Chapter 307: Getting To Know You

on September 18, 2015 in Volume 2 Book 9: Who Is Mackenzie Blaise?, Volume 2: Sophomore Effort

In Which Mackenzie Stares Into The Middle Distance

Of all the hard lessons I had learned since coming to college, I think the hardest one was that no matter what else happened, life would go on until it didn’t.

Having mystery piled on top of mystery concerning my childhood and the state of my mind didn’t exempt me from going to classes, and didn’t preempt the rest of my life.

In a way it was better, given that I was in a holding pattern while other people dug up information and chased down leads. It helped that I wasn’t the only one in the dark for once… Dee had made the decision that it wouldn’t be right to share what she suspected with anyone who hadn’t been in the room, since they couldn’t share it with me. No one else knew what “new line of inquiry” she was pursuing

And since it apparently followed logically from the things she’d uncovered, that meant everyone else knew even less than I did. Amaranth took Dee’s decision more gracefully than I would have expected, especially after Dee made it clear that this was a safety concern.

The closest thing to a bright spot was getting to know Rowan again. He’d wanted to catch up, and I didn’t mind doing so, between classes and time spent with my nearests and/or dearests.

I have to say “closest thing” because my feelings about him weren’t totally unmixed. The whole mystery memory hole thing was way unsettling, and had been before we found out his mind had been savaged.

But he was a connection to the time of my life when I was happiest, not counting fairly recent events. He was a connection to my mother. He’d actually known her right alongside me.

The downside to the upside was that I couldn’t safely question him about the specifics of that time without treading on ground that Dee deemed too dangerous for me to go exploring. I had to settle for the knowledge that he was a part of my childhood as I got to know him now.

He was reluctant to talk about himself, I think because he wasn’t used to people being interested. He seemed to assume that everything about himself was ordinary and thus mundane and thus obvious or not worth mentioning.

“Nothing special” was the summary of how he described most things about himself. It was what he was into, what he had done, what he was doing… who he was and where he was going.

He found me far more interesting than he did himself, so mostly I got to know him as a series of behaviors and tics: the nervous, choked laugh he gave when put on the spot with a question versus the hearty, unshackled guffaw he let out when something was actually funny. The way his eyes moved around the room when there was a sudden sound. The way he scratched at his sideburns or behind his ear when he was thinking.

It was hard to look at him and not think “scarecrow”, despite the thoroughly unpleasant associations that image usually called forth into my head. It wasn’t just that he was beanpole tall and thin, with gangly limbs. It wasn’t just that he was perpetually scruffy about the face and head… though I’d never actually seen a scarecrow with an untidy accidental goatee before, so I couldn’t say why this heightened the impression, only that it did.

I think it had something to do with his clothing, which mostly laid on the delicate intersection between hippie and hipster: mostly earth tones, a lot of stuff that looked woven or knitted, but nothing that didn’t look like it had come from a store, nothing that didn’t look mass-produced.

His winter wardrobe was heavy on scarves and stocking caps. He liked baggy sweaters, though it was probably hard to find anything that wouldn’t be baggy on him without being skin tight. I think it was his tendency to wear multiple layers of artisanally rumpled shirts on the really cold days that really sold it, since it gave him a generally stuffed look.

“I don’t know about you, but I can’t stand the cold,” he said when I mentioned it. “There isn’t enough me between the wind and my bones, you know?”

“Yeah, well, I’m attuned to elemental fire, so…”

“…does that mean the cold doesn’t bother you, or doesn’t?”

“It’s a legitimate weakness,” I said. “I wish I knew what happened to my winter coat from last year… I was going to say that you would have loved it, but I loved it.”

“I bet it was super cool,” he said.

“It was the ugliest coat in existence,” I said. “But it was super warm, is what it was. I’ve never actually cared that much about being cool.”

“That’s probably part of why you are.”

“If I am,” I said. “But honestly… the people in my life who’ve cared the most about being cool have been some of the worst people I’ve known.”

“Yeah, well… I think you probably have to get a certain amount of cool before you can really do enough harm to be awful,” he said.

“Rowan… I’m not saying you’re awful, but… the whole ‘cool’ thing is overrated in every sense of the word,” I said. “You don’t have to be ‘in’ with a certain crowd to have friends and have fun, and you definitely don’t have to be ‘in’ with anyone to have enough power to ruin someone else’s day or make them feel tiny and terrible. I mean, don’t go running yourself down because you don’t think you’re cool… but don’t get so attached to the idea that you’re too much of a loser for anything you say or do to matter.”

