Bonus Story: Old Pain

on February 10, 2008 in Other Tales

Note: This story takes place the “previous Friday”, in current MU time… after Mackenzie’s last elven history class ends in chaos

There were about a dozen individuals for whom the locked door to the chancellor’s office would open from the outside, and Chancellor Bethany Davies had thought she knew all of them.

She was always taken by surprise when one of them used their privilege, but she was even more shocked to look up and see not one of the trustees or other high officials, but the tall, ethereally beautiful elven history professor gliding like a storm front across the plush carpeted form.

“Chancellor,” the elven woman said. “I have a serious problem.”

“I’m sorry, Professor… Ariadne,” Davies said. The name came to her about half a second too late. She knew most of the professors by sight or name, though not always both… but there were only a half dozen elven purebloods among the faculty, and no teacher of any breeding who could match Ariadne Einhorn in length of service. “Is this something your department head could help you with? Or the Vice-Chancellor?”

“I have spoken with my department head and I have spoken with Dean Halverson,” Professor Ariadne said, her voice a dangerous purr that seemed to surround the chancellor. “I see no reason to concern myself with a Vice-Chancellor when the Chancellor herself is available.”

“Really, Vice-Chancellor Embries has more to do with the day-to-day affairs of…”

“This is no ‘day-to-day affair’,” Ariadne said. “That abomination you placed in my class incited a walk-out.”

The chancellor carefully folded her fingers on the marble-topped desk in front of her, and put on a placid smile.

What she really wanted was to ask the elven professor what the fucking hell she was talking about, but sadly enough, that wasn’t how chancellors were expected to behave.

One of these days, she thought, this will stop feeling like a role I’m playing and maybe I’ll start feeling like an actual head of a major university.

“I think you overestimate my level of involvement in filling out the rosters for each section,” she said aloud. She gestured to the high-backed leather chair across from her. “Please, sit down and start at the beginning.”

“I prefer to remain standing,” Ariadne said. “I’m referring to the Mackenzie child, this… Ms. Blaise… as she calls herself.”

The name clicked in the chancellor’s head. She’d been hearing that name quite a bit in the past few days. Edmund Embries–the vice-chancellor–possessed the actual executive power, but he made sure the ceremonial head of the university was apprised of important situations and ready to look knowledgeable should they be mentioned in her presence.

“The half-demon,” Davies said, nodding knowingly. “Yes. I rather thought that was who you were talking about.”

“Then why in the world didn’t you say so?”

“Without your roster in front of me, I couldn’t be sure,” Davies said. “A walk-out, you say? Was this something political?”

“It was something diabolical,” Ariadne said.

“What precisely did Miss Mackenzie do?”

Ariadne stared at her, unblinking, for several seconds before she answered.

“Does that actually matter?” she asked.

“Given that you’ve apparently come to me to complain about her behavior, I would say so,” Davies said.

“There’s no need to be flippant, young lady,” Ariadne said. “As it happens, she convinced a good deal of the class to get up and leave. I so completely lost my composure that I had no choice but to cancel my classes for the rest of the day.”

“How, exactly, did she do that?”

“I hardly see how that comes to bear,” Ariadne said. “When your predecessor, Chancellor Havilland, extended an invitation to me…”

“My predecessor was Graham Rodrigues,” Davies said. “Havilland was long before my time.”

“You will kindly note that I did not say immediate predecessor,” Professor Ariadne said, her jaw rigidly clenched. Her words still spilled forth with the same silky smoothness. “When Chancellor Havilland extended an invitation to me, he assured me I would not have to entertain hellspawn in my classroom.”

“That would have to have been over a hundred and fifty years ago,” Davies said. “In the mean time, the campus has moved and the entire college has been rebuilt twice.”

“And in that time, the late chancellor’s promise to me has been honored,” Ariadne said. “Why should this year be any different?”

“Because this year, a half-demon signed up for your class,” Davies said. “I’m very sorry, professor, but I don’t believe anybody has actually been aware of your agreement with Chancellor Havilland for quite some time now. Moreover, we couldn’t legally honor it. Discrimination on the basis of race is one of the big ones, you know. Well, of course you know… it was your ancestors–contemporaries, I mean–who fought most of the early battles there.”

“I can assure you I did not fight for demons,” Ariadne said. “They deserve no rights, and are accorded none.”

