Chapter 303: Confession of a Dangerous Mind

on July 31, 2015 in Volume 2 Book 9: Who Is Mackenzie Blaise?, Volume 2: Sophomore Effort

I had apparently liked Rowan well enough years ago, but I didn’t know him now and I wasn’t about to spring a strange guy from the middle of nowhere in the middle provinces on Dee without making sure she wouldn’t regret the meeting.

She was already doing me a huge favor, even if she was kind of eager to get to the bottom of things, and the last thing she needed was to be slapped in the face by a little casual racism or related ignorance for it.

That was why after I made sure she would be interested in probing Rowan’s memories of me but before I put them in a room together, I decided to give him a little briefing in my room.

“I thought your girlfriend might be here,” he said.

“I can introduce you, if you want,” I said.

“What? No!” he said. “I would never…”

“She would always,” I said. “It’s not a big deal, Rowan. Relax. You’ll meet everybody eventually, but… this complicated enough already. So, my friend Dee, the telepath… um, do you know who Delia Daella is?”

“Yeah… she made the news, too, once,” he said. “That was actually around when I first noticed you. I don’t think I would have remembered her name or where she was if she hadn’t been connected to you, you know? But a naked dark elf protester is kind of memorable. I’m pretty sure I’ve seen her around campus, but it’s hard to tell. She doesn’t usually show that much skin.”

“Okay, that’s the first thing I wanted to say,” I said. “Dee is not a dark elf. She’s an elf.”

“Hey, it’s okay! I’ve seen her naked, Mackenzie! I mean, pictures, and they were censored… I’ve heard you can get the uncensored ones, but I never… I mean, the point is I’m not going to freak out because she’s…”

“You’re not listening,” I said. “Okay. The problem is when we call some elves ‘dark elves’ as opposed to the elves who get to be Just Plain Elves, we’re setting up a default and saying that the other elves are… other. It’s insulting and alienating.”

“So what do I call her, to distinguish her from… the other group of elves?”

“Well, I mean, is there any reason in a conversation with just her that you’d need to distinguish her from another group of elves?” I said. “Subterranean elves is fine, and she doesn’t object to under-elves, either… I kind of thing it has negative implications in Pax, but they tend to go the other way around with higher/lower metaphors in hierarchies. The main thing is to make sure you mark surface elves in the same way, like calling them surface elves. I don’t always manage that, but I try, especially when talking to her. That’s all I’m asking.”

“Okay, I get all that,” he said. “But by the same token that I don’t need to call her anything in this conversation, why would you need to warn me not to?”

“Because of the off-chance that you’d be like, ‘Holy shit, you’re a dark elf!’ when you saw her.”

“Mackenzie, you know… oh, right.”

“You know what I don’t know,” I said.

“I know, but knowing and… really knowing, internalizing it, it’s different, you know?”

“We’re getting buried in knows here,” I said.

“Up to our noses in knowses,” he said, grinning a lopsided grin.

“Anyway, if it was just that one thing… that’s really part one of a basic primer on respect,” I said. “I call her Dee because I’m her friend. If you’re not comfortable claiming friendship with her… and since she’ll be in your head, I’d say don’t if you’re not sure you’ll mean it… then it’s very, very important you call her Delia Daella. The second part is her mother’s name.”

“I guess that’s important. They’re like matriarchal down there, right?”

“Yes, but it’s not just like kids taking their father’s last name, or even the Thylian-style patronymic thing. She’s in a line, which is a whole thing, and to her, her mother is part of who she is. Calling her by her given name alone is… well, culturally, it’s like killing her mother. And Dee… I mean, I’m not telling you a cultural thing here, but Dee personally, her mother is… she’s… I mean, everybody loves their mother, mostly, but… I get the feeling that her mother is…”

“Like yours was to you,” Rowan said. “Her world.”

“Yes,” I said. “And I don’t want to tell you her business, not even the bits of it I do know, but there’s a lot of complicated stuff there. Just, for all intents and purposes, her name is Delia Daella. Not just the first part. The whole thing. If you can’t handle that, it’s safer to call her Dee, even if you don’t mean it.”

“Wouldn’t that be presumptuous? I mean, she doesn’t know me.”

“I think there’s a culturally different understanding,” I said. “She puts it out there that she’s open to friendship, you take her up on it by acknowledging the offer. And it sort of incidentally gives people an out on the name thing. I have never… almost never heard her object to being called Dee by anybody, it’s only been in regards to people she knows enough to dislike.”

“Okay. You said ‘safer’… safer like… I mean, what are the consequences of me fucking this up?”

“You hurt her feelings and things are awkward between you when I need them not to be?” I said. I mean, don’t ask me to guarantee your physical or mental safety if you decide to really pick a fight with her. She’s got some for-serious warrior training, she’s a practicing cleric, and she’s psychic like whoa… I just doubt she’d do anything that would jeopardize her status as a student here or cause more trouble for us just because you can’t remember a manners lesson. ”

“Okay, but hurting her feelings… are they easy to hurt? I mean, I get that she’s your friend, but she’s your friend, and I’m sure it’s all bullshit, but just… there are stories, you know?”

