Chapter 3: Settling In

on April 11, 2011 in Volume 2: Sophomore Effort
Timeline: , , , ,

In Which Mackenzie Goes Back Into The Closet

After Ian and I got breakfast… my favorite meal of the day, because it was the only one you were guaranteed to find real meat in the cafeteria in the form of some combination of bacon, ham, and/or sausage… he went to see if the rest of his things had arrived and to get his room in order.

My stuff was already somewhat unpacked, but very much not in order. I didn’t have a lot in the way of personal possessions, but those that I did have were mostly still in my suitcase and bag. Only the things I’d used in the last week were out, and they were mostly spread out on my desk.

Amaranth had told me to wait for her to arrive before getting the room all put together. Last year we’d had a pretty cozy set-up, with the lower bunk all curtained off with heavy blankets and stuff. I still had all that stuff, and our curtains. We’d donated the rug since it wouldn’t begin to fit our new room.

There was a knock from the other side of the bathroom door while Ian was out.

“It’s not locked,” I said, then realizing that it was probably Two on the other side I added, “Please come in.”

“Okay,” Two said as she opened the door. “Thank you.”

“You’re welcome.”

Two was a golem, of the living flesh kind: sculpted from clay in the shape of a young woman, which was then transmuted to flesh in the same arcane act that gave her life. The only outward physical sign of her nature was the faint indentations of the runes on her forehead: the Tree of Life, the Wizard’s Mark, and the Circle of Will with a slash of negation. The first gave her life. The second imbued her with magic power, so she could generate magical energy and perform spells. The third gave her intelligence but had bound her to obey her maker, who had found a way around the troubling problem of intelligent servitors resenting their enforced obedience by creating a personality for her that had only one desire: to do what she was told.

This had worked out well for him… less well for her, when he abruptly freed her at the insistence of a wife who didn’t like him spending all his time in a basement workshop with someone who looked like a blonde waif and had no desire except to please.

She still had the desire to obey, and always would… but she’d learned how to want other things, and how to prioritize her wants so that sometimes her other wants and her needs could come before the obeisance impulse.

It was the runes on her forehead… which bore a slight resemblance to the simplified Draconic letters T, W, and O… that had given her the name her maker had neglected to supply. Living in a workshop where all the other equipment had a label on it, she had decided that it must be hers.

“Hi, Mack!” she said.

“Hi, Two,” I said. “How was the shire?”

“Full of tiny, rude people,” she said.

“I’m sorry,” I said.

“My friend Hazel said that she’s not going back next summer,” she said. “She said we should look for a house to rent in the countryside here.”

“That could be fun,” I said. “But also expensive.”

“My friend Hazel has a plan to make money,” Two said. “It isn’t a very good plan but she says she has three others just like it. Or she could just get a job. I told her that and she said that was kind of a last resort thing.”

“Ah. I suppose Andreas could probably afford it, but I can’t see a dwarf moving into a rental cottage or whatever.”

“She says that she would absolutely die before she asked a man to support her, and that anyway he said no.”

“Where is Hazel, anyway?” I asked. “Is she rooming in Harlowe with her cousin again?”

“No, Honey is rooming with Oru,” Two said.

That didn’t surprise me too much. The housing people had put the two burrow gnomes together and Oru the goblin with Shiel the kobold, presumably on basis of kinship and racial similarity. But Honey and Oru had hit it off surprisingly well, and Shiel and Hazel… well, they had never actually got along with each other that I had seen, but they’d been at each other’s throats in a fairly amiable way.

“So where is Hazel, then?” I asked. “She’s not rooming with Shiel, is she?”

“No,” Two said. “She and Shiel are suitemates in Paradox.”

“Who are they rooming with?”

“Shiel has another kobold for a roommate,” Two said. “The three of them split the cost of Hazel having her room to herself. The three of them are sharing one room so they can use the other room for games.”

“Wow, that’s actually kind of cool,” I said. It made sense… three people of kobold or gnome size in a room would have more space than two people of human size. “If they could get the furniture out of the second room somehow, they’d have a ton of space.”

“Removing furniture from a dorm room isn’t allowed,” Two said, as though she expected that to be the end of the discussion. She didn’t have a very nuanced view of rules… something was either allowed or it wasn’t. Her dislike of rulebreaking was not connected to any fear of consequences. It was simply a matter of principle.

“Well, I did say ‘if’,” I said. I could sympathize with her view, because I was also uneasy about casual rulebreaking compared to my peers. Part of that I could lay at the feet of my grandmother, who’d been very big on the “fear of consequences”-style laying down of the law, but even before we had become each other’s problems I’d had a very similar wrong-is-wrong approach to things.

“Your door is open,” Dee’s voice said from the other side of the bathroom. “Should I take that to mean that you are at home to visitors?”

“Yeah, I guess,” I said. “I mean, yes, you’re welcome to come in… I just hadn’t specifically thought about that. We should probably work out some kind of protocol when Amaranth gets here… we’re all going to want our privacy but I don’t want to just see you guys when we’re fighting for time in the bathroom.”

“Agreed,” Dee said, sweeping into the room.

Dee was an elf, of the subterranean kind. Her hair was stark white… not platinum blonde, but white… and her skin was a deep and glossy black. Sometimes when I saw her in really dim light I thought I could see highlights of purple and dark blue, but that was probably just the slightly glossy sheen she had.

She favored loose, flowing garments… looser and more flowing than the surface elven-style dresses Steff wore. When she was going out in public, she tended to cover up completely in a long priestess robe and a cloak with a cowl that she could pull down to hide her face. Her notions of privacy and decency were somewhat complex, though. In some circumstances she would rather be seen nude.

She didn’t like to be called a “dark elf” because that suggested that the pale elves of the surface were the default or normal kind. She had been known to make the same implication the other way around, but it seemed to me like it was fairest and safest to acknowledge both varieties as simply different kinds of elves.

I had been told that there had once been elves of many different colors, but most of them had been bred out or wiped out. The only kinds left with any significant numbers were the palest of the pale and the darkest of the dark.