“That sounds like the voice of experience,” he said.

“The times in my life when I felt the most like a loser are also the times I think I ruined the most people’s days with careless words,” I said. “And it was mostly the people who worried about being a loser, too… which is most people, I’m pretty sure.”

“I feel like most people have things way more figured out than I do?”

“Well… you’re a freshman,” I said. “So, statistically, you might be right? But I promise you, feeling that way is very normal.”

“How can you be so sure?”

“Because I have things more figured out than you do,” I said. “Also, I’m friends with a telepath and a sexual empath, and I spent a lot of time talking to a mental healer.”

The cool thing made it harder than I would have expected to fill Rowan in on what he’d missed in my life, and I hadn’t expected it to be easy. I could barely explain my life of the last year and a half to myself. Even the story of the first few months of my life at Magisterius University seemed like the sort of thing that could fill books, and how could I begin to sort out what parts were important versus the stuff that was just background?

Maybe he wanted the background… I mean, if he wanted to know what my life was like, the day-to-day stuff was probably more important than the power-hungry roommates or just-regular-type-hungry mermaids.

Not that I was ready to get into that particular saga. Even if I did know Rowan in some sense, I didn’t know him well enough to get into that.

As hard as it was to find some semblance of a plot or narrative to explain my life to this near-stranger, though, it was even harder to get past the preconceptions he’d formed based on the scant impressions he got of me when he first saw me in the news.

It seemed like in his head, I must have come to college as a fully-formed radically queer crusader for something or other. I had apparently been the cool older kid he followed around the neighborhood in our early childhood, and once he learned for sure that I did go onto high school, he assumed I must have been on a steadily awesome upward trajectory that led me to the place he assumed I was when he picked up my rail later on.

So I had to tell him that my high school years had been a pretty dismal grind of daily suspicion and teasing that I couldn’t retaliate against. I’d been a nerd by default, because I wasn’t permitted to be anything that required membership in social groups or interaction with others and because I wasn’t allowed much of anything to distract myself with except my school books.

Far from arriving at Magisterius University with a strong sense of self and unshakable sense of purpose, I’d stumbled in to my freshman year with very little idea beyond keeping my head down for four years and getting out with a useful degree. The hope that I might make friends along the way had been there, sure, but it had been so tiny and so fragile that I hadn’t dared to hold it too close for fear of breaking it.

“So you weren’t a cool kid at first?” he asked.

“I don’t think I am a cool kid now,” I said.

“You don’t see how people look at you!”

“You don’t see what I see when people look at me,” I said. “My first year, I had people move seats to get away from me. I had people throwing up holy signs at me as I went past. People treated me like I was a monster who might at any moment snap and kill them all, but also like I was the weakest, most pathetic thing they could imagine. Monster and victim, all at once.”

“But… that got better?”

“I found more people who don’t care,” I said. “And right now, it seems like fewer people know or care who I am, and most of the ones who do, it’s because I’m connected to Glory, and she’s cool… or at least, more people think she is. The really great thing about a college campus is that about a quarter of the population cycles out completely every year, and it’s really only a small percentage of the population that has the time and energy to care about anything that isn’t right in front of their faces.”

“So you’d rather fade into obscurity than be well-known?”

“You knew me,” I said. “Apparently. Was I ever big on being the center of attention?”

“Well, not really,” he said. “I mean, you had my attention, but it seemed like that was enough.”

“Yeah,” I said. “There you go.”

“So how did you go from keeping your head down to being all over the news?”

“Well, the thing is… there are people who think being a half-demon is cool,” I said. “And some of them want to be seen as the cool kids, want to be the center of attention. I think a lot of the drama of my first semester in particular can be summed up as people who cared about being cool trying to control what they saw as my cool factor and punishing me for having it.”

“That… that sounds like substantially less fun than I imagined you having,” he said.

“Yeah, well, I also think it’s kind of a perfect summary of at least that part of my life,” I said. “I got pushed into a student election by one person who wanted to use me to boost her own profile, pushed into a… frenemy-ship… with my opponent there who also wanted to slot me into the narrative of her life, and everything spiraled from there. Huh… when I actually put it that way, it seems a lot more simple than it did at the time…”

After all, if my first roommate, Puddy, hadn’t pushed me into the election, I would never have been as important to Sooni the fox girl, and probably wouldn’t have got in a fight with her, which would have stopped me from overtaxing myself magically, which would have kept me out of the healing center, which would have kept me from being teleported into the school labyrinth, which would have avoided the first media circus I got enmeshed in, and the fateful encounter with a cursed scarecrow that had led me to come out of the dungeon with an actual literal demonic pitchfork…

Of course, it probably wasn’t that small and simple. It was only time and distance that allowed me to see it like that. But maybe it hadn’t been as big and complex as it had all seemed back in the moment… maybe the truth of a thing was something you had to see from a middle distance.