“There are stories about half-demons, too,” I said. “I was starting to like you. Don’t get all…” I stopped, not quite sure what I wanted to say. Bigoted? Prejudiced? These might be accurate, but he was already on the defensive. I looked for a word that would fit but be less contentious. “Over-sensitive.”

“Look, I’m not trying to be an asshole, I’m just a bit outside my area,” he said. “You might have had a decade to grow into a sophisticated cosmpolite who hangs out with elves of all colors and descriptions, but I’m still a freshman.”

I couldn’t helping laughing at this, because if anything, I’d been more sheltered than Rowan when I first arrived. I dare say that it had taken me a lot less than a semester to find my footing in dealing respectfully with Dee, but then, I’d been dropped into an environment where there were more opportunities to learn.

“Okay, fine, point taken,” I said. “Next point, I guess: make sure you don’t say the d-word.”

“Isn’t that just another word for dark elf?”

“Yeah, a horribly insulting one,” I said. “You know, my mother taught me not to say that when I was like… I don’t know, five or six. I’m surprised you never learned it, if we hang out together all the time.”

“It never came up, to my recollection. I mean, how many times did you say it after she told you not to?”

“Fair point,” I said.

“And I didn’t have any reason to say it. The nearest thing to an elf around was Josie Summerdale.”

“…man, I haven’t thought about Josie in ages,” I said, though the name had immediately brought a picture to mind. Honey-blonde hair, stick-thin all over, without an ounce of baby fat except for in her face. That was also the only place where her skin seemed to show any color, which had given rise to her unfortunate nicknames: Josie Applecheeks, or sometimes Rosie Josie.

Or was it Josie Rosie?

Probably both.

“She was pretty cool,” Rowan said.

“I guess I didn’t know her that well.”

“…you weren’t tight like we were, I don’t think, outside of class, but you knew her pretty well,” he said. “You guys sat together most years, and was your partner in all the group stuff.”

“I remember she sat next to me,” I said, shaking my head. “I don’t think it was deliberate on my part, and I definitely don’t think I had one study buddy or anything.”

“Don’t think, or don’t remember?”

“Okay, this is too weird for me,” I said, shaking my head not so much because I disagreed with him but because… well, basically, I wanted to say no to the whole premise. “I mean, I understand that my mind was very likely tampered with and I’ve taken it as a given that we knew each other and now I don’t know you, but… how much did I lose?”

“It sounds like just about everything,” he said.

“I don’t know what ‘everything’ is,” I said. “But I’d really like to learn. Okay, I think I’ve covered the important bases, so let’s get on with this. Dee, can you come in here?”

“Wait, she’s been listening the whole time?”

“In earshot, but not listening,” I said. “It would have been ruder to ask her to go somewhere that she couldn’t hear… and then we’d have to fetch her.”

Dee floated in through the door connecting our room to hers by way of the shared bathroom. When I say “floated”, I don’t mean the normal fluid, gliding stride typical of elves… she was actually levitating in a semi-seated position. I knew she was telekinetic, but I’d never seen her do this… or most things… casually, so I assumed it was something like a warm-up exercise.

She was wearing her priestess’s robe.

Her easily misunderstood propensity for occasional public nudity was because technically all her clothing were a priestess’s garments, but the fact that she was wearing her outer robe over the slip-like dress suggested that she saw what she was doing here as a worthy service… if it had been out of a sense of modesty with an unfamiliar boy, she would have put her cloak on over it.

“Good afternoon,” she said, nodding towards Rowan. “I am Delia Daella d’Wyr. Those who count themselves as my friends call me Dee. You are called Rowan Hartley?”

“Rowan’s fine,” he said. “Hi. Dee.”

“You understand what Mackenzie has proposed here?” she said.

“She wants you to sift through my memories, I guess to help her understand them?”

“In part… but as I can neither convey them directly to her, nor compare them to hers, my role as an intermediary must necessarily be limited,” she said.

“So, you can’t just pull my memories out, and put them in her?” he asked.

“I lack the skill necessary to do so safely,” she said.

“I thought you said she was the best around,” he said to me.

“Probably the best telepath in a hundred miles in any direction except down,” I said. “It’s only recently we stopped treating the subtle arts like witchcraft, but they treat them like they’re magic. It’s just…”

“There is a particular skill I lack,” Dee said. “Demons do not have any prey in my homeland, so we have no experience dealing with their minds.”

“Is it really so different?” Rowan asked.

“I have a… dangerous mind,” I said. “It’s part of why it made sense to me that your story would be bullshit, when you were talking about me being a mindreader. The way I understand it, contact between minds from different planes of existence is kind of iffy to begin with, and if one of those planes is infernal… well, it’s not something you mess around with.”

“Okay, yeah… I think you might have said something about that,” Rowan said. “So, then… what are we doing here?”

“I will, in essence, be vetting your memories,” Dee said. “Making certain that you believe what you say, and looking for evidence of tampering.”