“I suppose open doors is a good enough sign,” she said, “but given that the corridor between our rooms is also the sanitary chamber, decorum and comfort would dictate that Two and I close your door while performing certain functions. It is not beyond the realm of possibility that in the meantime your status might change.”

“Well, the doors do lock on the room side,” I said. “We could just lock it when we want our privacy.”

“Still, that seems awkward,” Dee said. “I would be hesitant to rattle your doorknob if you were being intimate a few feet away.”

“Dee… wouldn’t you know when we’re being intimate?”

“Yes,” she said. “But I would prefer to behave as though I do not. On a related subject, I have prayed and meditated on the subject, and consulted with some of the elders at Ceilos, and I have determined that it would not be beyond the bounds of priestessly propriety to put a wall of silence between us. Though if I were to do that habitually, you would need to exercise caution when visiting our room, as there could be divine energies lingering just across the threshold, and of course I would not employ this technique in the shared bathing room.”

“Whatever you have to do to be comfortable in your room,” I said. “You two can always come over here to visit. Anyway, like Ian and I were saying, we’ll probably want to do most of the hanging out somewhere else. Can you picture five or six people crowding into this space?”

“Yes,” Dee answered. “Eight novices shared a space like this for sleeping and studying in the temples of Durakesh. That was spacious compared to what eight cadets were allotted, but then, soldiers were expected to be more casually intimate with each other than priestesses were.”

Of course I’d been being a little humanocentric in my statement, but Dee didn’t sound offended that I hadn’t considered the differences between our cultures. She was just being informative.

Before I had to think of what to say to her, there was a knock on the door. I didn’t expect Ian to knock and it was still a bit over an hour too early for Amaranth, so I just called, “It’s open!” I figured it was probably my R.A. or a neighbor, and I’d made up my mind that if I were decent and the room was relatively clean I’d just let people come in instead of standing in the door to talk to them. It seemed to me like that would come off as more sociable and less like I’m some kind of weird perverted half-demon loner.

Yes, I spent time thinking about things like that. I’d had a lot of time to myself over the summer. I’d tried to avoid thinking of what had gone wrong in my freshman year, but I had thought about how to do things right once I was living in a predominantly human dorm.

As the encounter with Marcel had reminded me, there would always be negative reactions to my heritage, but humanity wasn’t a monolithic entity any more than elves or dwarves or half-demons were. I’d encountered people who thought my demonblood was kind of cool, who thought it made me a rampaging monster, and even people who clearly had no fear of me but weren’t above pretending they found me threatening to have an excuse to pick on me.

The knock came again.

“It’s open!” I said a little louder. I’d expected my voice to have carried enough the first time… dormitories weren’t exactly known for their soundproof construction. Maybe I still hadn’t learned the trick of speaking more loudly without sounding like I was angry, or maybe I was just a little exasperated, but either way it came out more harshly than I’d meant it to.

“Now, is that any way to talk to the woman who owns you?”

Amaranth. At the sound of her voice, my heart skipped a beat… but that was okay because the ones it didn’t miss were big enough to more than make up for the loss.

I flung open the door and there she was in all her glory.

That’s not just a euphemism for the fact that she was completely nude, though of course she was. That’s the natural state of a nymph. Well, it’s probably the natural state of most people, but as a daughter of the goddess Mother Khaele, Amaranth’s nudity was enforced by a divine edict that the laws of the Imperium couldn’t overrule.

Her body was that of a pretty substantially built human woman, just a wavy golden blonde hair over six feet tall, with generous hips and a soft stomach and full breasts that suffered not a bit for never having support except when someone was holding them.

The only thing that she wore was a pair of really old-fashioned spectacles with thick glass eyepieces that made her blue eyes look all big and distorted… at least, when she wasn’t looking over them sternly. The glasses were anomalous in another regard, as well: they signified a physical imperfection in an otherwise divinely perfect body. Though, as I thought they looked hot, I wasn’t sure that her need for them was a flaw.

“Hello, baby… my coach made it in a little early,” she said. “Were you good while I was away?”

“Yes, ma’am,” I said. I ducked my head a little as I said it. It was a small motion, purely voluntary. I did it because it felt right. I could look up into Amaranth’s eyes forever, but it also felt nice to not look up at her. As body language went, averting my eyes felt a bit like kissing her on the cheek.

Of course, lowering my eyes away from her face didn’t put all of her body outside my field of vision… I watched her chest swell as she took a deep breath and then let it out slowly. I’d been living on campus year-round, and had been in our room in Gilcrease for a week, but it was only when Amaranth arrived that I was at home.

“And were you good for Ian last night?” she asked.

“Yes, ma’am,” I said, and what had been small and voluntary became automatic and all-encompassing. Heat flared up in my cheeks. My body wanted to pull into itself. Part of me wondered how she’d known… if her nymph senses had become refined to the point that she could tell who I’d been intimate with recently, or if she’d just run into him in the hallway or something. That part of me was very distant and very quiet, drowned out by the rush of blood.

“Good girl,” she said. She gave me a hug that included a little pat on the butt… not a spanking, not anything like a spanking, but the closest thing I’d had in over a hundred days. I might have swayed, just a little. “Now help me in with my bags.”

She stepped back and passed her hands just behind her, bending her knees slightly like she was setting things down. Just like that, there was a large duffel bag, a suitcase, two flat-topped traveling chests, a hat box, and a backpack piled up behind her back.

When I’d first met Amaranth, I had wondered at her ability to pull things out of nowhere or tuck them out of sight when she didn’t seem to have anywhere to put them, obvious anatomically-inspired jokes aside. It had turned out that she was literally putting them nowhere, a process she called putting things “away”. I suspected the process had something in common with the kind of extradimensional space used by a bag of holding or a portable hole.

She could have just as easily retrieved them when she was in the room. The fact that she hadn’t meant that she wanted me to carry them in for the sake of having me do something. The first direct orders of the semester. It probably shouldn’t have been as exciting as it was.

“Yes, ma’am,” I said. The weight wouldn’t be a problem for me. I did have to be careful, though, handling Amaranth’s things, so I decided to carry them one at a time, starting with the bigger ones.

