249: Profile Views

on July 8, 2008 in Book 9

In Which Luck Is Not Pressed

If my coat didn’t impress Ian, Oru couldn’t seem to make up her mind about it.

“That’s such a beautiful outfit,” she said when we came out in the hall, looking up at me with her rapidly fluttering eyelashes. Oru had really long eyelashes, but they were wiry and coarse-looking. She was wearing a heavy necklace of twisted metal chain with a pendant that looked like a lock. “Are you wearing it to the dance?”

“Um, I’m wearing it on the way over,” I said. “But I’ll probably check it when we get there. It’s actually just my coat.”

“Oh,” she said.

Moeli was waiting for her in the downstairs lounge. He’d put on what seemed to be more traditional hobgoblin clothing: a long black tunic cinched at the waist with a broad leather belt, with a leather vest over it.

“Moeli!” Oru said, running towards him.

“You look nice,” he said to me before he even looked at her.

“It’s just a coat,” Oru said. “She’s not even wearing it into the dance.”

“Oh, hello, Oru,” Moeli said. He reached down with one long, gangly arm and gave her a pat on the head, squishing down her braids. They sprang back up as soon as his massive hand was removed. “Ready to go?”

“Uh… yeah,” she mumbled, seeming to go incoherent at that passing act of affection. She looked like she was going to melt into the carpet.

Similar culture and aesthetics aside, I really had to wonder why she was so fixated on Moeli. Not counting her spiky hair, Oru was the shortest girl on the fifth floor. Moeli was twice her height. He looked like he could crush her skull in his hand. Maybe he was the closest thing to a male goblin around, but if the most human-like person in the area had been a giant I couldn’t imagine seeking him out for dating opportunities.

The fitness center wasn’t actually that much farther from Harlowe than the student union was, but we were slowed down by Oru and Moeli. Oru had short legs, and Moeli seemed most comfortable moving at a pace that could be best described as “ambling.”

I didn’t want for us to get too far ahead of them… what Oru had said about goblins wandering around after dark had stuck with me, especially as there seemed to be a few groups of students heading in the same direction as us, led by pairs of armed and armored fighting students. Even if it was just a couple wannabe heroes being jackasses, I didn’t want anybody’s evening to be ruined because of their race.

It really was pretty cold out, but on the plus side I got to find out how awesome my coat really was. Ian could turn up his nose at it, but with the hood pulled low over my face, the only parts of me that felt the chill were my hands and my ankles, where the night air crept between the cuffs of my jeans and my shoes.

It was the latter that got to me the most… it was like there was a chink in my armor. I could warm my hands up one at a time by switching which one held the pitchfork and sticking the other in my pocket, but my ankles and lower calves were freezing.

“Hang on, guys,” I said when I decided I couldn’t stand it any more… which was about twenty yards outside the nexus. I put my trident down on a bench and focused on remembering my insulating spell. I didn’t want to spend a lot of energy, but I could slap a quick fix on.

“What’s wrong?” Ian asked as I put my foot up on the bench and reached out to find the relevant properties in the fabric.

“Fixing my socks,” I said, once I was done muttering my way through the spell formula. I did the other one, too.

“Nobody’s going to be looking at your socks,” Ian said.

“I’m just putting a temporary enchantment on them,” I said. “To keep the cold out.”

“Are you cold?” Oru asked me as we headed off again, walking slowly in the direction of the dance.

“Aren’t you?” I responded. She was in a dress that didn’t even cover her whole flat, smooth torso… I guess, if anything, that should have been a clue that the cold didn’t bother her.

“No, I was just thinking what a nice night it is,” Oru said. “Don’t you think it’s a nice night, Moeli?”

“Too bright,” Moeli said. He was squinting against the omnidirectional glow which extended upwards from the sidewalk.

“Yeah, it really is,” Oru said. “But… I wouldn’t go wandering off the path for anything. It’s just not worth the risk.”

“You’re being quiet,” I said to Ian.

“He’s probably just shy around new people,” Oru said. “I noticed that, the other night.”

“I just don’t want to say the wrong thing,” Ian said.

I shifted my pitchfork so that it was under my arm, so I could give him one hand and put the other one in my pocket.