“Okay, I understand where you’re coming from,” he said, looking at me before turning back to Dee. “But I’m pretty sure I’m not the one whose head has been fooled with.”

“Understand, I am not proceeding from the theory that either your memories have been tampered with or hers have,” Dee said. “I am investigating the possibility that they both may be false. But I do not penetrate another being’s thoughts lightly, and I would not do so to you under false pretenses. If you object, I will withdraw.”

“I… well, I might object in the sense of saying, ‘Hey! That’s not fair!’, but I’m not saying no,” he said. “I want to know what you say.”

“Let us have no half-measures here,” Dee said. “I must know that you are unequivocally in favor of this, as I have had reason to become aware that there is often a gap between what we believe ourselves to want in the abstract and what we find we want in the moment.”

“Well, you have my permission to read my mind and see that I mean it,” he said.

“I apologize, but it is not necessary… the strength of that sincerity spills forth beyond the confines of your mind,” Dee said. “I know that you mean it when you say you want to know, but… forgive me, but this is not my first language, nor is it as precise as the one to which I am accustomed…”

“Would telepathy be easier?”

“Only if you would understand thoughts in my language better than you would spoken words,” she said.

“Rowan, she’s saying that she’s afraid if she has bad news, you won’t take it well,” I said. “So she’s asking you to be super sure that you’re ready for anything she might tell you, kind of as a general cover-your-ass disclaimer thing.”

“…yes, that is an accurate summation,” Dee said.

“Oh, okay,” Rowan said. “Well, yeah… I just want to know the truth, okay? I’ve been carrying a mystery around with me for years, and when I thought I was going to find the answer, the rug just got yanked out from under me again. Nothing could feel as bad as… okay, maybe I shouldn’t make that kind of sweeping prediction if I’m trying to convince you I won’t kill the messenger. I’m willing to feel worse than I have, to get to the truth.”

“Very well put,” Dee said. “Eventually.”

“What do I have to do?”

“I would say to relax and open your mind, but I have found that giving this instruction to one untrained in the arts of the mind often results in a rather aggressive block being thrown up,” she said. “So do not attempt to open your mind, or do anything with your mind you are not accustomed to doing. Do, so far as you are able, relax. Think about Mackenzie and your childhood, the stories you have told her… I fill find the threads to follow from there.”

“Okay,” Rowan said. “How do I know when you’ve begun? Will I feel anything?”

“Do you?” she asked.

“No,” he said.

“Then you will not.”

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47 Responses to “Chapter 303: Confession of a Dangerous Mind”

  1. Marianne says:


    I am really eager to see when/if Mack finds out her mother is alive, and the fallout of that. Such tasty stories!

    Current score: 5
  2. zeel says:

    The last little exchange there was perfect really.

    Current score: 6
  3. Zathras IX says:

    Witchcraft and such are
    Merely superstitions but
    Magic is science

    Current score: 8
    • pedestrian says:

      Well Z, damn clever little ditty, however I disagree with the conclusion.

      From my knowledge of history, witchcraft tended to be based on personal observation and experiment, with a shared oral history developed in tandem with Healing Arts, Practical Herbalism with an emphasis on developing cultivation to take advantage of what was collected from wild plants.

      Including Midwives, witchcraft was the systemic accumulation of practical knowledge through shared experiences.

      Magic, as practiced outside the above collegiality, was based on the use of religious symbols to control divine, infernal and elemental powers for ones own profit.

      As you can imagine that really annoys religious/military hierarchies as they insist that they hold a monopolistic right to access such means of controlling access to the supernatural.

      As an excuse to torture & murder female heirs to property and titles, witchcraft was equated with demon worship and proscribed by those with the power to enforce their greed.

      Current score: 2
      • Sylvan says:

        Zathras IX was likely referring to this bit from Mackenzie

        “It’s only recently we stopped treating the subtle arts like witchcraft, but they treat them like they’re magic. It’s just…”

        I got the impression Mackenzie is using the word “witchcraft” to describe….what would you call pseudo-thaumatology?

        Like….Magic is chemistry, witchcraft is alchemy.

        Current score: 1
      • Oni says:

        Everyone always coming to Zathras with problems. Big responsibility but Zathras does not mind. Zathras trained in crisis management.

        Current score: 4
        • Erianaiel says:

          But only Zathras have nobody to talk to. Nobody manages poor Zathras.
          So Zathras talks to dirt. Or to walls, or talks to ceilings. But dirt is closer.

          He was such an adorable and frequently profound character.

          Current score: 3
  4. Blari345 says:

    Arrrgh Another week till we can read the good stuff.

    So I was wondering if anybody can think of places in the story where Mack may have been using her TP unknowingly.

    I remember thinking that chapter 241v2 reminded me of chapter 464v1 when she was under the influence of the Eyeless Fish thing. The reason that she was so surprised by the thoughts she had could be because they came from Ian and not herself.

    I have been on the lookout for other similar situations but haven’t noticed any so far.

