Chapter 16: Learning By Design

on May 20, 2011 in Volume 2: Sophomore Effort
Timeline: , , , ,

In Which The Past Is Brought Into The Future

Lunch in the Arch was pretty decent, all things considered. I couldn’t say if I liked it better than the old place or not. The food was better quality and less institution-y, but… well, maybe I couldn’t say what I liked about the old dining hall’s food that even made it a contender, but I’d spent a lot of time figuring out what among its offerings I could enjoy eating. Maybe it was just a matter of emotional investment and comforting familiarity.

After lunch I followed Ian outside and we sat on some steps while he strummed his lute. I didn’t say anything. Not so much for fear of distracting him… to some extent, he played better with a little distraction than when he was super focused on what he was doing. But he played best when he felt like no one was paying any attention to him. Luckily for the sake of any future he might have as a performer, being in a “stage” situation that sufficiently separated him from the crowd seemed to work. Once he got going, he was in a world of his own.

He wasn’t exactly playing a song, more just trying things out. Watching the little contortions his face made as he fiddled around was kind of fun and weirdly hot. He twisted his lips, and bit them. At one point he stuck out the tip of his tongue. He squinted, and glared at nothing in particular.

If we’d had unlimited free time then he likely would have either got comfortable enough with what he was doing to start busting out actual songs or grown frustrated and given up, but sadly neither one of us was finished with classes for the day so he had to pack it up before too long.

Though I still had to go to Coach Callahan’s fighting class afterwards, my next class was my last new one of the semester… the only remaining unknown quantity. I felt kind of ambivalent about it. There were classes that I needed to take and classes that I wanted to take… a lot of the time I could find a class that fell into both categories. While not every class I’d taken was something I’d classify as “fun”, most of my classes so far had at least not been unpleasant.

An Applied Enchantment major required six credit hours in crafting. It was a sensible requirement. I understood the reasoning behind it. In the old days, enchanting had generally been a solo operation, plus an apprentice or two. Most enchanters had made or at least added some personal flourishes to the items they enchanted. During the rise of industrial enchanting, there had been an early movement away from that, with a lot of magic swords made by taking ready-made weapons produced using the fastest techniques available and slapping enchantments on them.

It pretty quickly became apparent that the old way… the crafting-based approach… had existed for a reason. Simply put, it’s easier to enchant something that you had a hand in making, and the results are better.

This is one of the reasons why there will always be so many more lower level magic weapons and things. It’s not just that a weaker magic item is exponentially more easy to make in terms of enchantment skill and magical power… it’s that producing base items that will accommodate higher levels of enchantment is that much more difficult, as well.

So I understood why I was required to have a minimum of two regular-sized crafting courses, but the selection that was available had not excited me at all. They were also more expensive than regular classes, with all of them having either a hefty lab fee or requiring the purchase of tools and materials or both.

I didn’t want to shell out a ton of coins to make wooden cabinets or armor or something that wouldn’t really apply to anything I did outside of class. So I’d gone for something that was a little more general-purpose and a little less hands-on and material-oriented, an aesthetics of product design class. It counted as a crafting class but if I’d read the course description right, the emphasis was on “design” more so than “product”… I’d have to produce something for a final project, but not every day would be spent working with actual physical materials and turning out something tangible.

The class was listed under Glamour and Design, and it took me to a building I’d never been in, a low, rambling building of brick and glass that housed the Domestic Arts program as well. A few people that I only vaguely recognized as being some of Two’s friends said hi as I wandered the winding hallways looking for the right room.

Everything about the building seemed to have been designed with a touch of whimsy, or what an architect thinks is whimsical. The doors were all slightly slanted. The walls were mostly irregularly alternating panels of brushed metal and variously sized and colored tiles. A big hallway ran along the outside of the building, with the exterior wall being a bunch of little glass panes in a metal framework that cast weird shadows on the floor and gave me the feeling of being caged. I wasn’t sure what the point of the corridor was as it didn’t seem to have any doors branching off from it at all, but by the time I noticed that I’d been going down it for some time, following hanging signs that assured me I was going the right way.

The signs were made of sheets of metal with the corners cut off and the letters punched out. They weren’t at all easy to read… the only reasonable explanation for their existence was that somebody had spent a lot of money having stencils made and then ran out of funds before they could produce the finished signs.

The hallway did eventually end, and conveniently took me right almost to the entrance of my classroom, which I could now see was about twenty feet to the left of the sign that had directed me to go right when I first entered the building.

