OT: Tales of AU

on June 10, 2013 in Other Tales, Tales of AU

In Which We Meet Again

The sprawling campus nestled into the rolling plains of Prax shows a mix of institutional architecture styles from the past five decades. Harlowe Hall in particular belongs to that big, boxy style of building that looks like an apartment building fell in love with a stone hill fort and they had a bunch of adorably utilitarian babies. The plants creeping up the front of it don’t exactly invoke images of ivy-clad academia so much as they suggest that no one cares about keeping up appearances, at least not with this particular edifice.

The bricking on the next nearest building, joined to Harlowe by a broad covered plaza, is a bit newer but not so much to explain why it’s completely free of moss and clinging vines.

I completely ignore the cardboard sign with its sad crepe paper fringe telling me to go down and enter through the equally sad sunken patio beneath Harlowe Hall. Chances are it was made by someone who’s never set a foot in my new dorm. It’s pretty obvious at a glance that no one actually uses the front way in. The stairs are crumbling and uneven, and while classes haven’t even begun for the fall, there’s already… or more likely, still… a ton of litter down there.

Instead, I head in through the shared space between the dorms and just hang a left. Predictably, there’s a set of double-doors with the words “Harlowe Hall” in tarnished and smudged metal letters over them. Everything else around it is scrubbed squeaky clean or shiny and new for the new semester, but I can actually see the line where the custodial staff stopped cleaning the wall and floor around the Harlowe doors.

Inside the doors, it’s the same story. The floor’s probably been swept, but not scrubbed. Some of the torn and fading flyers and posters on the wall are dated as far back as two years ago. I’ve never been a neat freak, but I’ve learned to notice how I’m being treated and the message here is clear. In some sense, Harlowe Hall has been abandoned… so in some sense, so have we. So have I.

I head downstairs, since the “main” entrance was below ground level. Most of the basement is taken up by a large open room, a main lounge and office all in one. There are students all around. Most of them have the look of freshman—though I’m sure I do, too—and few of them look as human as I do. There’s a lot of general milling around in the area before the front desk. If there had been a real line, I would have gotten into it, but I’m not really one for milling so I just go straight up to the woman behind the desk.

“Hey,” I say.

“Name?” she says, picking up a set of stapled pages and flipping it to the front one.

“Blaise,” I say. “Kegan. Blaise is my last name.”

“Right,” she says, turning from me to find a packet on the folding table set up behind her. “This is a copy of your class schedule, a calendar of events, coupons for the student union, and emergency listings. Now, you’ll need to read and sign this statement about compliance with the university’s weapons policy.”

“Naturally,” I say.

Even though she’s obviously a student and only a few years older than I am, she already has the voice and facial expression of an officious bureaucrat. I can tell that being an R.A. is only one step in what will doubtless be a very fulfilling career for her in the field of interfering with others’ lives.

“And I’ll need to inspect your weapon,” she says.

“Seriously?” I say, though I’m already unbuckling the shoulder sheath for my signature bronze-hilted long sword. “I thought it would be enough to wear it openly.”

“I have to verify that it’s enchanted,” she said. “Some people think it’s enough for them to be ‘fancy’.”

“Well, I’m not one of them,” I say, laying the sword across the counter.

She picks it up and slides a few inches out of the scabbard.

“Is this your main weapon?” she asks.

“I didn’t know we needed more than one,” I say. A little cheeky, I know, but I’ve always been a little defensive when it comes to my weapon. Not that I have anything to be defensive about, but it’s my baby.

“Only it’s not very… subtle.”

“I’ve never been very impressed with subtlety,” I say.

“You might find yourself wanting something more portable, in a pinch.”

“I have… other options,” I say.

“There’s a nice little weapon shop in town, if you change your mind.”

Enwich is large enough to have far more than one weapon shop, being the only walled city for some distance. I glance at her name tag. There’s a Rodrigues family of bladesmiths… well, more blade brokers, these days. No bets that if I took the bait, the shop she’d recommend would be a family affair. It’s a small thing, not even a scam, really, but it doesn’t make me like her any better.

“I’ll keep that in mind,” I say. “But for now, I’ll be needing that back.”

“Oh, of course,” she says, giving me back my sword. “And here’s your room key, ID card, and a pass key for getting in and out after sundown, if you have to go out.”

“Thanks,” I say.

“Welcome to Aurelius University, Ms. Blaise.”

In Which Kegan Wears Mail Undergarments

There are some idiosyncracies to the room numbering in Harlowe Hall, but once I figure out that the floors are done by year and freshmen are on top, it’s not hard to find my room.

The top floor seems to be pretty full, if not completely so. If that’s normal, then I wonder what they do when someone doesn’t complete enough credits to advance, or doesn’t graduate after their fourth year? Obviously enough Harlowe students drop out for that to not be a problem. I wonder how that compares to the general graduation/retention rate.

