186: Standing Up

on March 28, 2008 in 07: Pitched Battles

In Which Hazel Is Given Notice

“You must have been very bad, because that sounded like a very big punishment,” Two said, with all the seriousness and solemnity she had within her.

“Well, I’ll bet it was a nice welcome back for Mack, anyway,” Steff said with a smirk, and Amaranth surprised me by blushing a little along with me. I stared. What was she blushing about? Steff giggled. “Oops,” she said. “I guess you’re busted, Amy… or more busted, anyway.”

“Ooh… okay,” Amaranth said, growing a little flustered. “I did want to give you something special for your first spanking out of the healing center… but it was still a serious punishment,” she said, putting on her stern face. “You’re never going to have a meaningful discussion of religion if you begin by calling somebody’s god out of their proper name.”

“But I don’t think of it like that,” I said.

“Well, you’re going to have to try to,” Amaranth said. “If you don’t think you can be respectful, stay away from the topic. That’s the rule.”

“Yes, ma’am,” I said.

“Now, finish your story, baby.”

Standing, I did so. I felt a bit like I was giving a presentation in front of a class, which had the twin effects of lending a matter-of-fact focus to my recitation and sharpening the burning humiliation I already felt.

The change in posture changed the context, from talking with my closest friends to speaking in public… in front of a public that had just overheard my rather severe spanking. I felt myself getting worked up again before I was through.

“I can’t believe she asked you to leave the delvers out of it,” Amaranth said.

“She seemed conflicted about a lot of it,” I said. “I got the feeling she was a little out of her depths.”

Amaranth nodded.

“Probably,” she said. “Actual decision-making usually devolves to the vice-chancellor. The chancellor’s job is more about appearances. You probably got her because the administration wanted to put its best face forward.”

“Why would she try to settle it herself, then?” I asked.

“Well, this is supposed to be her last year,” Amaranth said. “Maybe she’s thinking about her legacy, or maybe she wants to make a difference and figures she’s got nothing to lose. I don’t know.”

“And so, what… they expect you to trust some committee appointed by the school to settle this fairly?” Ian asked.

“Yeah, that seems like a bad idea for everybody but them,” Steff said.

“The arbcom is actually independent of the school administration and is theoretically unbiased,” Amaranth said. “Anyway, the arbitration agreement is really only binding for stuff like academic matters like grade disputes. Provincial law says you’re entitled to have the matter heard by a tribunal in cases of things like intentional torts, if you choose to do so. I hope they remembered to inform you of that.”

“Yeah, they mentioned something about that,” I said. “I don’t really know what the advantages or disadvantages would be either way, but I’ve got to notify them like thirty days in advance or something if I want to take it to court.”

“Thirty days?” Ian asked. “How long exactly is this going to take?”

“Longer than thirty days, I guess,” I said.

“Realistically, these things can take years to resolve,” Amaranth said. “Though the arbitration will probably go faster than the other way.”

“The wheels of justice grind slowly, but they grind exceedingly… slowly,” Steff said. “Though I wouldn’t be at all surprised if the university jumped at a chance to settle.”

“Why would they do that?” I asked. “I don’t think they’re in the business of handing out money.”

“Because in this case, there’s no such thing as good publicity,” Steff said. “If they fight tooth and nail against you, they get a black eye for non-human relations. If they don’t, they get one for coddling a half-demon… hell, any which way it goes, there’s going to be the words ‘MU’ and ‘half-demon’ sharing headlines. Even if they win, they’ll lose.”

She had a point.

“What do you think?” I asked Amaranth.

“I think we need to get you a lawyer,” Amaranth said, frowning and biting her lip. “With your case, I don’t think there’d be any problem getting someone to work on contingency… and I’m sure he or she would know how to sound the university’s legal department out on a settlement, and whether it’d be better to take it to court or stick with arbitration.”

“That’s fine, unless the lawyers all have the same problem the university does,” Ian said.

“What do you mean?” I asked.

“They don’t want to be associated with a half-demon,” Ian said.

That was a sobering thought. It was the human perspective, of course, and one none of my other friends were likely to have.