My completely justified dislike of the building evaporated somewhat when I stepped through the stupid sideways-leaning doorway and saw the room I’d be in for the semester. It was a high-ceilinged room, spacious and well-lit… qualities I didn’t necessarily look for in a class room but that I noticed in this one. There were a bunch of widely spaced semi-circular desks, each of which had an abundance of clear space, an adjustable lamp, and an inset crystal ball.

Even though I’d headed out pretty early, there was already a good number of students in the room when I got there. I assumed that they’d had classes in the building before and were wise to its ways.

It was only when that thought went through my head that it occurred to me that there could be a downside to taking a class that was technically a Glamour and Design class, that being the number of people I knew from Harlowe who were glam majors and who I would rather avoid. Well, okay, that number was two: Mariel, Puddy’s semi-off-and-on girlfriend, and Ms. Suzune Hoshinotama… better known as Sooni, my semi-off-and-on self-proclaimed rival and fabulous star of the TV show in her head.

Like an ifrit summoned at the sound of its name, Sooni popped up in my field of vision as soon as I thought of her. She had cut her hair at some point over the summer. The lack of cathedral-style piles of braids atop her head made her fox ears stand out more, but also made it more apparent that they were in fact her ears and not an outrageous fashion accessory.

Along with the bushy tail that protruded from a slit up the back of her skirts and her shiny black eyes, the ears marked her as a member of the kitsu caste of yokai. Her habitually bronzed skin… she tanned even in the winter, using alchemical preparations… was hairless and smooth, unlike the nekoyokai, feline “friends” her parents had bought for her.

Somewhat ironically, her everyday clothing had slowly shifted towards western conventions as her costume design business had taken off. Her skirts were still pretty short… and still separated in the back to accommodate both the tail and anyone who wondered what color and how small her underwear was… but they looked less like something that would be found in an imported comic book and more like the sorts of skirts that Magisterian girls wore. Her tops looked less blousey and more… shirty. Her outfits tended to be in less attention-grabbing colors, as today when she was wearing basic black.

The only part of her typical ensemble that remained were the big clunky wooden sandals. They had been a gift from her mother, and she was reluctant to give them up for anything more fashionable or less suited to use as a blunt instrument.

She had a bunch of people turned around at their desks talking to her. I felt weirdly torn between saying hi and hoping she didn’t notice me. I’d spent a lot of time trying to duck her attention, but I’d also grown accustomed to it.

I decided to leave it up to fate, since my experience was that fate would pretty much have its own way regardless. I picked a still empty station not too close to her and took a look around the room. There was no sign of Mariel, but in looking for the sylph I spotted someone else from last year’s crop of Harlowe fifth floor girls: Twyla.

She was fairly easy to overlook: not thin, not chubby enough to register as anything but sort of normal-ish to me. Hair blonde, but not alarmingly or alchemically so. The two little horns that stuck out of her forehead weren’t even terribly noticeable from behind when her head was down. If I hadn’t glanced past her right as she happened to be looking up, I might not have spotted that she was in the class at all.

I was surprised to see her. There were a number of different majors I could see benefiting from a design class, but the last I had heard she was studying Divination. Of course, the last I’d heard had been just before the start of the fall semester the year before. I knew how much could change in one year.

It was also possible that she was just taking the class for fun, like I did history classes. She would probably be good at it… I had witnessed Twyla’s remarkable skill with forming images in the ether.

I realized that I was staring at her and that I wasn’t the only one who was doing so. I decided to study my syllabus instead.

The instructor’s name was only listed as Professor Stone. No first name, or possibly no last name. In light of Steff’s aside about which races can be considered monoliths, I wondered if the instructor wasn’t from one of the earthier elemental races… though that would be a bit like expecting a human to be called “flesh”.

My other guess was a dwarf who’d had part of his name transliterated into Pax for convenience… there were plenty of Steins to be found among the dwarven clans. Though as I understood it, it was a bit of a faux pas to use a clan name as a personal name.

The only thing I could tell for certain from the name was that the professor wasn’t very likely to be a human. Based on the accuracy of my previous guesses along that line, I was almost surprised when he showed up and he wasn’t.

It was hard to say just what race he was, though. He was a small figure… slightly taller and broader than a gnome, but short and narrow for a dwarf. His chin was bearded, but it was a curly little goatee and not the full-on dwarven apron look. Given my acquaintance with Hazel and her dwarven boyfriend Andreas, I might have pegged him as a mix of the two, but honestly he seemed to be a little svelte for either. When I said he was broad for a gnome, I meant big across the shoulders… he looked pretty lean, which seemed to be the opposite of the gnomish tendency.