I find room 417 easily enough. It’s closed and locked. Opening it, I find my roommate arrived before I did. She’s not in, but she left an untidy pyramid of bags, suitcases, and a milk crate with what looks like wine bottles in it. The blocky room is more spacious than I expected, but her stuff takes up a considerable chunk of real estate in the middle of it and I’m a little annoyed that she made no effort to put her stuff away, but there’s a piece of paper taped to a duffel bag in a way that faces the door and it’s addressed to “Roomy”.

Hey! I wasn’t sure what side you wanted and since I don’t really care I thought I figured you could pick if you get here before I need to make my bed or whatever. I have to go find some facilities building or something to find out what’s up with the fridge I paid for. Please stay out of my wine stash I know it looks weird but I have a condition. <3 <3 Wyne (Prounced like “win” not wine)

Well… that was something. I have a moderate preference for the bed on the left, relative to the entrance. I don’t have a lot of stuff to unpack and put away, but I do have one thing I want to see to before anyone on the other side of the wall is trying to sleep: hanging the brackets for my sword. If I have the left bed, then it will be by my right hand if I need to get up and arm myself in a hurry.

It’s the sort of thing that probably won’t happen, but it’s better to be ready for it than not. It’s the same reason I wear a chainmail undershirt enchanted to be lighter and quieter… the next best thing to mithril.

Well, okay… the reason for the mail is that I was kind of an arms and armor geek. And that is also a big part of why I wanted to keep my sword somewhere not just accessible, but on display. But I have my reasons for being ready for trouble, and that’s why after I make sure the brackets are level and do a couple of test runs on taking up arms from a sleeping position, I get it back over my shoulder before I head out into the hallway.

Someone has just come out of room 415 as I come out. She’s an elf, though nothing like my normal mental image of one. It’s not just her dark skin… she’s the kind from the underworld… but the fact that her black hair is short and stubbly, like it was recently shaved off, and her clothes consist of a simple gray shift-like dress, not very showy or flowy.

“Hello,” she says. There’s not much accent, but she’s overenunciating. “I see that we are neighbors?”

“Yes,” I say. “My name is Kegan.”

She gives a small bow.

“Alea,” she says. “Of Durakesh.”

“Is that a house name?” I say. That concludes my knowledge of subterranean society.

“It’s a city,” she says. “I… am not of a house. House Harlowe, I suppose.”

“Then I guess we’re more than just neighbors, aren’t we?” I say.

“I guess that we are,” she says.

“Have you seen any mirrors, Alea?” I ask. “Magic ones, I mean.”

“I believe there were some downstairs, in the lounge”

“I really don’t want to go all the way downstairs right now,” I say. “But I guess I should be looking around the lounge here.”

“That would make sense,” she says.

“Yeah… hey, I don’t mean to be rude, but I really need to go find that mirror,” I say.

“It’s fine,” she says. “I just wanted to introduce myself. Are they for scrying? The mirrors? I’ve noticed them but I didn’t understand what they were for. ”

“Sort of,” I say. “They started out as scrying mirrors, but they’re for two-way communication… there’s a network of them. It’s something ethereal.”

“Ah,” she says. “That must be convenient. We don’t have ether underground.”

“Yeah,” I say. “If you want to talk some more, I’ll be back in a few minutes… I’ve really got to let my mother know that I got here safely.”

Author’s Note

Hey, folks! Today is my birthday. I’m thirty-three years old, which means I’m finally old enough to drink in the Shire. It’s also the first day of my moving fundraiser. This video explains the situation:

The moving funds are money I need on top of my normal living/operating expenses (though I’m going to be banking whatever money I can save on my own), so if you’re sending money for moving please do it through the IndieGoGo campaign. If you don’t have money to spare, the normal exhortations apply: spreading the word is helping. Heck, even just leaving an encouraging comment on the fundraising page helps.

Thank you for reading!

Tales of MU is now on Patreon! Help keep the story going!

Or if you particularly enjoyed this chapter, leave a tip!

Characters: ,

34 Responses to “OT: Tales of AU”

  1. Ducky says:

    And here I thought this might just be entertaining speculation, but there’s Alea…

    Current score: 1
  2. Elf says:

    When is this set?

    Also note that she’s addressed as “Ms. Blaise.”

    Current score: 1
  3. 'Nym-o-maniac says:

    Okay, I am completely and utterly fascinated by this. What the hell is going on here? Alea? Kegan Blaise? Quite the mystery… I have to say, whoever the hell Kegan is, I like her.

    Current score: 1
    • Zerk says:

      I believe AU = Alternate Universe.