“It’s okay,” I said. “You don’t have to say anything.”

“Nice night,” Moeli remarked, and we walked the rest of the way in silence.

The fitness center was open twenty-four hours, but external light orbs had been placed in front of a high-roofed extension that I took to be the arena. The dance was already in progress, and I could hear the thudding pressure of the bass as we drew close. There was a banner by a set of massive double doors, declaring that the alumni association welcomed us.

There were campus guards spread in a semi-circle around the approach to the dance, and a pair by the doors. The perimeter guards converged on our group as we approached, with swords half-drawn.

Oh, great. This was just what I needed. We could have stayed back in the room, fooling around… but we’d made the right decision and now we were going to be hassled for it.

“Are you students?” one of them asked, directing his question at Moeli.

“Yes, sir,” he said.

“Let’s see some ID,” the guard said, looking back and forth from Moeli to Oru as he said this.

“Oh, I’ve got it somewhere,” Moeli said, taking a large pouch off his belt.

“Here’s mine,” Ian said, holding his card out.

“Don’t be a smartass, kid,” the lead guard said. “If we want it, we’ll ask for it.”

“Here we are,” Moeli said, holding his out. The guard snatched it from his hands and looked it over skeptically.

“Oh, um… I don’t seem to have mine on me,” Oru said.

“Dance is only open to students, shortstuff,” one of the other guards said.

“And their dates,” Ian said. “Right?”

“That’s not how it works,” the lead guard said.

“No, it is,” Ian said. “Non-students just have to be escorted by a student. You’ve seen his ID. You don’t need to see hers.”

“I… I can just run back and get it,” Oru said.

“That’s a good idea,” the lead guard said. “How about you two just run along back to Harlowe, and stay there? It can be dangerous… wandering around campus at night, like a couple of monsters in the dark. Your friends can escort you, if you don’t feel safe.”

“Aren’t… aren’t you supposed to keep us safe?” Oru said shakily.

“I’m telling you how to stay safe,” the guard said. “We can’t be held responsible if you don’t listen to safety instructions.”

With that, and the unmistakable implications it contained, I felt a surge of hot hatred flaring up within me. These assholes were being painfully transparent. It didn’t matter if they were actually willing to kill a couple of non-human students for straying outside the acceptable bounds… it only mattered that said students believed that was likely enough to be cowed by it. If they chose to fight it… the guard hadn’t said anything explicit.

The worst was that they probably wouldn’t give a shit if a couple of town kids decided to crash the college party, as long as they behaved themselves, but they were harassing the obvious non-humans before they even got to the door in order to keep them away.

They thought they could get away with it, because Oru and Shiel were “monster” races… but they didn’t have any idea what kind of monster was really standing in front of them. They didn’t have any idea what I could do to them, before they even had their stupid little swords out of their scabbards.

I pushed it away, taking a painfully deep breath of the icy air to center myself. The situation was already pretty fucked to begin with… it needed a slightly more rational response.

“Hey, guys… I’m not human, either,” I said, tipping my head up and pushing my hood back. The guards looked at me in confusion for a moment… then recognition reached their faces. “You didn’t ask for my ID.”

One of the three guards went pale and tightened his grip on his sword. I thought for a moment that I’d miscalculated here, and something inside me rejoiced at the prospect of bloodshed. His boss held up a hand to caution him. He relaxed. I pushed the feeling away.

“Just this once,” the lead guard said to Oru. “Make sure you carry your ID with you next time.”

We headed on towards the arena.

“I never carry my ID if I don’t have my backpack,” Oru said quietly. She was shaking all over. “My goblin clothes don’t have any pockets, and my jean pockets are all too small.”

“You could get a lanyard or some kind of clip thing,” Ian said. “Anyway, Mackenzie, are you sure it’s a great idea to threaten armed security guards?”

“That wasn’t a threat,” I said. “I figured they must have got a ‘don’t mess with this Harlot’ memo, with the arbitration pending.”

“You’d think they would clean up their act altogether, at least for a little while,” Ian said.

“They probably would, if it was just one single act,” I said. “I don’t think the university has a Dean of Evil Racism overseeing every single act of dickery… just the dicks at the bottom who know they can get away with this shit because the dicks at the top won’t care. They probably would care, now, but they’ve never paid attention before and they’re only starting to now.”