“Mackenzie?” Rowan said. “Mackenzie?”


“You kind of… trailed off and your eyes unfocused,” he said. “I wasn’t sure if that was like a psychic thing, or a demon thing…”

“It’s a me thing,” I said. “Chalk it up to spending nine years either being completely ignored or having to ignore everyone else… sometimes I just get lost in thought.”

“In the middle of a conversation?”

“I know it’s annoying, okay?” I said. “But it’s me. You said you wanted to get to know me.”

“Okay, okay,” he said, throwing up his hands. “We all have our things.”

“Yeah?” I said. “What are your things, Rowan Hartley?”


“Yeah?” I prompted.


“It’s just us, Rowan,” I said. “I’m not going to judge. You don’t know a tenth of the shit that I’ve got up to or had done to me, but you should know I don’t have room to judge.”

“You seem a little judgmental about some things,” he said.

“Okay, yeah, but at least you’ll have the comfort of knowing I’m a hypocrite if I judge you,” I said. “Come on, Rowan. You know way more about me than I know about you already, and I can’t ask you about our childhood, so tell me something about you now. You said we all have our things. What’s yours? Just one of yours.”

“Okay, the thing is… sometimes… my jaw clicks when I eat?”

I stared at him, then burst out laughing.

“What?” he said, a stricken look on his face.

“Sorry, Rowan,” I said. “I’m seriously not meaning to laugh at you… it’s just, that wasn’t exactly the glimpse I was hoping for of the enigmatic Rowan Hartley.”

“Wait… I’m enigmatic?”

“Well, from my point of view,” I said. “You came out of nowhere, I don’t know anything about you and you know everything about me…”

“I know nothing about you,” he said. “I know who you were ten years ago, Mackenzie, and even that I can’t trust, apparently.”

“Okay, you know more about me than I do about you,” I said.

“But that’s only because of the weirdness that’s already going on with you,” he said. “I’m not a mystery that needs to be solved.”

“…okay, I think I can settle this,” I said. “I’m not the enigma and you’re not the enigma, because neither one of us is an enigma. People aren’t mysteries. ‘Enigmatic’ is a matter of perspective. It’s like ‘exotic’, in that it comes with a predetermined point of view, but it hasn’t had time to pick up a lot of racist baggage.”

“…what’s wrong with ‘exotic’?” he said.

“Well, what’s it mean to you?” I asked. “No, hold on. Let’s go with a specific example. Of the four people who were in my room last night… me, you, Two, and Dee… how would you rate us, in order of least exotic to most?”

“…I feel like that’s a trap,” he said.

“I’m not going to be mad,” I said. “Mostly because I think I already know what your answer would be. But I’m proving a point here.”

“Okay,” he said. “Well, I mean… I’m just a regular guy from the middle provinces, right? So I’m pretty sure you’re going to tell me I’m wrong… because I don’t know why else you’d ask something you know the answer to if not to tell me I’m wrong.”

“I’m not going to tell you that you’re wrong,” I said. “Go on.”

“Well, I’m not sure,” he said. “it’s got to be you or Two next. I mean, you come from the same place as I do, and you’re half-human, but… demons and otherworldly stuff, you know? And Two looks human, not sure where she came from but she looks very Mid-Magisteria, you know?”

“I do know,” I said. I had taken it for granted he would have put the oh-so-vanilla Two as second behind himself, but it seemed he was still weirded out by the golem thing and I didn’t want to get bogged down in that. “Okay, let’s say that we’re tied, then. The exact order isn’t that important.”

“So that leaves Dee,” he said. “Again, I’m sure you’re going to tell me I’m wrong and I’ve somehow got this backwards, but… she’s from some place like hundreds of miles underground with a completely different society, and she’s an elf, and she’s, you know… differently colored, and has all these weird powers and worships a goddess no one’s heard of…”

“Okay, you’ve made your case,” I said. “I’m going to stop you there. If no one’s heard of her goddess, then how would she worship it?”

“You know what I mean, Mackenzie!”