“It’s money,” Steff said, waving her hand dismissively. “No lawyer’s going to turn that down. This is an open-and-shut case. If there was any doubt who was at fault, they wouldn’t have offered to replace Mack’s knife and stuff. They know they fucked up and are trying to play nice in hopes that it’ll make things quick and painless. Anyway, not all lawyers are human. A lot of oathspeakers are also licensed for human law.”

“This is all just speculation,” Amaranth said. “I think we need to start looking for representation, first thing tomorrow.”

“Okay,” I said. I wasn’t really looking forward to it. This was all getting so involved. If I was the wronged party, it seemed unfair that I’d have to work so hard get redress… but of course, that was the way it was.

“I could ask my dad for a local referral or something,” Ian said.

“Your dad’s a lawyer?” Steff asked.

“No, he’s a pyromancer,” Ian said. “Half his address book is lawyers and claims adjusters.”

“That should be very helpful, Ian, thank you,” Amaranth said.

I sighed.

“I really feel like I don’t have time for this, you know?” I said. “I’ve got classes and stuff… which I’m now behind in… and if by some miracle I win the election tonight… where am I supposed to fit a lawsuit in?”

“That’s why we get a lawyer, baby,” Amaranth said. “The university’s got a fulltime staff of people paid to represent their interests. You can’t compete with that on your own.”

“Anyway, I hate to say it… but a speedy settlement’s probably better for you, too,” Ian said.

That seemed obvious… I mean, getting whatever money or concessions would come out of it sooner rather than later had to be a good thing. The way he said it, though…

“Why exactly do you hate to say it?” I asked.

“Well, because you’re just as vulnerable to bad publicity as the school,” Ian said. “Do you really want your personal life, and all the shit you’ve been getting into since you came here, being dredged up and put in the papers?”

I gaped at him.

“You’re making it sound like this is national news or something,” I said.

He shrugged.

“It could be,” he said. “News is whatever people find interesting, and that’s mostly sex and violence, right? It gets even juicier when you throw in the racial angle… especially considering that a lot of people aren’t even aware that half-demons have human rights.”

“Some people, maybe, but I don’t know if I’d say ‘a lot’,” Amaranth said.

“Trust me on this one,” Ian said.

“Yeah, um, I actually think he’s right about that,” I said. Back home, everybody had been painfully aware of my pesky rights to things like going to school and continuing to draw breath. Coming to the university and running into people who wondered aloud why I hadn’t been “destroyed” had been a bit of a rude awakening. Even within Harlowe, I’d overheard human-raised students referring to me as “it”. “Anyway, I’d guess if we settled, they’d be able to keep the details private, and they’d probably go for that, since the full story doesn’t make their staff or delving program look great. You know, we should probably keep all this to ourselves… if the story gets out anyway, that could take away some of the motivation to settle.”

“You’ll probably want to be more careful about discussing it in front of other people, then,” Hazel said, seeming to suddenly be right beside me.

“Hi, Hazel!” Two said.

“Hi yourself, Two!” Hazel replied cheerily.

“How long were you standing there?” I asked.

“About a minute,” Steff said with a smug grin, at the same time that Hazel said “About five minutes.”

“Uh, would you like a seat?” Ian asked, starting to rise.

“Such a gent,” Hazel said. She sat down cross-legged on the floor. “No thank you, though. I don’t fancy a scramble up. Why not offer it to your lady-friend?”

“She’d prefer to stand, for the moment,” Amaranth said. “Anyway, I’m so sorry, Hazel. We didn’t mean to ignore you…”

“It’s fine,” Hazel said. “Some days, I just feel invisible… Andy goes to the loo and forgets I’m in the room when he comes back. Anyway, I just wanted to see how Mack was doing, and let you know that I supported you even if I couldn’t make it to the rally.”

“Thanks,” I said.

“Is it true that whatserface with the cape threw off her clothes and danced around naked?” Hazel asked.

“Only if she was dancing very slowly,” Steff said.

“But the rest?” Hazel asked, goggling. She shook her head. “I can’t begin to picture it. She seems like such a prude… I always want to go up to her and tell her, ‘Don’t be afraid to show some ankle, girl! Join the third century!'”

I smiled. Discounting Dee’s all-enveloping cloak, Hazel and Honey were by far and away the most conservatively dressed denizens of the fifth floor.