    Current score: 0
  5. Dani says:

    The d-word is just a worD.

    Current score: 5
  6. Nocker says:

    The whole dark elf thing always seems so… forced.

    Like lets face it, if you need a term to distinguish one group for another literally nobody is ever going to pick the longer, harder to remember one.

    I mean it’s not even like the term has some kind of intense racial baggage to it. It’s a non-elven word used by people who’d logically never have any neighbors or extended relations with the group. To pick one over the other is basically just moral grandstanding.

    Current score: 0
    • Hollowgolem says:

      Historical implications are important.

      When a surface-dweller says “drow,” they almost always mean it insultingly, with a good deal of hostility.

      I think this bit of the story resonates especially strongly given our modern racial issues in the US (the connections are pretty obvious). You can be bigoted without intending to be, but that doesn’t mean that the people on the receiving end of your bigotry won’t interpret it as such.

      Dee has the benefit of being a telepath, and so likely knows the difference between the ignorant bumpkins who think of her as a “drow” in a neutral sense and those who think of her as some sort of “spider-jockey.” She’s probably gotten desensitized to that kind of stuff, but it still doesn’t hurt to be polite when meeting her.

      Current score: 4
      • Nocker says:

        Modern US racial issues are based in the idea of two groups living in the same area, not so far away they’d never actually meet except by random chance until very recently.

        This isn’t two major racial groups having a tense, centuries long history. This is more like an American talking to someone from like, Portugal, or some other nation they’ve had nothing to do with outside of their other neighbors long gone involvements.

        You can only draw a parallel when they’re close enough for that to work, and it doesn’t really work here.

        Current score: 0
        • PrometheanSky says:

          Exactly. It’s not like I’ve ever seen an American go off about how awful an Iraqi or Chinese person is without having met members of those groups. Everyone knows that you have to know someone in order to be prejudiced against them.

          Current score: 10
          • Nocker says:

            …and America has gone to war with one of those nations and has extensive contact and trade with the other. Given basically everything Dee has said about surface goods as a member of the ruling caste of a major city the second can’t be true and there’s been zero mention of the first.

            You don’t have to know someone, but you need to know OF them.

            Current score: 1
            • Eli says:

              Well they clearly do know *of* them, don’t they? The most insular communities are almost always the most racist in real life, so of course it makes sense the same would be true in fiction.

              And war is hardly a fair example, is it? Most contact works against racism. War is frequently different. Well noticed…

              Trade, though? Yea, there has been a lot of contact and trade with China. Which is exactly why Americans today will be less commonly and less severely racist towards the Chinese than they were in the past.

              Do you really think racism was better however many decades ago, when there was less contact with other cultures? lol…

              Current score: 0
            • Nocker says:

              which is besides the point. There’s no real indication that there’s any greater contact than in ages past. According to the authors on statement, MU travel isn’t analogous to real travel and is still closer to medieval travel in terms of time and scale in many cases. Hence why the Imperium can’t project force in the same way the USA can.

              There’s no indication that trade or travel is any better or worse than it would have been centuries ago. Everything the dark elves get is made by them, including fruits and things they’d logically want to trade for first and foremost.

              Current score: 0
        • Rip says:

          It’s not a perfect parallel. The prejudice against subterranean elves doesn’t come from familiarity, but from their status as bogeymen in the stories humans hear from surface elves. “Drow” is a word given to the underground elves by their enemies, not a word they came up with for themselves. It’s as if Star Wars was real and Darth Vader told you that he found the term “Sith” to be really offensive because it was a word only found in Jedi propaganda.

          Current score: 2
          • Nocker says:

            Except of course, nobody gives a fuck about what Darth Vader thinks because he’s ACTUALLY that evil.

            Besides, that’s kind of how naming WORKS. About half the groups in the world, ethnic or national, have their names in basically every other language decided by the ones speaking it. That’s like calling the word Japanese a racist slur after a certain point.

            Besides, to bring it back home, nobody cares if Vader gets sad because he’s exactly as bad as everyone believes. I don’t take any real pity on the dark elves because they’re ALSO as bad as everyone says. Durakesh is exactly the same brand of classist, sexist shithole populated by crazy matriarchs who aren’t nearly as smart or in control as they think they are as say, Menzoberranzan. Half of Dee’s development has been realizing that yes, there are a whole lot of problems down there that she’s been ignoring for her own convenience, and even the people close to her claim the same thing when they aren’t constantly fighting for their life from the same incompetent politickers I just mentioned.

            Current score: 0
            • Rip says:

              No no, Darth Vader is just misunderstood in this analogy. And there are other names for Japanese people that really are slurs. You know what they are, even if you don’t live right next to Japan.

              Current score: 1
            • Nocker says:

              Darth Vader is a bad analogy then. A serial killer who murders children gets no say in his moral views.

              Which is the point, when an allegory lines up this badly it becomes unusable.

              Those slurs also only largely developed or spread due to things like war or other conflicts. Which have never been mentioned in any list of conflicts.

              Current score: 0
            • Sylvan says:

              You know….Elves in the MUniverse are kind of dicks.