But of course there were exceptions, and anyway it wasn’t as though it should matter what proportion of which races had gone into the making of Professor Stone. I couldn’t help but try to sort him into the proper boxes when I saw him, but that didn’t make the exercise necessary or productive.

“Hello!” he said. “I am Professor Stone. To answer the question that’s on everybody’s mind: yes, I do have a little dwarf in me. Though, from the point of view of my father, she was in fact a pretty big dwarf. This is aesthetics of product design. I know some of you from Glamour and Design classes. I suspect most of the rest of you are either Armoury or Applied Enchantment majors, though this class can be rewarding for anyone who wishes to produce things that are as beautiful as they are useful. I thought we’d begin today by taking a look at some examples.”

He clapped his hands, and a bunch of objects appeared at the front of the room. The larger ones… like a gilt-edged full-length mirror and something that looked like a miniature waterfall set in a stone arch… were free-standing. The others, which included shiny weapons and elaborately designed staves as well as garments and art objects, had also manifested with shelves, hooks, and brackets as needed.

The point of the display was obviously to grab the class’s attention, and he had mine. I wasn’t so much captivated with the appearance or seeming value of the items as I was with the amount of magic that must have gone into setting it up.

They had seemed to appear from nowhere. If that was the case, it was more likely they really were coming from nowhere… like the things that Amaranth put away… than they had been teleported in, because of the sheer amount of power and precision that would have been needed. Illusions would have taken less power but considerable skill, as the results were not only perfectly designed but expertly positioned, and the trigger that would have been set up for them would have taken a lot of care.

The most likely explanation was that they had always been there but had been invisible. That meant that the objects were real, or at least not illusory fakes. Then I considered that illusions could have been prepared and then turned invisible… that would have been less tricky than setting up several complex illusions to be triggered all at once.

“While this class centers on aesthetics as its subject,” Professor Stone continued as I tried to analyze his trick, “it is specifically the aesthetics of product design that we will concern ourselves with. Now in a sense, a painting or a sculpture may be considered a ‘product’ if it’s made to be sold, but we will not be focusing on beauty and art for their own sakes. Let us look at the examples on display at the front of the room.”

He strode up to the sword.

“This is an unenchanted prototype of the coronation sword used by Magisterion IX, made by Clan Schwertgriff, swordmakers by imperial appointment. Note well: this is not, technically speaking, a replica. The actual sword used in his elevation is a replica of this one. The ladies of Schwertgriff are unique among dwarven clans in favoring the sword, and like every blade they turn out, it is a work of art.

He waved his hand at the sword, and it floated up out of its brackets and turned in the air to hover point down beside him. He pointed to its features.

“Observe the silvery blade,” he said. “Pure platinum. Unenchanted platinum is not, in fact, an ideal material for making a blade. That’s why most Schwertgriff weapons are made from mithriled steel, but it was considered inappropriate to make an official weapon for a human ruler using alloys of the dwarven sacred metal. This honor they reserved only for Magisterion I, XI, and most recently XIII.

“This is the only non-functional item I’ll be showing you, and it’s only non-functional in terms of having an inferior blade. The balance is perfect. The salamander-skin handgrip is comfortable. The jewels on the crosspiece are inset so as to be protected from the brunt of any trauma. The sword that this one was mother to was never in fact intended to be used in combat… though it would have attested to the skills of its makers if it had been… but when dwarves are asked to make a weapon, they make a weapon.

“Incidentally, this weapon is on loan to us by very special arrangement. Some of the products I’m exhibiting will remain on display as inspirational examples throughout the semester, but this one must be returned in seven days. I’m also afraid that I cannot allow you to handle it, though you may inspect it at your leisure while it remains in our keeping.”

He snapped his fingers and a soft blue glow briefly surrounded the sword then disappeared. He went to the next item on the wall, a small square box with some kind of scene set into its side in a mosaic of gem-like tiles. He pointed at it and the top opened, and a haunting lullaby began to play.

“This music box is of elven make,” he said. “It is not, in fact, bejeweled as it looks… rather, the wood has been given a high polish with certain alchemical varnishes. It looks like the scene is made out of individual pieces because of a ‘leaf’ aesthetic that shows up cyclically in elven crafting circles. I recommend close inspection to get the full effect.”