While I squatted down to lift the first of the chests, she headed on into the room.

“Hi, Amaranth!” Two called out.

“Hello, Two, dear,” Amaranth said. “Your sister is bringing my things in. You may help her if you would like to.”

“Okay,” Two said.

“Was your travel agreeable?” Dee asked.

“It was pretty pleasant,” Amaranth said. “We had clear skies and sun all the way from Paradise Valley. There was a lycanthropy alert outside of Spoken Softly, but nothing came of it. The driver said they get were watches a lot in that area, but it’s usually just because someone saw a canid and didn’t know the difference.”

That seemed odd to me, since canids… dog-like humanoids… really couldn’t be anything less like werewolves. They didn’t switch between an animal and human form, they were simply always themselves, and unless one was afraid of dogs there was nothing monstrous about them. But then, the popular conception of werewolves often stopped at the intermediate form that they passed through when changing from one form to the other… showing a man or a wolf didn’t convey the idea of werewolf as concisely as showing a half-man, half-wolf.

“If canids are common to the region, one would think the other inhabitants would be familiar with them,” Dee said.

“Well, even people who know of the canids won’t necessarily recognize that they’re different from lycanthropes, sadly,” Amaranth said. “Be careful with that, baby.”

Distracted by my thoughts, I had just stumbled sideways through the door with the first of the trunks, banging and scraping my knuckles on the door frame in the process. As an invulnerable half-demon, I didn’t have to worry about cracking bones or abrading skin. I just got all the fun feeling associated with it.

“You had better let Mack get the chests,” Amaranth said to Two, who slipped around me once I was through the door. “They’re full of books. Oh, and so is the suitcase. And my backpack’s a little bit full, it has all of my schoolbooks in it at the moment… I don’t want you to strain yourself.”

“You shouldn’t offer things to people if you don’t mean it,” Two said.

“Um… you can carry the hatbox?” Amaranth suggested. “It only has… that is, it isn’t full of books.”


This was how far we’d come in the year since coming to MU. Two the living golem, who had been barely able to function without orders when she first arrived, was now being offered tasks as a treat. I did what I was told, and I liked it.

“Where would you like this, Amaranth?” I asked.

“Just stack them along the wall there,” Amaranth said, pointing opposite the bunk beds. “I have three more for you to carry in when you’ve got those… I brought more of my books from home this year, since I missed them, but I didn’t want to block up the hallway.”

“Yes, ma’am.”

“You can shelve them later,” Amaranth said. “And feel free to use whatever shelves are left for your things.”

She said it so matter-of-factly, like it went without saying that the shelves belonged to her and any sliver of space she gave me was an unearned treat. It seemed like Amaranth had spent the summer cultivating a sort of easy, imperious authority. I couldn’t say that I didn’t like it. I’m sure she knew that, too, just as she knew I didn’t have many of my own things that would require shelving in the first place.

Amaranth could tell what a person was into. She could tell what effect her actions had on me. Sometimes she had underestimated the effect of a thing’s appeal in the abstract versus reasons it might be undesirable in reality, but she’d grown better at that over the course of the last year, especially when it came to reading me.

I got Amaranth’s trunks full of books stacked up against the wall. At her direction, I made sure they were all running the long way, parallel to the wall and to the bunk beds on the other side of the room. Ian arrived as I was carrying the last of them in.

“Oh, hey,” he said, accepting a kiss on the cheek from Amaranth. “Mackenzie said you weren’t getting in for like another hour.”

“Yeah, we made really good time,” Amaranth said. “I still have to go check in and all, though… but I knew my Mack would already be up here, I thought I’d bring my things in first.”

“Makes sense,” Ian said.

“You all might want to look away for a moment,” she said. “I’ve been told that this can get disorienting to watch.”

“What can?” Ian asked.

“I’m going to put the beds away,” she said. She looked at the desks. “Actually, on second thought, if everyone will leave for a minute I think I’ll be able to get the carpet in place fairly easily.”

“Okay,” Two said.

“Yes, ma’am,” I said. It might have been gratuitous, but I’d missed saying it.

Ian and Dee said nothing, but we all stepped out… Ian and I into the hallway, Dee and Two through the bathroom.

“You know you’re going to have the cleanest bathroom on campus,” Ian said after a few moments.

“How do you figure?”

“Because Amaranth isn’t going to make any mess, and Two will clean up whatever anyone else leaves,” he said.

“We should probably make up like a chart or something for cleaning it,” I said.

“And then Two will clean it anyway,” Ian said.

“Probably,” I conceded. I didn’t like the thought of sticking her with that task, but it wouldn’t be any great hardship from her point of view. It was just something to do.

There had been hardly any sound from inside the room, but the door opened.

“Okay,” Amaranth said. “I’m not exactly done, but I’ve got everything more or less in place.”

The bare tile floor… which had felt cold at night even in the lingering summer-like weather of mid-Astera… was now covered in a thick, soft carpet that had clearly been picked out by someone who fully intended to have sex on it. At first glance it looked like Amaranth had managed to acquire a single piece perfectly cut to fit the irregularly-shaped room, but then I spotted the place where two pieces had been joined. There was a trapezoidal-shaped piece that stopped just before the alcove, and an even more oddly shaped piece just beyond it.

The carpet was far from the most radical change. One of the two desks was gone, replaced with what looked like a secondhand couch. The bunk bed was gone. In its place was a four-poster bed that looked to my eyes to be brand new, and at least queen sized. The head of it was stuck in the recess the bunk beds had occupied. It took up a lot of the room’s real estate, but somehow the remaining space felt more open for it.

There was a pile of pillows and cushions on the floor, and some curtains and stuff piled up on the bed.

Even knowing in the abstract that she was capable of this sort of thing, I was amazed at the extent to which she’d carried it.

“Amaranth… how did you afford this stuff?” I asked. I knew that the Paradise Valley Farming Cooperative gave her some money for her expenses, but I couldn’t imagine it would extend to getting a major piece of furniture. On the other hand, I could just picture someone giving her a bed. She disdained the thought of “performing” for money but I knew she’d accepted gifts… that was where she’d got most of her books from.