              So I could totally see a bunch of elves capturing humans for torture/sex/experiments/profit/fun and then just dumping their bodies and not giving a shit.

              Also, humans are kind of dicks in the MUniverse, so I could also totally see a bunch of humans cutting down some sacred elven tree, or clear-cutting a forest full of dryads, and then getting killed by some pissed off elves.

              Either way, after enough of that the humans go and get themselves an army, and I mean, they’re only HUMANS, but they outnumber the elves like 100:1, so….. No more immortality, right?

              Except elves are stealthy motherfuckers, and clever as fuck, so one of them is like “Hey, hey you humans. Did you see us do that? Would we do that? No, no, we’re elves. We’re your buddies. We taught you magic, and helped you kill all those pesky goblins, remember? No, your buddies were totally all killed by our jerkass cousins, the drow. Yeah, they come to the surface occasionally to be cunts so they can make sacrifices to their horrible spider goddess of blood and evil, and….menstruation. Yeah, we hate that shit. Because we’re elves, and we think vaginas are gross. Don’t you humans hate think they’re gross too? You should totally bring your army with us to go kill those guys who killed your friends. It’ll be just like the time we fought the goblins together, we’ll all get some sweet underground treasure. You guys like shiny things, right?”

              That isn’t to say that Durakesh does not have problems, but they’re more like…. “we have limited food because we fucking live underground, but some people still get to live decadent lives”.

              The fact that you DARED to compare AE’s subterranean elves to Salvatore’s….. slop is mostly what has inspired this comment.

              Mackenzie is not sure how much Rowan knows about all this, because a lot of people do not pay attention in history class, and, you know, she feels kinda alright about him as a person….for having interacted with him for maybe 20 minutes, right?

              But yeah, her friend Dee is uhh… not somebody to fuck around with, and she takes propriety VERY seriously. So…. I disagree with your claim that the discussion is contrived.

              It is a rather blatant author soapbox, if you know AE at all, but about an issue people still have trouble with today.

              I mean, I grew up with this one kid, right? He lived down my block, and he was homeschooled. I was the only kid in the neighborhood who played with this kid on a regular basis, loved him like an annoying younger brother. Didn’t find out till I was like twenty that he was racist as fuck and hates Muslims just because.

              Like, has literally shared jokes on facebook about killing muslims, just because, like that’ll solve all the worlds problems.

              Now imagine the setting here in Gilcrease, and instead of seeing Rowan as white and Dee as black, see Rowan as a likely Khersian and Dee as a mother”worshipping” Priestess.

              Also, on the off chance that Rowan is just that much of a fucktard, yeah, you don’t want to do any of that near or around Dee.

              Current score: 2
            • Nocker says:

              Sylvan, you miss the point.

              In case we’ve forgotten MoreMU, elves kidnapping and raping humans into broken slaves and stripping their humanity in the most literal possible way is a thing they do, and have invested so much time and energy into they’ve turned it into an artform with powerful magical artifacts to do that specific thing. Elves still try it to this day and prize those artifacts, and Jamie’s own elven grandfather was willing to let him off to that fate and ordered him to submit to his new master he didn’t even know. Elves being dicks to humans isn’t some kind of anomaly, it’s the culturally accepted norm with both older and younger generations? Why do you think Glory is working so hard to divorce herself from the entire mess, or that Acantha did the same to get ahead?

              As for humans cutting down some sacred tree, that’s just conjecture that has no backing in text. Historically speaking the vast majority of what we see is elven empires abusing humans and anything even vaguely resembling the former being recent and only due to elves screwing over their own civilization on their own xenophobia, hate, and excesses.

              I’m fine with author soapboxing. Otherwise there’s other stuff I’d take issue with that I don’t. It’s just that THIS particular box isn’t constructed well enough to hold someone’s weight while they do their thing.

              Current score: 0
        • pedestrian says:

          “Modern US racial issues are based in the idea of two groups living in the same area, not so far away they’d never actually meet except by random chance until very recently.”
          Nocker, I’m not sure if you meant your comment as sarcasm or not.

          The fact is all the minority groups we consider racial, have by this time a high percentage of European DNA forced upon them through systematic rape and cultural devastation over several centuries.

          Can’t get more up close and personally intimate then that!

          Current score: 4
          • Nocker says:

            Which is the point.

            NONE of that applies to dark elves. They have no contact with the imperium as an entity either through politics or informally. They live so far off that there’s no relationships to speak of.

            There is no “up close an personally intimate” in this situation.

            Current score: 1
            • PrometheanSky says:

              Correct me if I’m wrong, but don’t the surface elves have a long antagonistic relationship with the subterranean ones? And the human empires have had a long (by human standards), mostly cordial, relationship with the surface elves. Thus…

              Current score: 2
            • Nocker says:

              One can’t equate a nation with it’s neighbors, because that presumes relations that aren’t there. That’d be like assuming that, because the British isles had England, which hates France, that Scotland must also hate France, when in fact they had a much better relationship due to England being a common enemy.