      Current score: 1
      • 'Nym-o-maniac says:

        Yeah, I figured that much, but Kegan? Is this a Mack raised by her mother and inexplicably named something else? Or maybe a Mack who was also put up for adoption? And why Alea instead of Dee? Universe divergences have explanations. I want to know what this one’s is.

        Current score: 1
  4. tday says:

    My guess is that its an Alternate Universe piece (hence the “Tales of -AU-“), and that this is an alternate version of Mack

    Current score: 1
  5. Elf says:

    Well, AU also stands for Aurelius University. Doesn’t mean it can’t also stand for Alternate Universe, though.

    Current score: 1
  6. Zathras IX says:

    Kegan Blaise has more
    Options than a signature
    Bronze-hilted long sword

    Current score: 1
  7. Anne says:

    Excellent! I pass the word whenever it seems appropriate (WRT) Tales of MU. That is all I have to give right now.

    Current score: 0
  8. pedestrian says:

    Huh, very intriguing.

    Silly me, I thought AU was symbolic for gold.
    Perhaps a ‘golden age’ after the Mackenzie timeline?
    Perhaps one of Alexandra’s clever wordplays for fund raising?

    I suspect this storyline will join the Epistolary as yet
    another character driven meander to enrich the Muniverse.

    Current score: 1
  9. Old Sage says:

    Congratulations on attaining your Thirty-third Year. 🙂
    Re: Kegan Blais, perchance she is the fore-bearer of our lovely
    Mack ? Or, the young and future “Brim-stone Blais” ?

    *Can hardily wait to find out.*

    Current score: 1
    • R says:

      I don’t think she’s Brimstone Blaise. Alexandra has made clear that Magisterius University, under that name, is quite a bit older than most individuals inside it.

      Current score: 0
    • Ducky says:

      Brimstone’s name is Martha.

      Current score: 0
  10. Zukira Phaera says:

    Happy Birthday!

    Current score: 1
  11. zeel says:

    It would certainly seem that Kegan is an alternate version of Mackenzie. This story would seem to take place on welcoming weekend of Mackenzie’s first year at MU. Only at a different university called Aurelius University.
    Not only is the setting identical (accept for names) but many of the things Kegan encounters are the same as Mackenzie. The sign pointing her towards Harlowe, the conversation with the RA (and her internal thoughts about said RA are word for word), and the layout of the hall.
    Then there is the Puddy alternate, she drinks, and has a similar name (to Puddy’s real name), though her attitude is obviously different.
    Kegan’s personality is interesting as well, she seems more sure of herself, and less socially awkward, plus she is into fighting and weapons; which Mackenzie hates.

    Now what is truly interesting is that, as far as I know, all the OT’s (aside from guest chapters) have either been cannon, or in-world folklore. However, this chapter doesn’t seem to fit into cannon, unless it is in fact an Alternate Universe.

    So, we have an alt world with similar (but almost opposite personality) characters and places. Parallel to a universe where inter-planer travel is possible. Are we about to have some inter-dimensional fun going on here? With parallel Mackenzie’s?

    Current score: 0
    • Zukira Phaera says:

      I’ve been thinking along those lines. I wonder if this isn’t a reverse echo caused by the new Mock boxes.

      Current score: 0
  12. WsntHere says:

    Maybe a twenty or thirty year time skip. McKenzie got drunk with an Ifrit and tripped into bed on top of him. When the time came she just couldn’t do the herbs that would “cure” her morning sickness and voila, a girl who has a use for a BRONZE sword. Dee decided girlfriend needed her horizons expanded. Or maybe Dee named her second born after her true love.

    Alternate universe, Laurel fell for an Ifrit instead of a demon. No change needed on Alea.

    Current score: 0
    • zeel says:

      Oh, I hadn’t considered it as a future chapter. Though I really can’t see Mackenzie having a child, but it could happen.

      Current score: 0
    • zeel says:

      After a re-read, the idea that Kegan is Mackenzie’s daughter (or grand daughter) seems plausible. I wonder if we are going to see more of this story.

      Current score: 0
  13. Sam says:

    My speculation is that this AU story sees Laurel having fallen for a divine being rather than a demon. It would explain Kegan’s more open attitude (you don’t get bullied at school for being divine) as well as the rather Paladin-like sword.

    Current score: 0
  14. Trihan says:

    If my suspicions are right and this turns out to be an alternate retelling where the characters are almost their opposites, we’re going to have an Alt!Amaranth who’s not very clever and a total prude; an Alt!Steff, who is really squeamish and is a female-to-male transsexual; and an Alt!Ian, who has an affinity for water and is the nicest guy you could ever meet until he starts dating Kegan, at which point he becomes…even nicer?