“Oh, I sold a few things,” she said. “I have something for you, too, but it’ll wait until later.”

“What sort of things?” Ian asked.

“Just trinkets,” she said. “I had a small trove of off-world artifacts a friend left with me… nothing important or powerful, just sentimental items, but apparently very valuable to the right sort of collector.”

“You didn’t have to sell them,” I said, marveling at how casual she was about it. “We could have managed with the dorm beds.”

“We could have, but I preferred not to,” Amaranth said. “And unlike our blanket fort back in Harlowe this is something we can take with us and keep from year to year.”

Amaranth opened the bathroom door.

“Two, would you like to help me make the bed?” she asked.

“Okay,” Two said. She scowled at the big bed as soon as she saw it, though.

“There is no rule against bringing in outside furniture,” Amaranth said. “I checked… and I didn’t take the existing furniture out of the room.”

“Oh,” Two said. “Okay.”

“Would you like me to do anything?” I asked Amaranth.

She looked at me thoughtfully, and then said, “You certainly have your uses, but I think it’s best if I just put you somewhere out of the way while I get things in order.” She took me by the hand and walked me over to the closet door, which she slid open. The closet was pretty shallow, and only as wide as the space between the bathroom door and the front wall of the room. My few skirts, my coat, and other garments that needed hanging were already in it. She pushed them over onto one side. “That side can be for your things. This side is for my things.”

So saying, she put her hands on my shoulders and firmly guided me into place inside it. There was just enough room for me to sit down sideways inside it, with my legs stretched out in front of me and my arms folded in front of me.

I didn’t say anything as she slid the door shut and left me in darkness. I was in full-on possession mode… as in, being a possession, not being possessed. It felt good. I hadn’t realized it, since I hadn’t had any basis for comparison, but being treated like an object, put away, and ignored felt relaxing in the same way it had been relaxing to be on my own all summer long. No social expectations, no social pressures.

Outside the closet door, two of my closest friends and two of my lovers continued to chat as though nothing had happened, as though I wasn’t there. With another group, it might have been weird, but to Two this kind of interaction was perfectly normal. I didn’t know if people were put away in closets or cupboards in Dee’s culture, but things in Durakesh were pretty rigidly stratified, and with space at a premium it wouldn’t have surprised me at all to learn that there were people who would have jumped at the privacy afforded by my closet.

I could hear their conversation but I didn’t really listen to it much. It didn’t concern me. Amaranth and Dee were talking about their trips back to school. Two was advising Amaranth on how to assemble the bedclothes properly.

Eventually I realized it was a lot quieter in the room. The closet door slid open.

“I’m going to go downstairs and check in,” Amaranth said. “Two and Dee have gone off to meditate, and Ian’s going down with me. There’s something I need to talk to him about… Steff caught me as I was arriving, so she’s already on board. Anyway, I want you to lock the door behind us and then put yourself back away. You may come out to answer the door if anyone knocks. Got that, baby?”

“Yes, ma’am,” I said.

“Good girl,” she said. It was almost better than sex, if sex made you want sex instead of relieving the urge for it.

I did as she had instructed, only taking a glance around the room on my way back into the closet. The bed was now veiled with thick red curtains. It blocked the window, but it wasn’t like there was much of a view. Our room just looked out across the way to the externally identical Paradox Tower. Amaranth had not consulted me at all before selecting the bed, but she knew me well enough to have picked out something we would both love even if I would never have thought of it for myself.

She liked being ensconced behind curtains and beneath blankets because it gave her the marvelously naughty feeling of being clothed. I liked it for the same reason I didn’t at all mind being shut up in the closet. Enclosed spaces were safe and comforting to me.

It seemed like I was closed up in the closet for longer that time. Eventually I heard a key turning in the lock, which told me that Amaranth had been successful. I waited patiently for her to take me out. After some rustling of paper and a little rummaging around in a drawer, she did.

“Alright, baby,” she said as I stood on slightly wobbly legs. “I told you that I had something for you… well, I have two things for you. One for now and one for later, if you’re good.”

She reached behind her back and produced the thick studded leather strap we had purchased together in Enwich the year before… my paddle. I had carried it for her convenience and use throughout the previous year, and then she had taken it with her over the summer break.

“Thank you,” I said, taking it from her with a self-conscious sort of reverence.

As much as I’d missed being spanked regularly, the sight of the paddle and the weight of it in my hand made my butt tingle with as much apprehension as arousal. There was no getting around the fact that a good paddling was painful as well as pleasurable. In my limited research into BDSM, I’ve seen people claim that the pain transforms into pleasure, or the pleasure masks the pain, or that the pain is transcended… but my experience has always been that the pain is still there. If it wasn’t, what was the point? It might as well just be regular sex.

“Keep that with you at all times,” Amaranth said. “Now, as for the other thing… we talked about it last year, but we never got around to actually doing it.”

As she said that, my heart leapt… there was only one thing she could be referring to. We’d made the decision early in the first semester, but after that things had either been going crazy all around us or we’d been buried in schoolwork and so we’d never actually done it.

She again reached back and then held out in front of her a collar, a leather collar made out of a wide black strip with a thinner reddish-brown strip riveted to it. It had a sort of triangular metal bit in the center, and hanging from that was a ring like for a leash. On either side of the ring was a row of four white costume jewels.

It was slightly bigger than I’d envisioned, and much more obvious. Maybe not everyone who saw it would know or be able to instantly divine its significance, but there could be no mistaking it for a necklace or a choker. It was what it was, and I wanted very badly for Amaranth to put it around my neck.

“Now as I told you it’s for later,” she said. “If you want to wear my collar, you’re going to have to earn it, properly. I’m going to have three tasks for you. In the meantime, it’ll be your job to keep this safe until the time I put it on you or take it back.”

“What do I have to do?” I asked.

“I’ll tell you as I decide them,” she said.

Soon: Um… how about instead of telling you what happens next, I tell you it will happen on Wednesday of this week? Would anybody be interested in hearing that?