“You know, you might want to talk to Honey if you’re going before the bar,” Hazel added. “She might be able to give you some advice on proper conduct and such, to whatever extent things are similar for gnomes and humans.”

“So, who’s this ‘Andy’?” Steff asked.

“Hazel’s boyfriend,” Two said. I hadn’t noticed any gnomish men around Harlowe… though that was hardly conclusive.

“Big bloke, with a beard,” Hazel said. “You lot wouldn’t know him, though… he’s not from Harlowe.”

I immediately had an image in my head of Hazel with a human guy… as in, with a human guy. It was painful to contemplate.

“Hey!” Hazel said, scowling up at me. “I don’t go around pulling faces about who you choose to date… any of ’em.”

“Sorry,” I said, ducking my head. I guess my expression must have been pretty transparent. “It was just… sorry.”

“Besides, all the shire lads that go here are dull as paint,” Hazel said.

“There’s gnome boys here?” I asked.

“Yeah, we’ve got three of them over on our side,” Steff said.

“Five,” Hazel corrected.

“I’ve never noticed any of them,” I said.

“What’s to notice?” Hazel said. “Dull. Every single one of them is taking agronomy or something like that, and they think Honey and me are only here for our MRSes… especially when they find out I’m a domestic arts major.” She rolled her eyes. “Couldn’t imagine I’d have any plans bigger than running a household, with a degree like that.”

“What are your plans?” I asked.

“I want to open an inn,” she said. “Empire’s planning a road that will run right past Logfallen… or possibly through the middle of it… and if I can get the coin to buy a slice of hillside that runs alongside it, I want to dig out a burrow with human-sized halls and rooms.”

“Won’t somebody else beat you to it while you’re busy here?” Ian asked.

Hazel shook her head.

“Nobody else in the shire has the vision to see past the end of their nose. Anyway, the road’s at least five years off,” she said. “That’s what the signboard they posted says. Four years to get my learning, a year to secure financing and get approval from the Lord Mayor… that’ll be the hard part… and then I’m in business.”

“Is Honey going to go in on this with you?” Amaranth asked.

“Oh, it’d be a good deal easier if she would, but Honey doesn’t have any plans beyond marrying somebody suitably respectable,” Hazel said. “She’ll probably just hang her degree on the wall, and cover it up with a nice sampler or a picture of her husband.”

“Why’d she even come here, then?” I asked.

“Well, that’s kind of a long story,” Hazel said. “And not one I feel I should be telling out of school… or in school, as the case may be.”

“Aren’t you worried that the human traffic might go past your inn without seeing it?” Amaranth asked.

“I’ll put up a sign,” Hazel said.

Amaranth pulled at her lower lip, but said nothing. I shared her concern, but didn’t want to burst Hazel’s bubble.

“Maybe one that lights up,” I suggested.

“A big one,” Steff added.

“That’s a good idea,” Hazel said. “Of course, I don’t think the Mayor’s office would ever go for it… that’s just the sort of thing that has folks up in arms over this road in the first place.”

“Well, you have five years to work on it, anyway,” Amaranth said.

“I suppose,” Hazel said.

“Anyway,” Amaranth said, getting to her feet, “I think some of us have classes to get to, and I’m sure my Mack would love to get a shower and change into her own clothes.”

“Yes, thank you,” I said. “I’d really like a long, hot bath, but that’s just not possible while I’m… well…”

“What?” Hazel asked. “Unless your inside bits are a lot different from mine, there’s no reason you can’t take a bath during your time.”

I spent a moment wondering if it had been that obvious what I was talking about, but of course, Two could very easily have said something in front of her.

“Doesn’t the water get gross?” I asked.

Hazel shook her head.

“You can put in a tampon if you’re fussed, but you shouldn’t even bleed enough to notice with all the water around you,” she said. “I mean, it doesn’t exactly squirt out of you like a faucet, does it?” My cheeks flushed, and Hazel laughed. “She’s a delicate one, isn’t she? Thinks she’s the only woman with the curse, I guess.”

“No,” I muttered. “I just… you don’t talk about this kind of thing.”

“Sure I do,” Hazel said. “My mum made sure I knew all about it long before my twentieth. She told me there used to be a rubbish saying in the shire that you should never swim on your period, but over time it got garbled and became ‘you never swim, period.’ and that’s why so many folks stayed away from the river.”