              Under the very same logic we must remember that the bulk of elven-human relationships focus on elvish kingdoms and empires enslaving humans wontonly and then using them as playthings. The imperium itself still considers elvish blood to be something of a dirty thing, since even besides Steffs issues there’s the bit with the imperial bloodline and a hundred other details given out. Even the thyleans, centuries ago, made clear differences in that only some elves were even slightly friendly and others weren’t, even among surfacers. I mean even a generation ago it was controversial to even allow HALF elves to study at a university.

              So no, that relationship is neither long nor cordial. Even humans within their natural lifespan have very vivid memories of tensions and problems going on. We’ve got something of a skewed view of things because we’ve only mostly seen families like Einhorn’s, which is far more pro human than the norm, or else outsiders like Acantha who reject the entirety of elvish society to begin with. A normal elf and a normal human don’t really get along that well, despite what a few starry eyed coeds would have you believe.

              Current score: 0
            • zeel says:

              Oh no! Something that happens in a book isn’t exactly parallel to reality, so I can’t seem to accept that it works that way! What ever shall I do?

              Are you for real right now Nocker? It’s a social commentary, it always has been, get over it.

              No, the parallel between reality and fiction isn’t perfect – it isn’t even parallel, it’s off by a good 10-20 degrees. But it’s not intended to be perfect, if it were, it wouldn’t be a fantasy story about magical elves.

              Anyway, as to the meaning of words:

              Consider a real word: “Nigger” – it’s blanketly considered offensive. Why? Consider the etymology, it comes from the word “Negro” which simply means “black”. There is nothing inherently offensive about the meaning! But that isn’t what is important, the importance is the cultural baggage that it comes with, and the cultural mindset that created it. And yet, we also see the same word used positively!

              But the words used for black elves are even less innocuous. “Dark” has a decidedly evil connotation, lumps them in with “the dark arts” and such. Mackenzie has a whole argument about this in the text.

              Drow, is a just strait up negative. In our world the word is made up, but refers to a race of creatures that are always evil, and it comes from a scottish word for something similar to a Troll.

              In both cases the term is a negative one, regardless of how the speaker feels about it. The Pax inherited their knowledge of the Deep Elves from the Surface Elves, including all kinds of negative feelings. From that, they get terms like “Dark” instead of “Black” or “Deep” or any less recognizably real, but etymologically reasonable term that wouldn’t have the same connotation.

              And no, this is not really a parallel to anything in reality. Nothing in the MU world actually is – it’s just comfortingly similar. The racism happening here isn’t intended to be a mirror to that which happens in reality, but a commentary on it. People doing and saying similarly racist thing, but for completely unrelated reasons. The fantasy allows the story to touch on things that can’t be easily approached when working with more realistic settings.

              Current score: 5
            • Nocker says:

              …and that’s the point, this isn’t off by 10 or 20 degree’s, it’s off by a far greater amount.

              Generally speaking, a slur needs to come from someplace. Nigger didn’t just spring out of existance the moment a white man first saw a black one, it came from a very specific relationship this one has ZERO parallels to.

              There is NO cultural baggage here. There was no slavery of dark elves by humans, or else it’d probably have come up by now. There was no war equivalent to the pacific theater or anything in the middle east. There’s no great amounts of migration into imperial territory.

              Drow isn’t offensive because there’s NOTHING THERE. There’s no history of pain or oppression or violence for the word to call back to. Unless AE has conveniently forgotten to mention some vast underground human colonies or a pile of bodies in the durakesh lake there’s literally nothing to be offended about.

              Current score: 0
            • zeel says:

              The part where two different kind of elves had a falling out so bad they no longer believe that they can procreate with each other isn’t a history of pain?

              But it’s still not important if it is, it’s not real. The situation is within the realm of reasonability given the setting, and internally consistent. It doesn’t matter if it makes sense based on your narrow view of what should and shouldn’t be.

              They are magical elves, reality went out the window the moment Gwendolyn told Mackenzie her knife was “barely enchanted” in chapter one – at that point the expectation of things to work like they do in the real world should be gone.

              We don’t live in a world where anything like this has, or ever could happen. This is a speculative work about a world in which it did.

              Furthermore, you don’t need oppression to have racism. Xenophobia, fear, and misguidedness work just a well. And just because a racial slur comes about because someone is afraid of you, or because they were misinformed about you, doesn’t make it hurt less.

              Bottom line is, the humans were told by the Elves about how evil the Deep Elves were. They adopted words like “Drow” and used adjectives like “Dark”, and not as a descriptor of color, as a descriptor of moral alignment. Modern Magesterion society would never admit to that, and anyone who says “Dark Elf” (that isn’t an asshole) will claim it’s merely an “accurate description” – but that isn’t where it came from, what it really means, or how it will effect someone like Dee to be called it.