“Yeah, I know what you mean,” I said. “You mean no one you know, no one who looks like you, no one who grew up in the town you grew up in… but there are two things going on here. One, you’re saying ‘no one’ and meaning all those qualifiers, and two… it’s not even true. I don’t think Dee’s mentioned her goddess in front of you. You know about the goddess she worships, at least in the broad terms, but you’re invested in the idea that she’s foreign and obscure.”

“Well… isn’t she?”

“To you,” I said. “This is what I’m saying, Rowan. She’s obscure to you. She’s foreign to you. She… and the people who worship her… are exotic to you. Exotic is a word that means nothing, except when it’s attached to a particular point of view.”

“Okay, so it would be just as fair for her to say I’m exotic, or for Two to say that anyone who wasn’t made in a factory is exotic…”

“She wasn’t made in a factory,” I said.

“But still, what’s so bad about it as a word? How does that make it racist?”

“Because it has a long history of being used with a single implied point of view,” I said. “Just like you did. Just like both of us did, when we thought of each other as ‘enigmatic’. It’s a way of reducing people to things… Steff and Amaranth call it ‘othering’, though I can never tell if Steff is serious when she talks about stuff like that. I’m not sure she knows.”

“So it’s ‘othering’ but ‘enigmatic’ isn’t?”

“Maybe on an interpersonal level,” I said. “But it’s not systemic. There’s not anything bigger happening behind it.”

“There wouldn’t be anything bigger behind me calling Dee ‘exotic’,” Rowan said. “I’m just… me, okay? I’m not the Imperium. I’m not… there’s nothing systemic about me.”

“One time when I was talking about this with Amaranth, she asked me if I thought each raindrop realized it was part of a storm,” I said. “This turned into an argument about whether raindrops have thoughts and feelings, which kind of ended up being a toss-up because we determined they do, but they’re not nuanced or precise enough to answer the question…”

“Mackenzie… don’t take this the wrong way, but for someone who likes metaphors as much as you do… do you really understand what they are?”

“If you spend enough time with me, Rowan, I think you’ll find the answer is I clearly don’t,” I said. “Usually it’s Ian I get into that kind of thing with, but Amaranth really doesn’t like being wrong about something she considers to be her area of expertise, and… okay, we got sidetracked. I mean, she and I did back then, and you and I have now. The point is that you can carry on a tradition without knowing it’s a tradition either because you were taught it’s normal, or because no one ever taught you it was harmful, but either way… when the whole dominant message across stories and conversations and just the way we treat each other tends to carry the same message about what’s ‘normal’ and what’s, you know, ‘other’… it affects people. It affects the way we think. It affects the way we feel.”

“Wow… okay, that’s seriously freaking deep,” Rowan said. “See, I knew you had things figured out.”

“Yeah… well, I’m not a freshman,” I said, blushing. Most of what I’d said was stuff I’d picked up, mostly from Amaranth and Steff and others over the course of the months. A lot of it I’d argued with at the time, and only kind of put together in my head long after the fact. I felt like more than a bit of a phony having Rowan look at me like I was an expert for having repeated what I’d learned in spite of myself. “If we didn’t have a lot to learn, we wouldn’t have to go to school.”

“Speaking of learning… it’s not exactly solid, but I do have some leads on the demon stuff,” he said. “If you want to know.”

“Fuck, yes!” I said. “How long have you been sitting on that, exactly?”

“Well, I just… it might not be anything,” he said. “I mean, you told me to be kind of circumspect-like, so I’ve had to be careful… I’ve more been finding in-roads, you know, getting to know people, figuring out my approach? And getting to know people isn’t exactly my strong suit… a diplomancer I am not.”

“You should try working for elves,” I said. “It makes for a great crash course. So what did you learn?”

“Like I said, maybe nothing,” he said. “But I got lucky when a T.A. remembered me.”

“Remembered you?” I said. My eyes narrowed. “From where?”

“Well, I couldn’t take a lot of diabolism courses yet because they have harsh prerequisites, but I was in intro to demonology last semester and…”


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61 Responses to “Chapter 307: Getting To Know You”

  1. […] chapter is 307: Getting To Know You. I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t informed by the “cool kids” discourse […]

    Current score: 1
    • Angnor says:

      I’d wondered if or how much that influenced the chapter.

      Current score: 0
  2. MaraGratia says:

    Woah! I am clearly not remembering something important, given the patented Mack freak out.

    And, I enjoy the way that Mack is explaining the issue of ‘exotic.’ The raindrop/storm is useful, too. I like.