“But humans are,” Davies said. “The Dread Tribunal says the human half is entitled to life and liberty unless the demon half does something to forfeit that right.”

“Unless? My dear chancellor, I think you mean until,” Professor Ariadne said. “In the time your university has been in operation, how many students with demonbloods have attended?”

“With appreciable demonic ancestry, that we know of?” Davies said. “Two half-demons and three quarter-demons.”

“And how many of those creatures were eventually destroyed for various crimes?” Ariadne asked.

“Both of the half-demons and two of the quarters,” Davies said. “Though all but one of them graduated first.”

“And the one who did not graduate was responsible for razing the campus once,” Ariadne said.

“My understanding is that the popular account exaggerated his part in the destruction,” Davies said.

“You weren’t there,” Ariadne said. “I watched that thing leading the charge… it was right in the middle of the destruction.”

Davies sighed. She looked around, just to make sure that there were neither reporters nor lawyers lurking in a corner of her admittedly dim office, and made sure that the door was closed.

“Let me level with you, Ariadne… nobody likes having a half-demon on campus,” she said. “I don’t have anything against her personally, and it’s possible that she’s not especially dangerous, but she will make people nervous and if the day ever comes that she goes on a rampage, the media will be going over her past with a divining rod and that means the university’s name will be tied to her.”

“So expel her,” Ariadne said.

“The link would still be there,” Davies said. “And in any event, my hands are tied. Now, if you’d like, we could have Dean Halverson or her advisor talk to her about…”

“Just how long have you been chancellor here, exactly?” Ariadne asked.

“Twenty-three years this autumn,” Davies said.

“The previous chancellors with which I’ve had to deal all had a much firmer grip on things,” the professor said. “You’d better tighten up if you expect to be chancellor for another twenty-three years.”

“Actually, I’m hoping to retire next year,” the chancellor said. “But, really, we do have dispute resolution procedures in place for dealing with…”

“Are you married, Chancellor?” Ariadne asked. “Have you ever been married?”

“Well, no, but I hardly see…”

“Imagine that you had been married once, to a wonderful man… the proverbial love of your life,” Ariadne said. She put her hand on the back of the empty leather chair and pulled it back a bit. “Imagine you came into work every day, and seated in this chair right across from you was the thing that had killed him. Gazing insolently at you. Disrupting your work in every way imaginable. Refusing to let you forget she was there and resisting your every attempt to convince her peacefully to leave.”

“I can see how that would upset you,” Davies said. It was one of the stock phrases her mind kept ready at all times. All too often people would come to her with complaints that she could not act upon, things for which there was no actual remedy. “But, we cannot hold this one student personally responsible for your tragedy.”

“I was promised there would be no hellspawn in my class,” Ariadne said. “Does that word mean nothing to you?”

“If she walked out, perhaps the situation will resolve itself?” Davies suggested.

Ariadne shook her head.

“No,” she said. “There is no chance of that, I’m afraid. The wretched girl made that quite clear. She does not care what I do, she will haunt and harass me until the semester’s end.”

“Now, ‘harass’ is rather a serious word to throw about,” Davies said.

“No more serious than the situation warrants,” Ariadne said.

“What I meant was, it carries legal consequences,” Davies explained.

“I should hope that this harassment will bring consequences,” Ariadne said. “Legal or not… I’ve yet to be particularly impressed by the laws of this Imperial Republic, though I suppose allowances must be made for its youth.”

“Yes, well, let me tell you what I will do for you, Professor,” Davies said. “If you will please refrain from commenting on this in public… especially when it comes to making disparaging statements about those with demon blood in general or Mackenzie in particular and using words like ‘harassment’… then I will see what I can do about moving her to a different class.”

“In other words, I must forfeit my right to speech in exchange for a phantasmal possibility of succor,” Ariadne said.

“If this does not work, I will personally speak to her advisor and we can begin working on the next course of action,” Davies said.

“Which would be?”

“We’ll cross that bridge when we get to it,” Davies said.

“I am not mollified, Chancellor,” Ariadne said. “If that monster is in my class on Monday, then we will see if your chancellorship can last another year. I’ve been with the university for quite some time, you know. I have contacts. I have pull.”

Most importantly, Davies knew, she had tenure coming out her androgynous ass. That thought brought something else to her mind.

“You also have quite a lot of leave time accumulated, I’d imagine,” Davies said.

“Given that I’ve been with this university since its founding and am not susceptible to mortal complaints, that’s a fair assumption,” Ariadne said.