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87 Responses to “Chapter 3: Settling In”

  1. 3023ogilvyd says:

    I’m really impressed with how the reboot has gone so far. Well done.

    Also: “I had a small trove of off-world artifacts a –firend– left with me…”

    I’m going to assume that a firend isn’t a race, but a typo.

    Current score: 0
  2. Glenn says:

    Did Amaranth get the items she sold from a “friend”, not a “firend”?

    Current score: 0
  3. Nony Mouz says:

    Loving the way this part is unfolding!

    Couple spelling/grammatical errors:

    “it hasall of my schoolbooks in it at the moment”
    Missing a space between “has” and “all”.

    “She could tell what affect her actions had on me.”
    Affect/effect mixup? I have a hard time keeping them straight…

    Current score: 0
    • Oitur says:

      I’m with Nony Mouz on the affect/effect mixup. Tip on keeping them straight: “affect” means “feeling or emotion”–think “affection”. As a verb it means to have an influence on–“My emotions affect me.” The confusing bit comes because when things affect us, they have an effect–“My emotions have an effect on me.” Worse yet, effect can also be a verb that means to cause something: I hope all of this will effect a positive change in your use of these confusing words. Let’s not even get into affect as in “affectation”. English–what a language.

      BTW, the same paragraph that contains “hasall” also contains “…slipped me around me…”. One ‘me’ too many?

      (The best thing about being me… There are so many “me”s.)

      Current score: 0
      • Lunaroki says:

        For general usage here’s an easy way to keep “affect” and “effect” straight: count up the number of “e”s in the word itself and the type of word it is. In other words “affect” + “verb” gives 2 “e”s, and “effect” + “noun” also gives 2 “e”s. If you come up with an odd number you’ve used the wrong word. Mind you, there are exceptions as Oitur points out above, but for general use you need to keep the number of “e”s even.

        Current score: 0
        • Caoimhe Snow says:

          This advice doesn’t make sense, Lunaroki, because both of the words can be nouns or verbs.

          Current score: 0
  4. Null Set says:

    Hazelisms are at least twice as funny when it is Two repeating them.

    Current score: 2
  5. Lindzy says:

    “You had better let Mack get the chests,” Amaranth said to Two, who slipped me around me once I was through the door.

    An extra “me”?

    Current score: 0
  6. ConstantlyPuzzled says:

    I’m going to be honest, but so far, I’m kind of bored. I know you’re not going to go jumping into things too quickly, but it just seems so bland. Not the catching up on things, or the narrating for people that might not have read the first part, just almost everything.

    Not trying to be a jerk, just saying.

    Current score: 0
  7. Kevin says:

    I would agree that this chapter doesn’t seem as “in the action” as other chapters but I figure it’s just a result of setting the background.

    Also I don’t remember hearing about Canids before and it would be nice to hear a description of the differences between Canids and Lycanthropes. Just from the name it could be anything from a were-wolf like race to any animal of the species Canidae ranging from Foxes to Coyotes to Wolves

    Current score: 0
    • Canids have turned up in the story before (Finbar the alchemy student is one), but this comment is a good reminder that it’s been a while and they need to be established for new readers. I’ll add a line of explanation.

      Current score: 0
    • Added paragraph:

      That seemed odd to me, since canids… dog-like humanoids… really couldn’t be anything less like werewolves. They didn’t switch between an animal and human form, they were simply always themselves, and unless one was afraid of dogs there was nothing monstrous about them. But then, the popular conception of werewolves often stopped at the intermediate form that they passed through when changing from one form to the other… showing a man or a wolf didn’t convey the idea of werewolf as concisely as showing a half-man, half-wolf.

      Current score: 0
  8. wait says:

    Two’s sister?

    Current score: 0
    • Malarky says:

      Mack identified Two as “like her sister.” It played a major role in Two seeing herself as a person, instead of a thing.

      Current score: 1
      • The Dark Master says:

        It was a really big moment in her growth, and I really liked seeing her grow. Then she became a brat. I’m wondering when that will get fixed…

        Current score: 0
      • Zathras IX says:

        And vice versa. At the time of this observation, Mackenzie had the word’s “Nymph’s TOY” written across her forehead. TOY and TWO are very similar words, heightening their physical resemblance to one another. Mackenzie was also expressing her desire to do as she was told by Amaranth, which paralleled ŦΨØ’s built-in imperative. As a result, they’re both sisters under the skin in several regards.

        Current score: 0
      • Brenda says:

        I wonder how confusing it will be for newcomers?

        Current score: 0
  9. Jennifer says:

    “Maybe everyone who saw it would know or be able to instantly divine its significance…”

    Maybe NOT everyone who saw it…

    Current score: 0
  10. Surakesh says:

    Typo: “I got Amarnath’s trunks full of books…”

    Current score: 0
  11. tigr says:

    Typo: in “I got Amarnath’s trunks full of books stacked up against the wall.” it should read Amaranth.

    Yes, there is not that much “going on” in this chapter, but that’s actually quite nice in a way; rather relaxing read after a long workday [European evening] 🙂

    Current score: 0
  12. OhPun says:

    Um… how about instead of telling you what happens next, I tell you it will happen on Wednesday of this week? Would anybody be interested in hearing that?

    Yes, ma’am.

    Current score: 0
  13. The Dark Master says:

    I’m actually surprised that Mackenzie didn’t call Amaranth out on keeping secrets, aw well.
    Reading this story actually gives me a bit of a chill, since I really have a hard time with the idea of treating people as anything less then people. I like the idea of having someone controlling another to improve them and make them a better person, but there is still a sort of basic respecting another’s rights that should never be violated.
    I know Mackenzie wants this and I can’t fault her for that, but I don’t know if Amaranth accepts this… There is a good chance this is one of the reasons that her mother is unsure about the relationship.

    Current score: 0
    • Angnor says:

      They have a blacklist and a safeword. Mack can stop it any time things go in a direction she doesn’t want.

      Besides, Mack has a right to choose to do anything Amaranth tells her to. You have to respect that right as well.