She gave a little laugh that sort of trailed off. I guess she realized it wasn’t that funny.

“Your mother sounds like a wonderful person,” Amaranth said.

“She was amazing,” Hazel said. “Er, if you’ll excuse me, I should go look in on my cousin. She was having a problem with her homework.”

“Bye, Hazel!” Two said.

“Bye, Two.”

Amaranth was giving me a look.

“Oh… um, thanks, Hazel,” I said. “For your support, and checking in on me.”

“No problem,” Hazel said. “I just wish I’d been there. How are things ever supposed to change if we refuse to stand up and be noticed?”

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7 Responses to “186: Standing Up”

  1. pedestrian says:

    Sounds like Hazel should be in charge of teaching Our Mack the finer points of feminine hygiene.

    I always thought that infantile-men who get grossed out by female natural functions, should take a closer look in the mirror at their own emissions.

    It seems common sense to me, that everyone of high school age, should be trained in all first aid procedures including the messy ones such a child birth. By definition an emergency can happen to any of us at anytime.

    Current score: 2
    • BlackWizard says:

      Men DO take a closer look at their own emissions and we ARE grossed out by that! We just make jokes about it.

      I actually agree with having first aid taught as an elective in high school, but I am seriously glad that ‘child birth’ is not the kind of emergency I would have likely ran into in high school. :p

      Current score: 3
    • Athena says:

      I’m with BlackWizard on the ‘elective’ bit. Perhaps compulsory class on caution around an accident scene and such, but…

      In year 10 (second year of high school) I was the *only* person in my entire class who managed to so much as open a cow eyeball (nevermind the rest of the dissection) without screeching, yelling or many very vocal “ew”s. And not only was I female, having been put up a year I was the youngest too.

      Personally, my high school *did* offer free first aid training and I did choose to take it. Part of it, as a bit of preparation for the real deal, right at the end, was a slideshow of actual accident/emergency injuries. Not generally even on the scene, bear in mind, but almost exclusively in the hospitals *after* they’d been cleaned up some, so a fairly padded preparation at that. A few of those images made even me feel a touch green, and I had just about the best reaction of those who willingly chose to do the first aid course, too.

      So much as “first aid for everyone” sounds really good, realistically there’s not a whole lot of point. Too many people can’t stomach the realities of emergency injury situations, most people willing to actually step up and help are also the kind of people who are willing to choose to take a first aid course so they can anyway, and it means that having the qualification of having done a first aid course means something. If everyone *has* to, it gives no indication of, for example, if that given person actually ever paid attention to anything in said course, or remembered it for more than three seconds.

      As for child birth, I would remind you that first aid *just* means “Deal with the immediate problems until help gets there”, and childbirth generally takes long enough for help to get there. What to do before that basically amounts to “Get them in as comfortable a position as possible with something to soak up all that fluid and blood that just starting pouring out a moment ago”, which is fairly common sense. Anyone able to keep their head at all should be able to manage that. Beyond that, there aren’t any serious complications to worry about (like there would be for potential spinal injury that first aiders are thus taught to be careful of) that aren’t beyond the capacity of first aid training to handle anyway. So basically, there’s actually a reason they don’t really cover childbirth even if you choose to take a first aid course… there’d really be no reason to cover it in a compulsory one 😛

      Current score: 0
  2. tordirycgoyust says:

    I am reminded of the maxim that, in medicine, the only thing not completely disgusting is taking pills.

    Current score: 0
    • Duke says:

      Dunno about that, suppositories are still administered, and most caplets taste like shit.

      Current score: 4
  3. kekekekeke says:

    Why would lawyers not want to be associated with half-demons? A fair bit probably sold their souls to full demons.

    Also I guess regardless of what universe setting youre in, lawyers and taxes are inevitable.

    Current score: 1
    • Anon says:

      The trick is managing to find that happy margin between the lawyers whose delicate sensibilities would be upset by a demonblood, and the lawyers who would upset the delicate sensibilities of our demonblood. Anybody who’d sold their soul, defended murderers, or even worked with slavers would likely be right out, but so would a large fraction of those who would never consider such things.

      Current score: 1