“Why don’t you consider using some of it?” Davies said. “You could probably use a bit of a respite, after your ordeal. I’m sure somebody could be found to cover your classes.”

“I do not teach from notes or a textbook,” Ariadne said. “No book written can compare to the living memory of an elf.”

“Of course not,” Davies said. “But for a couple weeks, I’m sure a book would suffice, and if you wished for a longer rest, we could find a more suitable replacement.”

“This is your response?” Ariadne asked. “I come to you with a problem and you propose to get rid of me in lieu of solving it?”

“I’m not getting rid of anybody,” Davies said. “I’m merely suggesting you take some of the leave you’re entitled to.”

“While I have never taken a leave before, I’m certain that some sort of notice must precede it,” Ariadne said.

“Ordinarily,” Davies said, nodding. “But, as you say, you have been with the university for quite some time. We can make exceptions.”

“For this, you can,” Ariadne said. “But you won’t expel a demon.”

“Forgive me for being glib, but I don’t think you would sue the university for expediting your leave,” Davies said.

“I will consider it,” Ariadne said. “But I will not be fooled… I will teach my class on Monday, and I do not want to see this devil child.”

“That’s fine, but if she is…”

“Then you intend to do nothing this weekend,” Ariadne said.

“I will do what I can,” Davies said. “But if she is, please simply make it through the class as best you can, and then begin your leave of absence the next day. I promise you we will have a resolution when you come back.”

Damn, the chancellor thought. I promised something. It was an awful habit for a chancellor to have, and twenty-three years in the post had failed to break her of it.

“I intend to hold you to that promise,” Ariadne said. “I do have a very large amount of leave time coming, and I can promise you I shall not return while that creature is in my class.”

Well, the chancellor thought, that gives me all the incentive I need, doesn’t it?

She smiled and got to her feet.

“Thank you so much for bringing this to my attention,” she said. She reached her hand across the desk. “I promise it will have my full attention.”

“I should hope so,” Ariadne said.

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8 Responses to “Bonus Story: Old Pain”

  1. pedestrian says:

    wow, woman holds a grudge. You sure she ain’t part hillbilly? The good professor sounds like my kin, sober, on a good day, after sex.

    Current score: 0
  2. Maesenko says:

    For one who as lived so long and knows so much, Ariadne knows so very little…

    Current score: 2
    • nobody says:

      With age comes wisdom …
      to be murdered by stubbornness and pride.

      Current score: 8
  3. Psi-Ko says:

    One of the many reasons I’m glad that (so far) no proof of elven existence has surfaced, and that I dread humanity’s own acceleration towards immortality.

    150 years of life, instead of giving us 150 years of wisdom as it ideally would, will give us 150 years of prejudice and bias.

    Current score: 1
    • Chester says:

      Also an incredible capacity for lying through our teeth.

      Though we do that well enough as it is…

      Current score: 1
  4. capybroa says:

    And here I had such hopes for Ariadne to be, if not an unexpected ally, than at least a more interesting opponent. It appears, however, that an extended lifetime only results in one’s head being wedged ever more firmly up one’s (androgynous) ass.

    Current score: 7
  5. Jechtael says:

    I like Davies. She’s, how to put it, devious? Certainly some form of clever. I hope she doesn’t end up being a villain. (Note: My reread has gotten to the point where I don’t remember anything except the BIG parts of the story. I no longer need to pretend I don’t know what’s coming up to avoid spoilers.)

    Current score: 0
  6. zeel says:

    Wow, she is so much worse after reading what really happened.

    For those just joining us, if you are curious, start here. Otherwise, spoilers…

    So Sam was involved with MU being destroyed once, but it has been rebuilt twice since Ariadne started teaching there? What else happened that required them to rebuild?

    “And the one who did not graduate was responsible for razing the campus once,” Ariadne said.

    “My understanding is that the popular account exaggerated his part in the destruction,” Davies said.

    “You weren’t there,” Ariadne said. “I watched that thing leading the charge… it was right in the middle of the destruction.”

    Her ability to twist, bend, and break the truth here is unbelievable. Sam wasn’t responsible, she was. She lead the charge against him, he was “right in the middle”, but only because of her intervention.

    Her extreme level of hatred for demons is truly absurd. Even losing her husband to one (not that that’s even likely the cause), should not promote this level of fear and hate.

    Current score: 4