              Furthermore even though humans didn’t have a bad relationship with them, doesn’t mean the Feint Elves didn’t. Imagine for a moment, that a Chinese man called a Black man a “Nigger”, conversationally. Do you think the second man would be any less offended because the Chinese weren’t the ones who enslaved his ancestors? I doubt it. The word is still offensive, even if it isn’t coming from the mouth of a white man, even if it were coming from the mouth a Chinese man who, having learned English as a second language, didn’t realize the level of meaning.

              And that isn’t getting into the whole crap load of racial politics in the MU world where humans like to oppress anyone they come in contact with. Even if Deep Elves were not one of their primary victims (given the distance) they are still the worlds biggest bigots. Remember Gloria’s inability to accept that Dee might not be evil?

              Current score: 5
            • PrometheanSky says:

              Ouch, such is the danger of “correct me if I’m wrong.”

              Current score: 2
          • Nocker says:

            You’re again presuming things that either aren’t there, or have no details aligning with anything you said.

            The two elf groups split. This is true. However there was no mention of the relations between the two groups before or after that point. This isn’t like say, Khersis and the demons where intent was hostile and unrelenting, particularly given all the gods still appear for regular meetings with that conflict having no mention while every other major one did. This split is also explicitly different from the other elven subgroups given they can still interbreed and we can’t infer anything similar happens, given that the timelines and results don’t match up at all.

            Likewise, you can’t use the phrase “dark elf” as an insult because it doesn’t COME from elvish. Elvish lines up with greek and has an entirely different base and composition. Drow isn’t anything like their language composition either. If they’re lone words, they certainly don’t come from anything related to elvish. To claim their origin based on that is to take a result and cause meanings based on data you don’t know.

            And to call them “magical elves” as an excuse is, quite frankly, insulting to the author. To use that defense is to say that they can’t craft anything that holds up to scrutiny and any writer worth their salt would take offense to it.

            Current score: 0
            • Nighteyes says:

              ignoring the fact that she already said her world does NOT work with physik laws. i remember a post where she talked about asking the wrong question, the glass is neither half full nor half empty. it is to big.
              it is a magical world, with magical creatures and magical “science”. nothing works as we think of reality.

              Current score: 1
            • Sylvan says:

              Ouch, I missed a lo of comments writing my looooong reply hehe.

              tl;dr version of my earlier comment, since I see this discussion is ongoing.

              Don’t think of it as Rowan is white and Dee is black.

              Think of it as Rowan is Khersian and Dee is….uhh… a Priestess (can’t think of any other term for her ^^ )

              Also, Elves have problably at some point killed a bunch of humans for whatever reason (elves being dicks, humans being dicks), and then blamed it on their subterranean cousins.

              So, yeah, humans have probably had some negative interactions with ze under-elves.

              Current score: 0
            • zeel says:

              The etymology doesn’t have to be Elvin, the sentiment is. Though it very well may be a close translation.

              Wherever the words themselves came from, they did so based on the information given to humanity by the surface elves, and that information told them that the dark skinned elves from the underworld were evil. Hence the “dark”, just like a whole slew of other evil things humans have a name for.

              If the surface elves had told the humans that they were awesome super-elves they would almost certainly have had a different name for them.

              Current score: 0
            • Nocker says:

              Etymology tends to follow meaning. Hence why “schadenfreude” tends to mean the same thing in it’s original language and as a loan word. After a while it can change but words generally don’t suddenly change roots like that.

              Though again, human-elven relations aren’t really close enough for that sort of thing and aren’t really at the point where such a direct comparison would be well known. If one’s enemy claims to have an enemy, you generally don’t presume you have two enemies. The fact that things simmered down in very recent generations doesn’t really do much by comparison to such a history.

              Current score: 0
    • zeel says:

      Well I think one has three options, if they want to be “fair”. One, would be to ignore the difference, and say Elf always. Next would be to, like Mackenzie, try to point out the difference in a non-offensive way. Or finally, ay “Dark Elf” and “Feint Elf”.

      Current score: 0
      • Nocker says:

        Those all have issues though: Elf always doesn’t work simply because even elves draw their own limits along the same lines. Lumping in the two groups would just offend both of them. Then if you specify then you need to go through the headache of copper/gold/summer/whatever and you basically just have to infinitely subdivide in every single conversation, a thing even Mackenzie never bothers to do given she never specifies gold or silver despite them both being prevalent.

        Next is that you’d need to, if doing this consistently, have an actual logical train of thought to this. After all, unless you’re a well traveled diplomat, one group IS the default, and the differences are so immediate that they don’t really require explanation. If Rowan just says “elves” as a group then odds are Dee knows who he’s talking about anyway, since people always specify when speaking about a group they’re less likely to run into based on circumstances anyway.

        Lastly, with double specifying you still need to subdivide with all the other subgroups and then need to come up with a term none of them take offense to as a group. Given Dark is a GOOD thing stopping it is counter intuitive and if you go with autumn then gold is going to take offense to being “degraded” to fit another group so rare they aren’t relevant but if you lump them all in still while specifying elsewhere it inevitably comes up.

        Which is the point, overall. There are default situations regarding elves as a unit, but this one just seems so contrived by comparison to all the others it essentially becomes nitpicking for the sake of nitpicking.