He went through the next few items, weapons and high-end household goods and tools and knickknacks. Not everything was enchanted, or enchanted much in the case of a set of kitchen knives, but they were all very finely made. The big mirror was not just a standard communication mirror but a traveling model, which got my attention. Those were rare and very valuable.

“Gold is, of course, the gold standard for certain types of enchantment,” he said, running a finger along the gilt curlicues surrounding the reflective circle. “It doesn’t actually hold magic the way that silver would, for instance, but it can be used to shape magic quite effectively. This mirror’s silver backing holds the enchantment that connects it to the ethereal plane. The gold has been enhanced to help keep all the energy from swirling out of frame when a gateway is opened. Which brings up an excellent point: choosing materials that are appealing is not the same thing as choosing materials that are useful. It is the designer’s task to satisfy both requirements.”

I began to wonder at his choice of examples, and what exactly the class was going to be about. He wasn’t exactly showing us anything that was a mass-produced consumer good. Some of the items were literally one-of-a-kind, and while there were other elven music boxes in the world the one he’d showed us had obviously been individually crafted.

“Now, a lot of the pieces I’m showing you are actually taken from around my house… this is the television box from my private study,” he said, putting his hand on top of an ornate wooden box decorated with scrollwork and little imps and cherubs across the top. The opening in the front was hidden with a red velvet curtain, as had been the case with many of the first TVs. “It was not made by me, but it comes from an age when every such device was made by a skilled artisan. I like it so much that I craft one or two new ones in the style every year. If I ever retire from teaching, it will become my full-time hobby.

“Because of the, ah, frugal nature of educational institutions, you can find examples of older TVs throughout the campus. Harlowe Hall used to be home to an exquisite if somewhat poorly maintained specimen, until it was destroyed by a squabble among careless students last autumn.”

I resisted the urge to look at Sooni, who I hoped was resisting the urge to look at me. I doubted she felt guilty about her role in trashing the outdated TV in the fifth floor girls’ lounge, which I had to say had not really been all that exquisite. I’d always thought it was just tacky and old, up until our fight destroyed it.

“Now,” Professor Stone said, “these various objects I’ve shown you and the others I haven’t yet reached, they all have one thing in common… apart from being both beautiful and useful. Can anyone tell me what that is?”

I had an inkling that he was getting at what I’d noticed, but I wasn’t sure he considered that remarkable or not. I was having a hard time getting any kind of a read off of Professor Stone. There were some interesting points in his demonstration, but for all I knew he was just showing off the furnishings of his house and his connections to dwarven swordsmiths.

Twyla raised her hand.

“Yes, Miss?” he said.

“They’re all unique, sir,” she said.

“Yes, or very nearly so,” he said. “The mirror, for instance, has a twin in the court of the sum… well, never mind that. You are correct. All of these items were made for a specific person, a particular event, or by a singular artistic inspiration. They are not, therefore, the sorts of products we will be concerning ourselves with, precisely, but they are what we might consider the great-great-grandparents of those things. Observe.”

He clapped his hands, and more items came into view. Next to the gilt-edged travel mirror, there was a modern public mirror, the same sort that hung in nooks all over campus. A pair of high-heeled women’s boots with slightly pointed toes stood on a small shelf next to a pair of hand-tooled leather boots with very pointy toes. The various staves and rods that had been created by individual wizards had been joined by the kind that could be bought off-the rack. A plain black modern TV box stood on top of Stone’s personal television, empty and open to the world. The waterfall was apparently some kind of sink, as an elegant and high-end but distinctly modern glass vessel sink atop a stone pedestal had appeared alongside it.

Every object that he had brought forth was now paired with a modern descendant. Some of the modern examples were completely standard and everyday objects, like the mirror, and others looked almost as upper-crusty as the originals.

“Now, you can see that as times have changed and production methods have evolved, so, too, have tastes,” Stone said. “The people who designed our modern world have had to make the decision about what to keep unchanged, what to bring forward, and what to throw out when they create the products we use. Sometimes these decisions are aided by matters of practical necessity, or of economy. Sometimes it’s a matter of straddling the fine line between a genuine classic and an old-fashioned relic.”

He made a sweeping gesture with his hands, and the items that had been bunched up at the front of the room began to spread out all around the walls.

“Now, I deplore an extended lecture, especially as this is a ‘doing’ class and not a ‘saying’ one,” he said, “so for the rest of the period I am going to invite you all to go up and inspect the items I’ve brought. Your assignment for the day is to select three of them… three pairs… and note three ways in which the designs are different and three ways in which they are the same.