      Current score: 1
      • The Dark Master says:

        I did say I respected Mackenzie’s right to do what she wants, what I’m worried about is whats going to happen to Amaranth. Remember that Amaranth is too proud, as her mother puts it, or naive and vain as I put it (although she is working on improving). Mackenzie belonging to her and being treated as an object encourages Amaranth’s flaws. I’m saying I think this was the main reason why Amaranth’s mother was against the relationship.

        Current score: 1
        • Lyssa says:

          On the other hand, nearly an entire year has gone bye (woosh!) so we really don’t know how much of that is still the case. There have been a lot of changes since then.

          I disagree with this: “Mackenzie belonging to her and being treated as an object encourages Amaranth’s flaws” on the basis that none of it really reinforces her to be vain, but to be *more* responsible and thoughtful about her actions, since they will affect someone she loves deeply. Anyway, we’ll just have to see how it unfolds.

          Current score: 0
        • Angnor says:

          What you said was “…there is still a sort of basic respecting of another’s rights that should never be violated.”

          It was this in particular I was responding to.

          Current score: 0
      • Thane of Eurmal says:

        I think this was really settled when Mack went off to meet Embries. While talking about it ahead of time, Amaranth asked, “What if I TELL you not to go?” And Mack said, basically, that she couldn’t be Amaranth’s any more.

        It showed that this is a choice of theirs, and that it is constantly being reaffirmed by consent. At any time, either one could say enough. And I think Amy’s mindful enough of the gift that Mack is giving her that it doesn’t seem unhealthy to either of them…

        Current score: 3
    • Vee says:

      Are you reading the same story I am?

      Reread this bit, please:

      ““You can shelve them later,” Amaranth said. “And feel free to use whatever shelves are left for your things.”

      She said it so matter-of-factly, like it went without saying that the shelves belonged to her and any sliver of space she gave me was an unearned treat. It seemed like Amaranth had spent the summer cultivating a sort of easy, imperious authority. I couldn’t say that I didn’t like it. I’m sure she knew that, too, just as she knew I didn’t have many of my own things that would require shelving in the first place.”

      AE goes to all the trouble of showing us that Amaranth orders Mack around while at the same time also being very considerate of Mack’s needs and wants… and you completely missed it!

      And, do you really expect Mack to “call Amaranth out” on anything when she hasn’t seen her all summer, and the “secret” is a special surprise? My goodness.

      Current score: 0
      • The Dark Master says:

        Try again, I said reading the story makes ‘me’ uncomfortable. Also, the relationship between the two has bothered me for different reasons than whether or not they are happy with it. Look at it this way, I think that the two of them could be very happy together, but I don’t think that Amaranth is mature enough to handle the relationship yet. I am suggesting this as one of the reason that Mother Khaele is against the relationship.
        I want to see Amaranth grow, and I think the first step would be to get Amaranth to really understand why. Why Mackenzie started the relationship, why Mackenzie put each of the different things on the blacklist, and why she should never assume that she knows what’s right for Mackenzie without asking her first; regardless of Mackenzie’s desire to do what she’s told and make Amaranth happy. This could then extend to her behavior towards others.

        Current score: 0
        • Brenda says:

          We really haven’t seen enough of Amaranth since the jump to know how she may have matured. It’s been nearly a year, and she had been learning from (some of) her mistakes at that time. Even being separated for three of them, they’ve been together quite a while now, and I’m sure there are many things which are understood between the two of them and which don’t need to be asked about.

          I can understand judging Amaranth as we had been seeing her, but I think judgment should be withheld for now on the current relationship.

          Current score: 0
          • The Dark Master says:

            Your right, it is too early to make judgements on the relationship. This was my take on the relationship before the jump and my worries about the characters if they have not improved since then.

            Current score: 0
  14. Zathras IX says:

    Mackenzie being
    “Good” for Ian involves her
    Being a “Bad” Girl

    Current score: 0
  15. cnic says:

    “they’d been at each other’s throats in a fairly amiable way” I absolutely love that turn of phrase. I’ve had and seen others have friendships exactly lke that and they were great because the friendly conflict was engaging.

    Current score: 0
  16. ylistra says:

    I wonder about these off-world artifacts.

    The number of people in the story that could produce an item that fit that category are fairly limited.

    Current score: 0
    • Burnsidhe says:

      You’re assuming that they’re from someone who’s already appeared in the story.

      Current score: 0
      • Brenda says:

        I’m assuming that if we ever find out what they were, we are going to laugh…

        Current score: 0
        • Sahsa says:

          I’m assuming they’re divine dildos, given that this is Amaranth we’re talking about.

          Current score: 0
  17. rumrunner says:

    “She says that she would absolutely die before she asked a man to support her, and that anyway he said no.”


    Current score: 0
  18. “The bare tile floor… which had felt cold at night even in the lingering summer-like weather of mid-Astera… was now covered in a thick, soft carpet that had clearly been picked out by someone who fully intended to have sex on it.”

    Winnity Win Win ^_^

    I am glad Mack enjoys her relationship with Amy, but I have to say the objectification squicks me way more than any particular sexual act ever could >_<

    Current score: 0
  19. readaholic says:

    “just a wavy golden blonde hair over six feet tall,” I think there’s a missing word here or something.

    More “awww” moments 🙂

    “Um… how about instead of telling you what happens next, I tell you it will happen on Wednesday of this week? Would anybody be interested in hearing that?”

    Yes, oh marvelous mistress of magical MU 🙂

    Current score: 0
    • wocket says:

      My take: Nothing’s missing there. It’s the phrase “just a hair over six feet tall”, with an added description of Amaranth’s hair.

      Current score: 0
      • Calia says:

        The line makes more sense when you put it that way, but I’ll admit the phrase didn’t parse well for me, either. I had thought it was a mixup, somehow.

        Current score: 0
        • fka_luddite says:

          My thought was “technically correct, but it doesn’t read well.”

          Current score: 0
          • Lunaroki says:

            I was going to report this line as a typo myself, but having it explained this way makes perfect sense. However, if it needs to be explained to make sense perhaps it’s overcomplicated enough to need restating.