    Current score: 0
    • zeel says:

      Alt!Ian will become evil and try to take over the world. Also, he is SUPER good with elementalism, like, unimaginably so.

      Current score: 0
      • Author_Unknown says:

        Alt!Ian will be good at elementalism, and follow in his dad’s footsteps.

        Current score: 0
  15. Rip says:

    I don’t think a transboy is the opposite of a transgirl. They’re different destinations, but they cover some of the same territory. Bizarro-Steff would be cisgendered and male, and in a relationship with Belinda.

    Current score: 0
    • tomclark says:

      But what would Alt!Belinda be like, then? 😛

      Current score: 0
  16. pedestrian says:

    Miss-chievous Alexandra is at it again. Stirring up the pot of speculation with wild abandon!

    I do agree with the hypothesis that this new plot represents a later period then the Mackenzie years.

    And I have been wondering about Alea. Exile or political refugee?

    Perhaps the theory that this is a parallel alternate universe is correct. Another bubble in the Multiverse.

    If this is a future from Mackenzie, then renaming the University from Magisterian to Aurelius, would imply severe political changes, probably a new dynasty.

    I would question if Kegan would be reticent about being of divine descent. Otherwise, as in the MU, demonic descent is considered shameful if barely tolerated. The Blaise family would always be persons of interest to the Demon Daddy of any world.

    If my speculation about dynastic revolution is correct. Perhaps Kegan Blaise is descent of a newly, unpopular ethnicity?

    Current score: 0
    • Dani says:

      > Exile or political refugee?

      Exile would go with the shorn hair.

      Current score: 0
  17. arsenic says:

    Aaaaaah this is AWESOME!! Alternate Universes are the best!! Please please keep going with this ♥ And happy birthday!! I’m so happy for you, Jack, and his wife – I’ll pitch in whatever I can 🙂

    Current score: 0
  18. Burnsidhe says:

    And then she’ll gather up her friends and go monster hunting, with wacky hijinks, and selling the home-made illusions of their exploits to be broadcast on the etherweb as part of a series. Monster of the week thing. *nods*

    Current score: 0
  19. Markas says:

    Is Kegan’s gender explicitly stated anywhere? Kegan just sounds more like a boys name to me.
    Edit: Nevermind. Harlowe Hall is gender segregated

    Current score: 0
  20. Magniloquence says:

    Actually, I’m pretty sure alt!Steff is Iason. Hyper-masculine, hyper-elven, dominant (in the completely unconscious arrogant douchebag sense, not the power-exchange-specific kinky one… though the two are by no means mutually exclusive), antagonistic to Ian (instead of the sort of semi-territorial weirdness they started with and the pleasant-but-distant we-have-the-same-friend-group-and-do-many-of-the-same-things-but-wouldn’t-actually-hang-out-on-our-own thing they’ve got now. Like … most of the people in Mack’s social/relationship web), and generally so different he had to wind up in his own tangent-universe to begin with. (Also, alt!Steff totally lives in Treehome. The MU-kids would never actually see him.)

    Bah! I hate the way that sentence came out. It’s so much punchier without the parentheticals, but I just can’t help myself! I think in rhizomes. Still, for my own sense of …whatever:

    alt!Steff is totally Iason. Hyper-masculine, hyper-elven, socially dominant, and generally so different he had to wind up in his own tangent-universe to begin with. He even lives in Treehome, so he’d never meet Mack’s group anyway.

    Current score: 0
  21. popcorn says:

    Aww, the last line broke my heart a bit. I mean, Mack seems to struggle so much, while her alternate-reality self is just breezing through, lol.

    Incidentally, is Kegan a trans guy or am I reading too much into the “chainmail undershirt”?

    Current score: 0
  22. DevanGelic says:

    I got the impression that Kegan has been to University BEFORE, hence being able to judge how well she’s being treated, a sign of the times, by the “up keep” of “Harlowe Hall”. And who’s to say there can only be ONE Harlowe Hall? Perhaps MU was the first, but who’s to say it wasn’t implemented as “standard operating procedures” SOP by AU? and other Universities?

    Maybe Kegan is really Mack, just in another Kingdom down the (future) road, and this is just part of her “staying current” in her skills. She has “flown” through welcome day as if it’s old hat to her.

    However, Harlowe Hall in MU may be gender segregated, it is unclear if Harlowe Hall in AU is. We know it is at least segregated by “Year/Seniority” etc. But Gender is not mentioned.

    Though, lol, if not really Mack, but a child down the lines, if you make the “g” silent in “Kegan”, you might have Mack and Ian’s kid? Especially if Bronze Swords play an important part in their life. But then again, Maybe Mack would end up needing a Bronze enchanted sword to keep her most domineering and beloved boyfriend at bay?

    So it’s all up in the air until this story is expanded.

    Current score: 0