OT: All Along The Bell Tower

on February 15, 2013 in Other Tales

“Julia’s been detained,” Eugene said by way of greeting as he approached Samuel.

The half-demon had a pretty good view of a fair portion of the campus from his vantage point near the top of the university’s bell tower, on a balcony that ran all the way around the perimeter of the circular building. The observation deck was open to students, but few took advantage of it even during fair weather. Going all the way up to the top of the tower was the sort of thing that you wanted to do once before you graduated, but why do it any more than that?

The view never changed, after all, despite the rumors to the contrary. The tower had once been a functioning wizard’s tower, and odd things did sometimes happen with the number and arrangement of the stairs, but the grounds below were quite static.

“I did warn her,” Samuel said, turning around to face Eugene. “Is she being charged?”

“The only thing they could really make stick are immorality charges, and to do that would mean admitting that the university has a lesbian problem,” Eugene said. “She’ll probably be held over the weekend and then released. The other protesters have already been cut loose.”

“I’m honestly surprised that the powers that be aren’t choosing to make an example of them,” Samuel said. “After all, there have been riots elsewhere in the imperium.”

“It’s because of the riots that they aren’t going further,” Eugene said. “Technically it’s illegal to promote the idea of women voting, but our local nest was protesting that law, which it’s perfectly legal to complain about, barring a direct edict from the emperor or someone with the appropriate imperial power. To do nothing would encourage them, to do too much would invite an even larger backlash. So they try to send a warning.”

“They’re a gang of idiots if they think a warning will slow that one down,” Samuel said. “Of course, she’s an idiot for not heeding it when she’s given the chance.”

“You’ve spent a long time keeping your head down and hoping not to be noticed,” Eugene said. “But it’s not the only move in the game.”

“Don’t I know it,” Samuel said. “I’m glad I learned how to move around without being seen before I stepped into the spotlight.”

“Have you had much trouble?”

“More annoyance than trouble,” Samuel said. “A lot of idle curiosity, a bit of people who are determined to poke the hornet’s nest to prove their bravery… I’ve had a few invitations to duel, but no out-and-out attacks.”

“That’s something, at least.”

“Was Jennifer with Julia?” Samuel asked.

“Yes, and she’s been released with the others,” Eugene said.

“Good. I’d be sorry to see her get into real trouble,” Samuel said.

“You should be worried about yourself,” Eugene said. “You’ve been safe so far, but you can’t keep ignoring the dueling invitations.”

“Who said I’m ignoring them?” Samuel replied. “I could probably make good money charging young bravos… it would cost extra for me to lose, of course, but even being defeated by a half-demon carries a certain cachet.”

“That would really be asking for trouble. All you’d need is one disgruntled customer… this whole damn campus is a firespout just waiting for an excuse to go off, if you ask me.”

“Yes, well, I didn’t ask you,” Samuel shot back. “Things haven’t gone as well as I’d hoped, but they’ve gone better than they could have. Anyway, it isn’t like the whole student body is up in arms over me…”

“No, but collectively they’re up in arms about just about everything, including you” Eugene said. “But this is what you’re not grasping, man: all of that stuff adds together. It’s not separate. It all gets dumped into the same cauldron and it all simmers over the same fire. If the whole festering concoction boils over or explodes, it doesn’t really matter what provided the final spark, does it?”

“I’m last week’s news,” Samuel said. “You of all people should know that. There are young co-eds getting arrested, there’s those elves who are petitioning for admission…”

“I of all people know that we’re still getting letters about you and our little feature,” Eugene said. “And what’s more, that poetry teacher isn’t going to let the issue die.”

“Oh, yes, her… she’s been addressing her concerns to the administration, who are on my side,” Samuel said. “Or at least, on the side with the path of minimal difficulty, which means complying with the law. For Ariadne to stir the students up against me, she’d have to see us as something more than a brief variation in the scenery in front of her desk.”

“You’ve taken her classes?”

“I audited one, briefly, when I first learned about her background,” Samuel said. “I can’t say it was particularly informative, but it was entertaining.”

“Yeah, well, here’s some information for you: with the administration not budging, the word is that she’s turned to parents and wealthy donors,” Eugene said. “She might not notice individual students much, but she knows when she keeps seeing the same names over and over again.”