            Current score: 0
  20. Um the Muse says:

    I wonder if Amaranth is referring to selling her human form? Isn’t she supposed to be able to die and re-form ad naseum? In fact, I believe she would love to do just that.

    I could easily see such an immortal calling her avatar an artifact, though the other part is a bit of a stretch.

    Also, there’s a line that says, “It was almost better than sex, if sex made you want sex instead of relieving the urge for it.” Did you mean to say “as if…”? I struggled a bit on that, because it is different from how I think/ feel.

    Current score: 0
    • Lyssa says:

      I think she would have shared it if it were that. She was excited at the idea of it last year, remember? And Mack didn’t care for it. So she would probably not have danced around the issue by saying it was otherworld artifacts that she sold. Plus, she said a friend gave them to her.

      Current score: 0
    • Lunaroki says:

      No “as” is needed in that line. Mackenzie is amending her analogy before the comma with everything that follows after the comma. She’s saying that being called “Good girl” by Amaranth made her feel really good and want sex, and if having sex made you want sex instead of satisfying the urge for it comparing that feeling to having sex would be a much closer analogy.

      Current score: 0
  21. Dani says:

    > ometimes when I saw her in really dim light I
    > thought I could see highlights of purple and dark blue

    I think we’ve been told that Mack has reasonably-good dark vision. Do these highlights show up when the infra-red isn’t being washed out?

    Current score: 0
  22. Brenda says:

    I spotted one possible typo – since it’s in a line of dialogue it doesn’t *have* to be corrected.

    Amaranth says “…but I knew my Mack would already be up here, I thought I’d bring my things in first.”

    It’s a comma splice. I would either put
    “…but since I knew…”


    “…here, so I thought…”

    It’s readable as is, but jumped out at me. (Now my brain is trying to picture that literally. I need to get some sleep.)

    Current score: 0
    • fka_luddite says:

      two other options:
      1) change the comma to a semicolon,
      2) change “but I knew” to “but knowing”

      Current score: 0
  23. Barnowl says:

    It’s good to see everyone settling in, and enjoying a bit of happiness and calm…I expect it is a calm before the storm, as some interesting issue or source of conflict will surely arise…Because our friends are all significantly better adjusted now, perhaps they will be able to take a more active role in dealing with things this year, rather than having things happen to them.

    Current score: 0
  24. Prospero says:

    While subterranean elf does emerge as a good working solution to side step the whole dark/feint elf thing I’m surprised they don’t just go with low elf. Sure to humans and feint elves low is pejorative and high is a term of praise but it’s the opposite for them. Ultimately if surface elves were called high elves and subterranean elves were called low elves then every one would get what they wanted from an elf point of view: each would be given their mark of exaltation and be moreover gratified to see their opposites take on an ignominious brand; and as for humans, when have elves ever cared about what they think?

    Current score: 0
    • Barnowl says:

      Right on! I couldn’t have said it better mys’elf.

      Current score: 0
    • fka_luddite says:

      These wordings (including Mack’s) don’t really address Dee’s objection. The other persuasion of elves are regularly referred to as elves, while her sort are [adjective of choice] elves; only consistent use of an adjective with each would be adequate.

      Current score: 0
      • Lyssa says:

        Isn’t that what Mack is doing?

        Current score: 0
        • Brenda says:

          Yes, and her choice of “subterranean” and “surface” are completely objective and neutral. We know “dark” and “faint” are offensive. I’m assuming “high” and “low” would be as well, even if it were in opposite directions. Mack’s words are more respectful.

          Current score: 0
    • JS says:

      Except for the heirarchy. I suspect that words such as low and high would be strictly delineated within the language as it pertains to station; I think I remember Shiel discussing this as well.

      Current score: 0
  25. Durragh says:

    with mention of the both hazel and honey happening here, i’m surprised no one asked about the possible baby issue. i don’t know how long gnome gestation is, but since it started in the fall semester, and we’ve had spring and summer since then, SOMETHING should be definite by now! Although Two saying the summer was full of scandal and rudeness could have been a hint in that direction.

    epic win on the start of the sophmore year AE, very much loving these nice long chapters too!

    Current score: 0
    • Shosh says:

      In one of the last few chapters of the last book, Hazel walked into a room and Amaranth looked shocked. That was clear as mud to me, but some of the commenters took this as an indication that Hazel had an abortion. So, maybe that?

      Current score: 0
      • fka_luddite says:

        Also in that scene,Hazel told Amy not to say anything.

        Current score: 0
    • Emmy says:

      Perhaps because, as has been pointed out repeatedly by other characters, Hazel’s reproductive state is nobody’s business but her own. (Quite right, too!) Maybe, just *maybe*, that finally sunk in. Though, communal living being what it is, I wouldn’t be especially suprised to see “the issue” crop up again.

      ETA: “Um… how about instead of telling you what happens next, I tell you it will happen on Wednesday of this week? Would anybody be interested in hearing that?”

      No, thank you. No, I’d much rather have a tiny, teasing taste of what’s coming up and have to wait twice as long for it. /facetiousness

      Who are you kidding? We love it!

      Current score: 0
      • Barnowl says:

        I’m with Amy on this one. If Hazel just wanted to keep her decision private, fair enough. But last time we saw her she was actively in denial about the very state of being pregnant. I don’t think a friend is doing a friend any favours by allowing her to stay in denial about such a huge, time critical issue…Although by now its been decided in one way or another.

        It’s possible Hazel’s closer friends had observed that she WAS facing the issue but just didn’t chose to speak to Amaranth about it, thus their lack of concern…but we don’t know that.

        Current score: 0
    • Zukira Phaera says:

      Remember, Andreas is a dwarf though, so the gestation of the baby would not solely be determined by Hazel’s race, but also by dwarf gestation standards. If I’m not mistaken, somewhere way back when it was mentioned that dwarf pregnancies last much much longer.