“While you’re inspecting, I will be going through the class work requirements and standards of grading… which shouldn’t take long… and I will answer any questions you may have. Once I’ve covered the basics and you have as much information as you need for the assignment, you are free to go out and enjoy the day. Your homework for today will not be collected, but the assignment for Thursday will build on it, so you will be at a disadvantage if you slouch off.”

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60 Responses to “Chapter 16: Learning By Design”

  1. C8H9NO2 says:


    Current score: 0
  2. Janus says:

    “A few people thatI only vaguely recognized”
    I needs more space.

    “There a bunch of widely spaced semi-circular desks”
    Were, I think.

    Current score: 0
  3. Zathras IX says:

    Applied Enchantment:
    Six credit hours in Crafting
    For those on the Make

    Current score: 2
  4. Kitten Is Angry says:

    Excellent chapter! It made me want to go do some crafting of my own. Crocheting that is. 🙂 Looking forward to more enchantment geekery!

    Current score: 1
  5. KittyCat says:

    “Unenchanted platinum is not, in fact, an idea material for making a blade.”
    I think you’re missing an “l” to make “ideal”.

    I’m interested to see where this new class is heading. And how Sooni and Mack are going to interact. Should provide a good dose of hilarity…

    Can’t wait for the next chapter 🙂

    Current score: 0
  6. Janus says:

    “Once I’ve covered the basis”
    I think that should be “basics”?

    Current score: 0
  7. Maahes0 says:

    “If we’d had unlimited free time than he likely would have either got comfortable enough…”

    Think it should be “then.”

    Current score: 0
  8. Dwight says:

    Unenchanted platinum is not, in fact, an idea material for making a blade.

    Idea -> ideal

    Current score: 0
    • erianaiel says:

      You are of course (or at least highly likely) right about the correction, but it would work as written as well considering how important ‘intent’ is for magic.

      Current score: 0
      • Zergonapal says:

        Unenchanted platinum is not, in fact, a thoughtful material for making (?) No I think ideal is the right word as anything else would involve further alteration of the sentences structure in order to let it roll of the tongue.

        Current score: 0
        • Lunaroki says:

          Probably more along the lines of a “concept material” than a “thoughtful material”, but in any event, yeah, this is almost certainly a typo.

          Current score: 0
        • Skin-Walker says:

          “in order to let it roll of(?) the tongue.”
          Oooops…a BLOOPER for a Blooper. 🙂

          Current score: 0
  9. anne says:

    Love this chapter I noted the following typos:
    If we’d had unlimited free time than he likely would have either got comfortable enough with what

    Than then inversion here

    A few people thatI only vaguely recognized as

    Missing space between that and I

    Current score: 0
  10. E says:

    ‘He went to the next item on the wall, a small square box …

    “This music box is of elven make,” he said, going to the next item on the wall.’
    I think this is a mistake, though it’s possible that he set the music box going and then moved away from it.

    Current score: 0
  11. Abeo says:

    Professor Stone and his teaching style are both quite interesting. Looks like Mackenzie will be enjoying this class… probably.

    I’m not sure what to think of Mackenzie, Twyla, and Sooni being in the same class. Twyla and Sooni are opposites in many ways and… gah, so many dynamics at work!

    Current score: 0
  12. Burnsidhe says:

    Ooh. A design class. This should be interesting.

    Current score: 0
  13. Xicree says:

    Looking forward to more Sooni, I really do want to see how she develops as a character over all (Not to mention she is so WONDERFULLY Functionally insane, in that special way that only the massively pampered can be… its interesting.)

    Current score: 1
  14. Null Set says:

    Does the “another little somethin'” due next week have anything to do with Lorellon Brand and/or Laurel Anne Blaize?

    Current score: 0
  15. Texan Steer says:

    I always love the world-building stuff, learning more about how the MUniverse WORKS.

    Also, typo:

    “There were a number of differnet majors…”

    Current score: 0
    • Helen Rees says:

      My favourite typo of the week. please let there be a differnet for the alternatively inclined among the interweb community…

      Current score: 0
  16. novaseer says:

    yay for enchantment geekery!

    spotted one typo though

    “There were a number of differnet majors…”

    Current score: 0
  17. Silver says:

    Further typo patrol:
    “‘It not made by me, but it comes from an age when every such device was made by a skilled artisan.”
    It was not?