We let the conversation drop when we got in easy earshot of the door guards, who looked with a mixture of curiosity and confusion at our group, but didn’t say anything. I figured they must have seen at least part of the confrontation with the outer guards.

The arena interior was done up in an old style, with purple velvet and gold-colored trimmings. It had a box office for when they held fighting events and exhibitions, but that wasn’t open now. Instead there were a pair of long tables with posterboard hanging from the front, with the same two basic messages repeated in various ways: “Contribute to the Harvestend Fund” and “Pay What You Can”.

“They’re having a dance to pay for the Harvestend Dance?” I said to Ian. He just shrugged and dropped a pair of silver coins in a middle-aged volunteer’s bucket for us.

“Thank you, and Lord Khersis bless you both,” she said. A wave of pain and vertigo swept over me, and I swayed, grunting. “Oh, is she okay?”

“Coat check?” Ian replied, steadying me. I felt a little bit nauseous. I was really glad that casual blessings weren’t nearly as common among our generation as they had been for the previous ones. It might have said something sad about the state of spirituality or civility or something, but it was pretty darn convenient for me.

Of course… that kind of attitude was probably a pretty decent indicator of my evil nature, but it was true. I couldn’t pretend otherwise.

“Right over there,” the volunteer said, pointing. “Is she going to be alright?”

“She’s fine,” Ian said. He led me over to a counter set into the wall just past the box office.

“Hi there!” the girl behind the counter said. She looked more like a current student. “Check your coats and weapons, guys?”

“Yes, please,” I said.

“You want separate claim tickets?”

I looked at Ian. I was starting to recover and was now sure I wasn’t going to lose anything that remained of my dinner, but I was still leaning on him in a literal sense.

“Better make it one,” he told her. “She’s a little… accident-prone.”

I put the pitchfork on the counter, and Ian helped me out of my big bulky coat.

“That’s a big coat for this early in the year,” the attendant said as Ian handed it to her, then took off his denim jacket and sword belt.

“It’s really cold outside,” I said.

“Really? It wasn’t that bad when we were setting up,” she said, filling out the ticket. She grinned. “Maybe I should hope that somebody forgets to claim their coat so I have something to wear on the way back.”

“Ha, yeah,” Ian said.

“Last name?” she asked.

“Mason,” he said.

“Here you go, honey,” she said, tearing off our ticket and handing it to him. He pocketed it. She threw my coat over her shoulder and picked up his belt and jacket. “You guys have a great night, and don’t lose that.”

“Thanks,” Ian said, and we headed onwards towards the dance proper as she turned to stow our coats and Ian’s weapon, with the pitchfork still sitting on the counter.

“I think I’ll take ‘have a great night’ over ‘bless you’,” I said.

The arena was octagonal, with a sunken floor in the middle and tiered seats on six sides. One side was given over to the entrance area, and the one directly across from it was an empty stage. The overhead lights had been mostly doused. Sound crystals and assorted light orbs were set up around the edge of the pit, which served as the dance floor. We couldn’t see down inside yet, but if the crowd at the entrance and around the edges were any indication, this dance was a lot bigger than the welcome one had been.

We’d just made it to the steps that would take us down to the next tier when the sound of a scuffle behind us cut through the throbbing dance music and crowd noise. I whipped around to see what was happening.

“Looks like there’s something going on by the coat check,” Ian said. He pointed, but as soon as he’d said “coat check” I’d zeroed in on it. There was a cluster of people blocking off view of whatever was happening, but I could hear shrill, angry screaming.

“Oh, shit,” I said. “Is it Oru and Moeli?”

He scanned the crowd near the entrance.

“No,” he said, pointing to the concessions stand. “See? There they are. I guess somebody just flipped their shit over something.”

I felt relieved. I wondered if it was at all racist of me to keep expecting them to get into trouble for being goblinoids… but considering the experience we’d just had outside, it seemed more like I was just being sensible.

“Want to go see what’s going on?” Ian asked.

“Not really. Come on,” I said, tugging on Ian’s arm. “Let’s head downstairs.”

If the fight or whatever didn’t concern us, I didn’t want to make it my concern. I had already decided there would be no pushing of luck tonight.