“Names like Harlowe?”

“And LaBelle,” Eugene said.

“The LaBelles are terrible enemies to have, I’m sure, but it could be worse,” Samuel said.

“You think so?”

“Oh, yes,” Samuel said. “Imagine having them for friends.”

“Very funny,” Eugene said. “But just you wait and see who has the last laugh.”

“You were a born journalist, Harlowe,” Samuel said. “You think in cliche.”

“Hey, there’s a lot of truth in cliches,” Eugene said. “Take the saying about being the last straw that breaks the camel’s back.”

“No, thank you… you may keep it.”

“It’s not that there’s anything special about that straw,” Eugene said. “If not for the weight of all the other straws that are already there, the camel could take it without a problem. The ‘final staw’ is not the one outrage that is somehow so much worse than all the others so that it demands action, it’s just the one that happens to arrive after all the tolerance for such has been used up.”

“And you think my admitted presence is that final straw? I very much doubt it,” Samuel said. “If the mob was going to be coming for me with pitchforks and torches, they would have come by now.”

“That’s just it,” Eugene said. “I don’t think you’re the final straw, I think you’re just one more load of hay waiting on an already overburdened camel. Something else is going to come along, maybe something that seems small and innocuous at the time, and that’s going to be the last straw the camel can take. What it is exactly isn’t going to matter, the whole beast is still going to fall and all the things stacked on its back will come crashing down.”

“You paint a vivid picture,” Samuel said. “But just because the figure of speech plays out one way, that doesn’t mean reality will conform to it. I think it’s more likely that all of these other troubles that are threatening to boil over, to use your earlier imagery, will simply distract people from the splash our little announcement made. After all, the question of women’s suffrage or elven scholarship has nothing to do with me.”

“It doesn’t have to,” Eugene said. “Not when you’ve got crackpots lining up willing and eager to blame you for the sins of the world. A ‘devil’ attends our fair school at just the moment that ladies begin wearing swords on their hips and marching for the privilege to vote? That can’t be a coincidence.”

“But you know it is.”

“Right, and you want me to pitch a story that says ‘Magisterius Half-Demon Claims Suffragists Have Nothing To Do With Him’?” Eugene said. “The idea won’t occur to sensible people, but once it’s been put out there by anyone else, it’ll be a bit harder to shake. Because let’s face it, even a person of ordinary levels of sensibleness has no trouble believing that a university should be restricted for humans only, or that the franchise of citizenship should be reserved for men only, or that our blessed Imperial Republic should be more imperium and less republic.”

“Those are dangerously bold words, even for so secluded a spot,” Samuel said.

“Technically we aren’t secluded, we’re right out in the open,” Eugene said. “It just happens to be a very private open. And anyway, isn’t that why we’re meeting here? So we can say what we like?”

“So I assumed.”

“What do you mean, assumed?” Eugene said. “You’re the one who picked it.”

“What do you mean?” Samuel said, his hand going to the hilt of his sword. “It was your idea to…”

The rest of the sentence died in his throat as three metal prongs suddenly sprung from Eugene Harlowe’s chest. Samuel’s hand flew to his sword’s hilt with a quickness, but he was not quick enough to stop a quick flick of the pitchfork that had impaled his friend from launching his body over the railing.

“Hello again,” the man holding the implement said. “I’m afraid we’re going to have to talk fast.”

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44 Responses to “OT: All Along The Bell Tower”

  1. 'Nym-o-maniac says:

    The… pitchfork.

    Oh fuck, not only did Harlowe almost certainly just get killed… by a demon… when he was meeting alone with a half-demon friend… but if that’s the Pitchfork with the demon fragment… which it almost certainly is… on a campus where a single raging person could be enough to spark riots… fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuuuucccckkkk.

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  2. Ben L says:

    Well, now we have a pretty good idea how 50 people are going to die…

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  3. zeel says:

    Is that, THE pitchfork? How could it have gotten into the labyrinth? Interesting. . .

    I’m just going to guess that it is a pitchfork, but the THE pitchfork.