    Current score: 3
    • Evie says:

      Yeah, I’m lost too. Is it because he took ItD before tracking her down in his second semester? Are we supposed to recognize the diabolist TA? Help!

      Current score: 1
    • P says:

      I -think- it’s because he’s apparently a diabolist major or otherwise involved with the coursework, whereas Mackenzie is very suspicious of diabolists and wouldn’t want to talk about all this stuff with one of them. Maybe she’s just feeling betrayed? I don’t know what other explanation there would be unless it was something that happened during a time skip, but I guess either way we’ll find out next week.

      Current score: 1
    • lightdefender says:

      I don’t think it’s anything specific, as that Mackenzie has come to the conclusion (correctly or otherwise) that Rowan sought her out to further his studies in Demonology rather than out of friendship.

      Current score: 6
      • Angnor says:

        This was my thought as well. Or that his caginess about what he’s into is because he’s hiding that he’s into demons and diabolism, and using his connection to her to further that. Again, may or may not be truth, but that seems to be where her outburst comes from.

        Current score: 5
  3. tomclark says:

    Wait… what just happened?

    He’s a diabolism major or something?

    Current score: 3
    • Nocker says:

      Apparently so.

      Honestly I’m wondering what the hell she was expecting.

      For all this talk about exotic and systems she still left a literal giant, burning hole in his life. Trying to find answers as soon as he’s able is going to be the very next thing he does, in a vague and general sense, and when he can connect it to demonic stuff he’s going to explore that route as far as it will go.

      Personally I’m glad. Because this gives us a character who’s very much invested in getting the fuck on with it and not getting side tracked the moment something shiny appears.

      Current score: 4
      • Nocker says:

        To add to this: Mackenzie has for the longest time needed to get the hell over herself. She has to a mild extent but she’s always kind of had this stuck up “Enchantment is the best and all other majors are worthless” superiority complex. Which is believable, because you do see it in a lot of really arrogant real life college students, but it’s no less grating for it.

        I would love for Rowan to go “Yeah, that’s my major, deal with it” and just keep going.

        Current score: 3
        • lightdefender says:

          I don’t see it as Mackenzie looking down on other majors as Mackenzie believing (rightly or wrongly) that the only reason Rowan sought her out is to further his studies.

          Current score: 5
          • Nym says:

            Entirely possible, and what’s more, remember that the opening of the chapter specifies that Mack had been spending a lot of time asking him about his interests without him mentioning zip about this. Not mentioning the demonology major to the half-demon childhood friend specifically asking about your interests has a suspicious reek to it.

            Current score: 7
            • Nocker says:

              I think it’s an issue of her not really having a good idea of diabolists to begin with.

              I mean if you see just Steff or that other guy you’d assume necromancy majors are all universally a bunch of freaks with no sense of right and wrong. But they’re both evidently outcasts and necromancy is like at least half ethics and theory and paperwork and desk work given how the actual practice is described.

              Diabolism, given Mackenzie’s sparse interactions with the field, looks like it’s basically the same thing. Going over books and writing out a bunch of spells, then testing those spells on lesser and mostly harmless things before putting it into practice. Of course Rowan isn’t going to think of that as exciting because it’s like ten to twenty hours of note taking and research per ever hour doing things, and most of that is likely on random imps or demon shards.

              It’s probably a lot like someone not mentioning they do archaeology and people assuming they’re like Indiana Jones, when they actually just catalog stuff and brush off clay shards with an old toothbrush. It’s not worth mentioning or considered exciting to them.

              Current score: 5
            • zeel says:

              Nocker isn’t wrong, she has a knee-jerk reaction to the idea of diabolism, but probably very little idea of what it’s about. Rowan could easily be a Diab major, and it have nothing or very little to do with her.

              Current score: 2
          • Nocker says:

            It’s not just that, but Mackenzie rather inarguably does that. Ian calls her out on thinking bardic arts is basically just washouts who can’t do anything very well, then back in the first volume she had that rant about how Armory majors are a bunch of jock meanies like the people who bullied her in high school. Not to mention her initial disdain for illusion and her opinion of Necromancy being based entirely around it being a “hard magic” and nothing else.

            She’s pretty much a textbook major snob and has been through the whole story.