      Current score: 0
  26. Schulze says:

    Finally, a really arousing chapter again. I somewhat missed those. 🙂

    Current score: 0
    • The Dark Master says:

      I think the reason for that is the climactic and summarization chapters allowed little for sex except in passing, unless it was the focus of the climax. I considered not posting this, but I figured I should, just for the bad pun.

      Current score: 0
  27. Vouyer says:

    Is it just me or does Mack need a pop upside the head? In regards to Two being the designated bathroom cleaner, Mack seems quick to talk herself into feeling ok about getting rid of what should be a shared responsibility. Sure, Mack doesn’t use the commode. She will be using the other fixtures though.

    To me she seems perfectly ok with not even discussing with Two how it will be handled. Just because someone prefers clean, neat, and orderly doesn’t mean they like to clean up after you.

    There are plenty of cohabitants who’ve been upset by the toothpaste globs in the sink or the hair clogging up the bathtub drain.

    Current score: 0
    • Aaroc says:

      I’m not sure if you were reading the same conversation I was. The way I read it, Mack and Ian were discussing methods to avoid having Two do all the cleaning of the bathroom.

      Current score: 0
    • Rin says:

      I also did not read that passage as Mach shirking her housekeeping responsibilities. She seems genuinely intent on working out some sort of schedule, but is also realistic enough to realize that it might not matter. There’s a good chance that the others will only find an absolutely spotless bathroom when it is their turn, with Two having just cleaned it even if she didn’t have to.

      Current score: 0
  28. TheBlondeGoth says:

    Good God I wish I had a sub like mack! Putting myself in Amy’s place just makes me…well best not go into that now eh -.-‘

    Current score: 0
  29. OceanTasty says:

    Mackenzie is seriously Amy’s Toy now — which means they need to seriously look into buying Amy’s field before Mercy does.

    Current score: 0
    • arsenic says:

      Who owns it now? I’ve always had it in the back of my mind that it was local-Paradise-Valley-government property and not for sale.

      EDIT: OMG we can edit things now!

      Current score: 0
    • Durragh says:

      I’m pretty sure the various fields are a community owned thing, the term commune might even apply if I remember correctly. I’m fairly certain all the farmers are in on the creation of a new field with its associated nymph, so its definitly a community effort as far as that goes.

      Current score: 0
    • Sahsa says:

      Perhaps that could become an issue, but I doubt it will. Even if Mercy somehow acquired ownership of the land which comprises Amaranth’s field, it still wouldn’t really give her any power over Amaranth, or, by extension, Mack. Sure, she could burn down the field to permanently kill her, or destroy her physical body/avatar and keep her confined to her field (which, if she did it well enough, may eventually kill her due to lack of sex), but then she would face divine retribution from Mother Khaele. In the end, it just wouldn’t be worth it for her.

      Current score: 0
  30. Sapphite says:

    It will be interesting to see where Dee went for summer vacation – if I recall correctly, she wouldn’t be able to travel all the way home in the time between semesters.

    Current score: 0
    • riocaz says:

      My recollection concurs with yours. However I also seem to recall that dee was going to spend the period at the closest enclave of her people.

      Current score: 0
  31. Lunaroki says:

    Typo Report

    She gave me a hug that included little pat on the butt…

    We need an “a” after “included”.

    As an invulnerable half-demon, I didn’t have worry about cracking bones or abrading skin.

    Need a “to” in front of “worry”.

    Current score: 0
  32. K-Li says:

    A good read, even if it did have to include Amaranth. This chapter was all about the sexual side of the relationship, so we don’t see if she’s learned anything over the summer, though I doubt it. The real test will come when she has an opportunity to be toxic to Mack in a way that benefits those who wish her ill. She’s not missed one yet.

    Current score: 0
    • Brenda says:

      Not just the summer, but nearly a year. Ten months is a lot longer than three when it comes to relationships.

      Current score: 0
  33. anna says:

    Strange, this chapter never showed up in my RSS feed. I started reading Chapter 4, and things just didn’t make sense!

    Not a big deal, of course, just something odd I noticed…

    Current score: 0
  34. JaneDoe says:

    Couple typos:

    “The only outward physical sign of her nature were the faint indentations of the runes on her forehead”

    Should be either the physical sign was, or the signs were

    “The three of them are sharing one room and so they can use the other room for games.”

    There’s an extra and in there.

    And was anyone else’s first thought when Amaranth mentioned the items she sold that she had sold the MechKnight figures Makenzie left with her a while back? Most of the description seems to fit, the only thing that makes me think I’m probably wrong is her description of them as off-world artifacts.

    Current score: 0
  35. Helen Rees says:

    “Sometimes she had underestimated the effect of a thing’s appeal in the abstract versus reasons it might be undesirable in reality, but she’d grown better at that over the course of the last year, especially when it came to reading me.”

    seems to me that the thing she underestimated was the effect of a thing in reality – as I understand it, she’s always had a perfectly fabulous ability to estimate the appeal of anything to anyone in the abstract.

    Just saying…

    Current score: 0
  36. Ancalador says:

    Now this might be a little late, and may have been commented on in a previous post, but anyway:

    Her body was that of a pretty substantially built human woman, just a wavy golden blonde hair over six feet tall,

    I think you might have meant ‘a wavy golden blonde haired girl’?

    Current score: 0
  37. Sea says:

    “There is no rule against bringing in outside furniture,” Amaranth said. “I checked… and I didn’t take the existing furniture out of the room.”
    Technically, doesn’t Amy’s “away” follow her in some way? Since she can access it wherever she goes. So when she leaves the room wouldn’t she be taking it outside of the room?

    Current score: 0
    • Ryzndmon says:

      Indeed, the ‘away’ does seem follow Amaranth. Or not. It appears to be hyper-spatial in nature, so it is there and not there all the time! Like when Micheal Valentine Smith turns something 90 degrees from everything.
      Even if the ‘away’ does follow Amaranth, however, at the time she made the statement she was telling the truth, as she, and therefor her ‘away’, had not left the room.

      Current score: 0
  38. JerK says:

    I can’t believe of the three relationships that the Amy one is what creeps people out. THAT creeps ME out.

    Current score: 0