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  4. erratio says:

    okay wild guess time: the demon fragment in the pitchfork is actually part of The Man, which he placed there to have a foothold on the campus.

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    • Brenda says:

      That was my thought, too.

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    • 'Nym-o-maniac says:

      … ooh… interesting theory… now I’m torn. On the one hand, it’d make some sense, but on the other hand, I’d expect it to have been more careful with Mack’s body? Though if it’s only a fragment of a demon that can’t exist on its own, maybe it just doesn’t have enough of The Man’s personality in it to do anything much, hence why it craves its own existence? Oh, but then that might explain why Mack could have taken it, if it was meant to be removable only by someone whose infernal energy signature matched the Man’s… damn, you just might be right.

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  5. Caelleen says:

    Oh my, that was short and to the point.

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    • Sapphite says:

      *crash of cymbals*

      That completely caught me by surprise – wow!

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  6. Zathras IX says:

    Even half-demons
    Think the LaBelles terrible
    Enemies to have

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    • Stonefoot says:

      “… it could be worse,” Samuel said.

      “Imagine having them for friends.”


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      • tomclark says:

        That almost sounds like something Statler and Waldorf would say. 😀

        “It could be worse!”
        “Oh? How?”
        “Imagine having them for friends! Doh ho ho!”

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        • Brenda says:

          Judging from the number of Muppet GIFs posted on AE’s tumblr, I think you’ve nailed it…

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    • Anne says:

      If friendly they be
      ‘Tis worse yet than enmity
      Strange people they be…

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  7. Anne says:

    The MAN past the wards or passed the wards OH MY!

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    • Stonefoot says:

      The Man is on campus. (ninja’d by Anne)

      This brought some interesting things to mind once I started to think about it. First, the attack the first year was intended to start a demon hunt on campus, which it didn’t, but The Man operates on multiple levels. The fact that the body was thrown over the wall would have put the thought into people’s heads that the attacker could not get onto campus (which we know was false at that time). Second, when Sir Cyrus’ body was nailed to the outside of the door, in a process that would have been difficult and painful for The Man to do, that was taken (seemingly by everyone) as proof that he could not enter the campus because of the new, stronger wards. That could be the reason he did it: To cover up the fact that he had a way to get around the wards the whole time.

      The idea that the pitchfork could be involved is intriguing. Which naturally brings the labyrinth to mind. Geometry inside the labyrinth is very much not normal, so just maybe there’s a part of it that connects outside the University, which The Man knows about but the university doesn’t.

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      • pedestrian says:

        Stonefoot, congratulations.

        Your conjecture about the topology of the Labyrinth and the possibilities it affords to influence events, is a hypothesis that I have never before considered.

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      • JS says:

        Wasn’t the campus re-established in a different area after being razed to the ground though? There may not even be a labyrinth yet.

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        • Sejemaset says:

          Actually it was rebuilt on the same grounds. Also I think it may have been mentioned that the Labyrinth was one of the only things to survive the campus being razed.

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  8. Readaholic says:

    Oh. My. Goodness.

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  9. Dashel says:

    Hey, was the labyrinth built before the school, operating on the old school grounds,and just transfer-ed to the new ones, or were the new ones just built over the old one or did the admins somehow migrate the labyrinth to the new ones?

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    • 'Nym-o-maniac says:

      IIRC, it was mentioned somewhere that it was built before the school. I think that they built the new school grounds over the old ones.

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  10. Karr says:

    If the pitch fork does indeed contain a fragment of The Man, I wonder if it’s a specific fragment… like the piece that obeys the Khersian curse and wants to eat Mack… or maybe he’s really just strong willed enough to resist a Muniverse deity.

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    • Ducky says:

      If Callahan can kill a god, and a demon and a dragon can battle to the death, I have no doubt that there is a demon that does battle with a god.

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  11. Volfric says:

    Perhaps, the wards are dome shaped- not extending to the full height of the tower

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    • Lunaroki says:

      Perhaps, or maybe they’re cylindrical, with a maximum upper reach that a sufficiently strong demon can get over. If the wards are designed to keep things from getting in from the ground they would do little to stop something from getting in from the air.