    Aside from that, definitely looking forward to more enchantment geekery.

    Current score: 0
    • What’s the typo?

      Current score: 0
      • Potatohead says:

        “‘It not made by me”

        missing a “was”, looks like.

        Current score: 0
        • Oh, yes. I need to figure out a way to get the monitor closer.

          Current score: 0
          • erianaiel says:

            Maybe a bigger one?
            You could be lucky and somebody with more money than common sense is trading in his 70 inch tv screen for a 90 inch version and needs to get rid of the old one cheap? I think the modern lcd tv screens have 1900 by 1080 pixels or something? Plenty big enough for most computers anyway. My current computer monitor is good enough but I know I am going to look at something like that if I ever need to replace it (so I can hook up the computer to the tv screen and work downstairs in the living room instead of in the tiny room that is too hot in summer and too cold in winter).

            Current score: 0
            • Seems silly to get a 70 inch screen to solve the problem of it being six feet away from me. I just need to do some more experimenting to find a position where I can type recumbently without having the monitor at my feet.

              Current score: 0
            • Zukira Phaera says:

              I’ve got a folding table that sits nicely over the back of the love seat that I like to sleep on in the summer. Computer is currently set up with the monitor atop the table along with keyboard, and I just shove the table back when not wanting the keyboard. I’ve got those rug coasters under the feet so it slides super easy. Extra cushion behind my back, heating pad at the ready which is nice compared to my usual setup. I’m seriously considering keeping things situated this way year round.

              Current score: 0
  18. ami says:

    “prototype of the coronation sword used by Magisterion IX…

    This honor they reserved only for Magisterion I, XI, and most recently XIII.”

    These two statements contradict each other? Maybe a typo?

    Current score: 0
    • Dave says:

      The honour reserved is the use of “mithriled steel”; this sword – and presumably the one for which it was the prototype – was made of platinum. Which implies that mithril is even more valuable than platinum – something true to the Tolkienian origin of the word.

      BTW shouldn’t “mithriled” be spelt “mithrilled”? The word is of AE’s invention so it’s up to her, but I’d expect the second vowel to be a short i, as in Bill not Bike.

      When I first read LotR many many years ago, I worried about what Mithril might be; from its description I thought it might be a magnesium-aluminium alloy. Aluminium (Aluminum in US spelling?) is cheap for us, but prior to electric smelting was very difficult to extract. And the dwarves didn’t have electricity. Now, of course, I realise that Tolkien was no metallurgist, and mithril was a mythical materiel which probably owed more to Norse and Icelandish sagas than to any real world materials. Trying to work out what elements it’s made from is like seeking a scientific explanation for MUniverse magic 🙂

      Current score: 1
      • Helen Rees says:

        google ‘argentium’ – excellent material for making chainmail, and as close as you’ll get to mithril. Just to get a little mechite on you, there…


        Speaking of elvish headwear. The description of Argentium is a lot like the description of mithril in the Trilogy of the Rings. Looks like silver, is much harder and stronger, doesn’t tarnish and the metal had to be worked in a special way. I always thought that Tolkien was using platinum as his model but now with this Argentium it is exactly what Tolkien described. Funny how life models fantasy sometimes. Tolkien fans might be very interested in items made with something so similar to mithril especially if those things were affordable.

        I’ve used it to make tiny bits of chainmail. So much nicer than steel. My sister’s worked with silver, and agrees argentium’s way better.

        Current score: 0
        • Jostikas says:

          After cursory googling I find no mention of properties that would make argentium a suitable material for functional chain mail. In fact, being quite ductile and malleable it offers marginal protection at best against any thrusting weapons. Mithril in Middle Earth was not only beautiful and non-tarnishing, it was also stronger than steel (remember, it took a spear thrust from a troll without so much as a scratch (Though in all honesty, the poor hobbit in it should’ve been less a kidney and half a liver)). Also, I seem to find no mention of drastically differing methods of working between it and traditional sterling silver, if anything, it seems to be simpler due to the no-tarnishing aspect.
          Ed: Serial editor. Spellink and everything after the brackets…

          Current score: 0
  19. Adele says:

    Ami: no contradiction; he’s saying it was made with platinum, not mithrilled steel, because mithrilled steel is a dwarf thing, and THAT (m’d steel swords) is the honour that’s been reserved for I, XI & XIII.