        Obviously this wasn’t the intention because the author came up with this one first and explicitly just fills in other details as they come up, but the end result becomes kind of petty because it becomes a slur with no real backing or meaning.

        Current score: 0
    • Oni says:

      Really… not. If someone calls me “a Jew”, I know immediately which ones mean “Jewish” and which ones mean “Kike”. Yeah, the bits about PC-ness around Dee are a bit forced, but I think most of that’s coming from the fact that none of the characters and (likely) most of the viewers don’t have a bigoted viewpoint. There’s a ton of ignorance all around, but it’s different and doesn’t lend itself to the narrative.

      But anyways: people don’t need to be worldly and experienced to be dicks to people of other races/religions/regions.

      Current score: 1
      • Nocker says:

        This isn’t even “a Jew”. It’s like the difference between two subgroups that are so far divorced one never really associates the two. If I said “a Jew”, unless I’m in Asia very few people will presume I’m talking about Kaifeng jews, which generally have a distinct enough culture and heritage that even without obvious racial differences they don’t need distinction unless you’re specifically talking about them.

        Likewise, if you had one singular Jewish person from that group in a place where another group was predominant, one would need to specify when talking about the different groups, but if you’re talking about Judaism in general it’s generally assumed you’re largely talking about the group you’re familiar with that’s native to that area.

        By the same logic, you can go back on the archives and see all the times Mackenzie’s group talks about “elves” with Dee present, means a specific group of elves, and she doesn’t take offense because meanings are kind of implicit.

        Current score: 0
        • Glenn says:

          It’s true that AE hasn’t explicitly described a long history of human-dark elf conflicts, but given the basic design of her world, I think it’s pretty likely that there have been many, many cases of conflicts between human delvers and dark elves. The basic premise of Tales of Mu is that it’s a D&D world with about 500 years of magical and cultural progress to bring it to a level of sophistication comparable to our own world. And conflicts between “human heroes” and “drow” are commonplace on D&D worlds. The fact that the term ‘drow’ is now increasingly unacceptable is, I think, intended to show the progress Mack’s world has made from it’s version of the D&D middle ages.

          Current score: 0
          • Nocker says:

            Which would work, if it weren’t for a bunch of other precedents getting in the way of this.

            Firstly, the Imperium explicitly does NOT have the power to project itself that far down. AE makes it clear in the podcast that even as an empire they don’t have the global power to project fighting forces everywhere in the sense the US does and a few “human heroes” getting past that many telepaths, armed garrisons, and spellcasters then making it out alive isn’t really believable. Especially considering that the exceptions to the normal power scale only count as basic one off feats, not prolonged campaigns or repeat raids.

            Secondly, independent delvers are rather explicitly shit at going very far down. They can barely handle basic kobolds a couple of levels deep, let alone getting that far down. The underworld is full of monsters that require constant dark elf patrols and to get past the monsters, the patrols, the well maintained outer garrisons, and if they go past the dirt poor peasants and fighters likely to be in the street, they need to actually go onto the lake to loot anything good and hit a powerful clan, after crossing a lake full of flesh eating monstners of the sort human empires and fighters really aren’t good with(otherwise they’d probably have an easier time with “sea devils”).

            Lastly, and this is a meta reason, human heroes vs evil drow isn’t actually that common a narrative outside of individual gaming tables. Most underdark stories have drow protagonists and establish that they live in a nasty place. Most underdark settings even preface this by the fact that you can’t really reliably push through there until you’re so high level you represent like 0.1% of the adventurers population pool in terms of skill, if not the epic level, a tier that’s so hard to reach that you can only really count the people who’ve reached it and lived long on like one hand, besides things “born” epic like storm giants and greater dragons.

            Current score: 0
  7. cbob says:

    Yet another reason to Love Fridays

    Current score: 0
  8. Nym says:

    Not that we haven’t already confirmed Mackenzie’s slight subtle arts talent here, but I do find it interesting that Rowan could not feel absolutely anything of Dee’s active telepathic intrusion, while Mack was able to identify Hissy’s attempts to intrude in her mind immediately way back when.

    Another great chapter – I can’t wait for the next one. Thanks, AE!

    Current score: 4
  9. Nicholas says:

    Typo: told her… I fill(will?) find the threads to follow from there.”

    Current score: 0
  10. Seth says:

    No sub-title? I guess we get to make it up ourselves this week?

    “…In which Mackenzie is over-sensitive.”
    “…In which Mackenzie receives a huge favor.”
    “…In which Mackenzie says a safe word.”
    “…In which Rowan doesn’t feel anything.”

    Current score: 4
  11. Peter Granzeau says:

    There’s word “fill” when I believe “will” was meant.

    I want to know what Rowan knows that Mackenzie doesn’t, and I regret the week until I find out.

    Current score: 0
  12. Nigel says:

    Two of the ‘next story’ links (middle and bottom) are pointing to the now-outdated ‘coming soon’ placeholder

    Current score: 0