to Mackenzie.

    Yes. He’s lying. This isn’t a spoiler. You know Aidan is alive. You saw him telling Mackenzie he’s not.

    “All the words he said were literally true!” That’s a child’s defense. Or is your reading of the story that he meant for her to know the truth and it’s just a sad miscommunication that Mackenzie thinks he means that the boy in question died?

    God. Damn. People.

    Y’all are gonna take what you want out of the story, I know, but I’m getting tired of coming to the comment section and seeing justifications for child molestation posted in order to let people feel good about thinking this guy’s cool. It’s creeping me out, it’s creeping other people out, and it’s driving folks away.

    And worse? If anybody ends up being swayed to the idea that this “The Man is a pretty cool guy. eh grooms kids and doesn’t afraid of anything.” reading is not somebody’s fucked-up interpretation but is the way I wrote it?

    Ugh. I feel like I’m being defamed, honestly, every time somebody asks “Did he really do anything that bad?”

    Yes. He did.


    That you know about.

    So think twice before posting defenses of what he did with Laurel Anne. And then don’t post them. At least not here.

    Current score: 1
  18. zeel says:

    I have a tendency to assume villain characters are the misguided/misunderstood variety. Rather than pure evil. And in most things I read/watch they are. So that is what I thought about the man.

    Luckily, unlike most things I read/watch, the author is around to step in and say I’ve got it all wrong. I’m sorry to have been an irritant, please accept my sincere apologies. And keep up the great work, I’m loving every word of it.

    Current score: 0
    • Stop.

      Just fucking STOP.

      Nothing I’ve said touches on the “pure evil” vs. “misguided/misunderstood” thing. I’m not sitting here confirming that demons are made of pure elemental evil and I don’t want your comments causing my comments to be misconstrued as such.

      All I am doing… literally all I am doing… is confirming what you already know. HE PREYED ON A KID. HE FATHERED TWO KIDS BY THAT KID WHILE SHE WAS STILL A KID. He did it in a manipulative and predatory way, exhibiting classic grooming behavior while doing so. You read this.

      No, he didn’t do this “for the lulz” or because he’s got a “thing” about underage girls… he didn’t even do it because he’s a “pure evil” moustache-twirling card-carrying Bad Guy. But how does this make what he did excusable/justifiable/defensible?

      To be clear: I’m not saying “He did this thing because he’s EEEEEEVUHL.” I’m saying, “He did this thing. You know he did it. Is that not evil?”

      Think of him as complex and flawed if you want to. Please! I hope he is! I hope he comes off that way! I’d rather be known for writing complex and flawed villains than “pure evil” ones. But acknowledge what he did, if you’re going to discuss it… or at least don’t offer justifications and excuses.

      Current score: 0