    Ed: Ninja’d

    Current score: 0
  20. Month says:

    Mithril. I so love it in Tolkien. Lost it’s importance in Faerun… Meh. Anyway, the question I have is if mithril exists. If it doesn’t, did it exist and it run out, and then made a process to make steel as tough as it?

    Current score: 0
    • Jostikas says:

      Currently, I don’t see a hole in the periodic table where mithril would fit. Anything we don’t know the properties of is way up there in atomic mass, and the reason we don’t know about them is that they have too short half-lives for us to actually be able to measure the properties (they go poof in a flurry of radiation and leave a lesser element in their place). There’s are theoretical islands of stability coming up a few elements up, but most expect even their half-lives to be days tops (Of course, calculations differ wildly, some get the predicted half-lives on the order of billions of years).

      Short answer: Not bloody likely. But not impossible either. Though it does beg the question: If it’s stable, why haven’t we found it.

      Current score: 0
      • Quentari says:

        because the dwarves used it all, duh!

        Current score: 0
      • Arakano says:

        You don’t REALLY believe in science, do you? Grow up! 😛

        Current score: 0
  21. Barnowl says:

    I like the sound of the next chapter!

    Current score: 0
  22. Lunaroki says:

    Before I start this typo report I would like to point out that the character tags fail to include Professor Stone. Or is he not really considered a character?

    Typo Report

    Let us look at the examples on the front of the room.”

    Pretty sure “on” should be “in” or more likely “at”, though this might simply be a matter of a colloquial difference in grammar.

    He snapped his fingers and a soft blue glow briefly surrounded the sword then disappeared.

    Not sure if this is a typo or if I’m simply not understanding what’s happening here. It sounds as though the glow around the sword disappears, but did you mean that the sword itself disappeared too? If not I fail to comprehend the point of the professor having done this.

    Harlowe Hall used to be home to an exquisite if somewhat poorly maintained specimen, until it was destroyed by a squabble among careless students last autumn.”

    No typo here. I was just absolutely tickled by this line! XD

    I had an inkling that he was getting at what I’d noticed, but I wasn’t sure that he considered that remarkable or not.

    Seems like that second “that” ought to be “whether”.

    Current score: 0
    • Helen Rees says:

      I think he has a lot of burrow gnome in him (or his mother had a little burrow gnome in her) – it may take him a while to register.

      Current score: 0
  23. The Dark Master says:

    The way Mackenzie tries to analyse things reminds me of me.

    Current score: 0
  24. Iason says:

    I’m very pro the Twyla appereances and Mack’s choice of classes. She really is getting into a lot of different subjects but her perspective (that of an enchanter and geek) ties it all neatly together.

    Thanks for another great chapter.

    Current score: 1
  25. Cadnawes says:

    This seems like the semester I took two art classes, two languages, a writing heavy philosophy course, had a job, and was a college radio DJ. Sounds like fun, right? It was. But you cannot do a painting in two hours the night before no matter how smart you are. I suspect this class works the same way, as would the enchantments one. Anyone care to place bets on when the lack of sleep hallucinations kick in? 😀

    Current score: 0
    • Null Set says:

      Extra fun because many of Mack’s dreams are erotic nightmares.

      Current score: 1
  26. Stonefoot says:

    Mithril? (already a win, but going forward….)
    On the one hand, Mithril might be an element (natural or created) which can only exist in a world which has magic. Similar to ‘oct-iron’ in Disk World (where eight is magical rather than seven). On the other hand, using it as a verb suggests it could refer to a magical alteration of the nature of the steel. Or making a steel alloy with Mithril (as before) in it. Lots of variations along this line are possible and we may or may not find out what exactly it means. In the mean time: “Yay!” I am really loving this.

    Current score: 0
    • Rethic says:

      This comment made me wonder.. is being mithrilled anything like being blued?

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  27. Trystia Farrower says:

    I find myself wondering what sort of item Mackenzie will be making. While it makes a lot of sense to learn how to design items before taking a class where you have to make them, a class on how to make them would give you something to design. Chicken and the egg.

    Current score: 0
  28. bramble says:

    Ooooo. As a design major myself, I’m really looking forward to this class – I’ve kind of wished we could see a bit of the glamour and design program before, and this seems like an excellent way for Mack to get some exposure to it with the least amount of headdesk-induced brain damage.

    Current score: 0
  29. Helen Rees says:

    typo ish alert

    I wasn’t sure what the point of the corridor was as it didn’t seem to have any doors branching off from it at all, but by the time I noticed that I’d been going down it for some time, following hanging signs that assured me I was going the right way.