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17 Responses to “249: Profile Views”

  1. Adam Barnes says:

    Poor Moeli 🙁

    Current score: 0
  2. Jackie says:

    Well looks like someone picked up the pitchfork of inescapable rage.

    Current score: 4
    • C says:

      Make that bottomless rage.

      Current score: 6
    • Mike says:

      I haven’t readthe other story in awhile, but isn’t it Jamie and Iason causing a scene? By which I mean isn’t Iason being an ass over something?

      Current score: 0
      • zeel says:

        More never actually gets this far. It ends right around the same time as the labyrinth arc.

        (Barely a spoiler: You aren’t wrong, but we learn that in the next few chapters here)

        Current score: 0
  3. pedestrian says:

    I think there are some old sayings about:
    “when you pickup a sword, you had better be willing to bleed”
    “when you wield a blade it also cuts the one holding it”

    Current score: 1
    • Reina says:

      “Those who are allowed to shoot are those who are prepared to be shot.”

      Current score: 1
      • zeel says:

        This all sounds derivative of:
        “If you live by the sword, you will die by the sword.”

        Current score: 0
  4. MackSffrs says:

    I was almost thinking for a second that the be damned pitchfork was gaining sentience or something, now I suppose it’s just looking for targets?

    Current score: 0
  5. Erm says:

    “Hey, guys… I’m not human, either,” I said, tipping my head up and pushing my hood back. The guards looked at me in confusion for a moment… then recognition reached their faces. “You didn’t ask for my ID.”

    “Anyway, Mackenzie, are you sure it’s a great idea to threaten armed security guards?”

    Noticed this the first time; am I missing something? While I can see how a trigger-happy campus guard might interpret anything Mack says as a threat, Ian wouldn’t.
    She didn’t light her eyes on fire again, did she?

    Current score: 5
    • Konso says:

      I think Ian was making that logical leap all on his own there. If you can see how keyed up these guards are and can imagine how they might interpret Mack’s statement as a threat, I’m pretty sure Ian can too. He can be pretty quick in sizing up a situation and judging another person’s motivation.

      Current score: 0
    • BlackWizard says:

      This is typical of all those who are in authority that also harbor some sort of prejudice. It wouldn’t have mattered WHAT she said, it would have still seem like some sort of ‘threat’. The best examples of this can be found in our civil rights movements in the 60’s or even before that with the Jim Crow laws. These are just some of the more blatant examples I can think of off the top of my head.

      Current score: 1
  6. Leila says:

    It seems like the pitchfork might actually do a little good for Mack, while it makes it easier for her to get angry, she’s getting more practice controlling that anger. Think she’s been better at controlling her anger with the pitchfork than she ever was without it.

    Current score: 4
  7. maybemonday says:

    Lucky she doesn’t get sick… Casual “Bless you”s for sneezes would make a cold much worse.

    Current score: 3
  8. Anon says:

    I really like how when the pitchfork is infecting her brain, she starts just casually insulting other weapons. Stupid little swords. I mean yeah, highly lethal magic weapons in the hands of trained fighters, but nowhere near as awesome as this pitchfork!

    Also, if it hadn’t gotten to attached to Mackenzie, that fast-acting murder-rage effect could lead to quite the body count before it was destroyed (if possible) or sealed up (if possible). Which… brings up an interesting point about the purpose of the farm in the labyrinth, if the region was set up specifically around the fork and nobody was capable of removing it (except a demonblood). I mean, that sounds an awful lot like a containment procedure.

    It also might lead one, if one were sufficiently paranoid, to wonder at exactly how much damage it expects to do in Mackenzie’s hands, that it would pass up so many opportunities for slaughter just to stay near her.

    Current score: 2
    • zeel says:

      Exactly why Mackenzie was able to remove it, or why it was there, is unclear. I don’t get the impression though that it was intended to be recovered at all. My guess is that either the fork can make choices, and let her remove it on purpose, or whatever compelled people to leave it had no effect on her.

      Current score: 0
  9. fedback says:

    Ok, the pitchfork actuslly scared me this chapter….it as going full Lovecraft….rigth útil the end were it blew bits load toó early

    Current score: 0