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  12. superflea says:

    My guess is that the wards don’t extend to the very top of the bell tower. Giving aa small loophole he could exploit with teleportation

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    • Stonefoot says:

      (replying to Volfric, as well) I wondered about the top of the tower being high enough to be outside the wards, but it seems like it would be pretty stupid to allow people to go to the top of the tower if that’s the case. On the other hand… ‘University Administration’, so maybe they thought it was wiser not to draw attention to the tower, or just really didn’t think it through at all.

      Or just ‘levels of management’ and multi-step communication, so:
      – The wizards design a system of wards that goes well above the tower, but it’s expensive to implement.
      – The Uni asks if there isn’t some way to cut the cost a little.
      – The wizards propose wards that go “almost to the top of the tower” (and cost half as much).
      – Their liaison reports this as “approximately to the top of the tower”.
      – Uni staff report this as “to the top of the tower”.
      – Admin reads this as “we’re protected” and replies “do it”.
      – Eugene dies.

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    • Mad Nige says:

      The clue that the wards don’t cover the top of the tower is that neither Eugene nor Samuel chose the meeting location, so presumably it was The Man, with the knowledge of an access point

      and, to Caelleen:
      surely it was short and to the points

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  13. Mike says:

    First off, wow. Just wow. Second, I think the name of this story line should be “Tying up plot threads.”

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  14. Month says:


    So now we know how he got in her mind. The Pitchfork was his. In it might be a part of him, or an entity that is bonded to him (that is why Mac can use it; same blood).

    How did Herbert say it in Dune? A feint, within a feint, within a feint.

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    • Brenda says:

      Interesting thought, that the connection with the Man might be part of why Mack reacted that way to the Pitchfork.

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  15. Ken says:

    This is a brilliant way to get rid of the half demon and generate some cover for easy kills.

    The dead body of the guy who outed the half demon in the middle of campus the obvious blame is on Samuel. If there was any tracking on the tower it would show who was waiting at the top.

    It also generates enough chaos that it should be easy to grab a snack or two without raising suspicion.

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  16. Khazidhea says:

    Just wondering, with the half demons so far in the story, or referred to in the story, have they all been half human?

    “No, but collectively they’re up in arms about just about everything, including you”
    The first ‘about’ could be ‘over’ instead, just not sure if it should be though. Even if it should be it doesn’t mean that Eugene would’ve said it that way.

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  17. Oni says:

    Hmmm…. I know that Samuel feeds on the laughter of children, but will that completely mitigate the fact that there is now a copious source of human blood next to him? It would seem to me, from previous chapters, that while those of demonic-blood have a “necessary” food source, any part of a human is pretty damn irresistible when waved right under them. Samuel might not even get a chance to explain the misunderstanding before he is brutally, brutally murdered.

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    • 'Nym-o-maniac says:

      Eugene(‘s body) was thrown off the tower; there’s no source of human blood next to him anymore.

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  18. Ermarian says:


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  19. Ermarian says:

    Incidentally; so far I’ve been speculating that Eugene Harlowe would somehow go on to become a wealthy alum and fund the dormitory named after him.

    Since he’s dead now, someone likely set it up in his memory. Samuel? Doubt he’s going to live much longer. Maybe one or more of the girls?

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    • JS says:

      If his body is reasonably intact and his estate is sufficiently wealthy, being dead does not necessarily mean staying dead.

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      • Ermarian says:

        I was guessing that being flung off a tower puts an end to the “reasonably intact” thing. But who knows; the only confirmed permanent deaths we’ve so far encountered were the result of being eaten.

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  20. Don says:

    Maybe he’s not dead; people survive pretty extreme things in the MUniverse if they get proper care. But I’d just assume it’s family money.

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  21. Ace says:

    So I’m catching up on past chapters, and I am all kinds of upset right now. You just don’t even. In my mind, tables are being flipped, cities are burning to the ground, catfights are erupting in convents…

    It’s not pretty at all.

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  22. Computer Mad Scientist says:

    Honestly, when we found out that the meeting hadn’t been arranged by either of the young men attending I’d thought the trap was going to be Ariadne framing Samuel, not Pitchy/The Man/both

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  23. Lara says:

    Aaaaaaaaaaaah D:

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