    If you put a comma after ‘that’ and before ‘I’d been going down it for some time’, my brain will no longer do ‘by the time I noticed *that I’d been going down it for some time*, *following hanging signs that assured me I was going the right way*………….

    Eternal ellipses. Brain hurts. Has comma now?

    “While this class centers aesthetics as its subject,”

    centers on aesthetics?

    Current score: 0
  30. Greenwood Goat says:

    Wow. Those are some really special artefacts that the Prof has there. I do hope that Mack doesn’t accidentally break any of them. The function of the traveling mirror isn’t spelled out, but the name does imply that it can transmit things from place to place, rather than just images. If so, it would make sense that it would only work with its twin in the sum… Summer Palace? Summerlands? And is there some chance that it might get activated, and someone will fall through it? Or just see something interesting?

    Oh, yes – and I heard a rumour that the building is magically active, and possibly sorta-sentient. Might it be able to reconfigure itself, or warp and play with its space and dimensions, as magical loci seem to be able to in the WoMU. Switching some signs around, perhaps, and extending a corridor or two, to play with the new girl, especially as she had been thinking slightly less than complimentary things about the interior decor. Perhaps the decor will shift slightly each time. Perhaps the building will completely restyle itself. Might it have something like a Room of Requirement? Or two? Come to that:

    The blog discussion was going wonderfully, and it did so enjoy when people left comments with their insight, questions, and even speculation. But here was that Greenwood Goat guy again. His comments always started okay, but he couldn’t seem to resist the urge to weave his own personal fan fiction into the comments no matter how many times the author asked or told him not to. Knowing how creepy the author found his vignettes and how uneasy it made her to read them, the blog resolved to start editing them out of Greenwood Goat’s comments and… if he persisted… blocking him from making any new ones.

    Current score: 0
  31. Shaun O'Braun says:

    I thought the author might be sick — I wasn’t seeing a “next page” link up top, but it’s down here. That’s strange.

    Current score: 0
  32. These have probably already been caught, but:
    “A few people thatI only vaguely recognized as being some of Two’s friends said hi as I wandered the winding hallways looking for the right room.”

    “Even though I’d headed out pretty early, there was already a good number of students in the room when I got there.”

    A good chapter. I like Prof. Stone so far. And he appears in my mind as Warwick Davis with a bit more British accent.

    “Wednesday: A little bit about Sooni. A little more about Twyla. And more enchantment geekery than you can shake a size-changing stick at.”


    Current score: 0
  33. Jinzo says:

    Crafting credits with glamor and design class ?
    Mack shoulda gone with blacksmithing, demon strength, ability to withstand fire and spotweld using a self-ignited finger.

    She prolly wouldnt ever like to acknowleadge that part of herself, but it would be kinda awsome.

    Current score: 0
  34. Elisa says:

    2 weeks without update is everything ok?

    or did this update and I just can’t find the link?

    There will only be one regular update next week, due to the end of the month having caught me completely off-guard. But it won’t be the only thing you get to read on the site in the next week! May’s installment of Kin and Distant Relations and another little somethin’ are on their way.

    Current score: 0
    • Zukira Phaera says:

      AE’s mentioned being sick in the twitter feed.

      on that note,
      Hope you’re feeling better AE!

      Current score: 0
  35. ElectricHarpsichord says:

    “A few people thatI only vaguely recognized…” I believe you’re missing a space between “that” and “I”. =)

    Current score: 0
  36. MackSffrs says:

    Grammar Toss!
    “I wasn’t sure what the point of the corridor was as it didn’t seem to have any doors branching off from it at all, but by the time I noticed that I’d been going down it for some time, following hanging signs that assured me I was going the right way.”

    A bit awkward, but the last “that” inside of “hanging signs that assured” does not flow from “but by the time”. No reason, counter, or objection is given for the “but” conjunction, and the “that” “signs that assured” is functioning as a empty descriptor of sort.
    A quick correction:
    “…following hanging signs assured me /that/ I was going the right way.”

    Current score: 0
  37. Khazidhea says:

    “The mirror, for instance, has a twin in the court of the sum”
    My apologies if the sentence is as intended, but in case it isn’t maybe it’s the court of the ‘sun’

    Current score: 0
    • The Chosen One says:

      If I’m reading this right, he cut himself off because the students shouldn’t know about the Court of the Summit, the secret council of greater powers implied to include True Dragons, several gods, and Coach Callahan.

      Current score: 1