            Current score: 3
            • Angnor says:

              I don’t see that being the case. Yes, she still might roll her eyes and snort at bardic, armory, or combat majors, but she rarely yells at them. For whatever reason, she is skeptical about dealing with diabolists. A chapter or so (was it longer?) ago it was mentioned how she avoided dealing with them over the summer. There’s more than ‘major’ snobbery. Again, both her reaction to Rowan and her fear of them may be overreaction or unwarranted, but we’ll see.
              I may need to re-read and see if I there are other character reactions to the diabolism major.

              Current score: 1
  4. ANameIsRequired says:

    If I might propose an alternative thought, how do we know it’s Mackenzie saying the last line?

    Current score: 6
    • Angnor says:

      Quite an excellent point.

      Current score: 2
    • Peter says:

      That’s what I thought at first. Then I thought “maybe he’s the actual scarecrow she met in the school labyrinth”

      Current score: 2
      • Sarah says:

        That’s what I’ve been thinking, too.

        Current score: 1
      • That other guy says:

        I’d also wondered whether or not there might be some connection. Speaking of which, where’s that pitchfork?

        Current score: 0
    • Saint of Lies says:

      Because she narrowed her eyes and was building up her own suspicion prior to being told; Surprise! I’m a diabology major!

      Little bit of a fuck you, and possibly could’ve saved them a lot of time and / or she still has hangups on diabolists after meeting a few and not liking the interactions.

      Current score: 2
    • zeel says:

      Three reasons:
      1. The dialogue order, it wasn’t Rowans turn to speak (he is interrupted).
      2. “Son of a bitch” is gendered, so it’s referring to Rowan – someone speaking to or of a female would have just called them a bitch.
      3. Rowan and Mackenzie are the only characters tagged in the story, so it wasn’t a third character.

      Or you know, not. It just seems unlikely.

      Current score: 1
      • Angnor says:

        I believe what ANameIsRequired is saying (and what I was thinking when I agreed) was that there might be a third person interrupting Mack and Rowan. Overall, I still think it’s Mack, but the idea of a third party is still a very good point.
        Your point below, Zeel, about Dee seeing any ulterior motives is a good one as well, though in this case it might tend to support the idea of a third party, assuming Mack has kept it in mind.

        Current score: 1
        • Melki says:

          Technically it could also be Mackenzie or Rowan speaking to a new party, who just walked up. That said, I really think it’s Mackenzie talking to Rowan, but I’m not sure why.

          Current score: 0
  5. Oniwasabi says:

    See? THIS is what happens when you have super (or demonic) powers and try never to use them. Super(demonic) strength is great for leaping, but since Mack will never use it to jump around campus the only physics defying leaps she ever makes are to conclusions!

    And generally ends up faceplanting just as hard and as loudly as she would doing the actual superjumps (based on her overall level of physical coordination) ^_^

    Current score: 12
  6. Kk says:

    I wondered if it was because the TA for demonology is someone we’ve met before that Mack doesn’t like, and she doesn’t want Rowan talking to him/her about her past/situation.

    Current score: 1
  7. zeel says:

    It seems like Dee would have picked up on it if Rowan had any ulterior motives for being interested in Mackenzie.

    Current score: 6
    • Nocker says:

      He clearly doesn’t. Mackenzie just has a terrible allergic reaction to plot progression.

      Current score: 16
      • zeel says:

        Exactly. Furthermore, the way in which he let that information slip speaks to either brilliant forethought… or total ineptitude.

        It’s one of those classic moments where a character spills the bean while talking about something totally unrelated. But that normally happens for comedy, or o show that a character is a moron.

        Thus I would take the off handed nature of the reveal to mean that he really doesn’t see [whatever is really going on] as a big enough deal to hide from Mackenzie, or to tell her specifically.

        Current score: 0
  8. Sapphite says:

    First thing I thought of was Trina, and the trouble she was having with people thinking she was a demon. But probably the simpler answer is right. Mack does react fast and harsh when surprised.

    Current score: 1
  9. Lyssa says:

    “Nothing special” was the summary of how he described most things about himself. It was what he was into, what he had done, what he was doing… who he was and where he was going.

    I love the way you write characters.

    Current score: 1
  10. Mike Conner says:

    Mackenzie lost her owlbear costume? I loved the reactions that coat got her. I wonder if she lost it or if Amaranth and/or Two vanished it when she no longer needed it?

    Current score: 2
    • zeel says:

      Oh yeah, I meant to comment on that: Where did the coat go???

      This is no the most important mystery. Nothing at all is more important, all this other stuff? Totally uninteresting if I don’t know what happened to her coat!

      Current score: 2
      • not her, the other girl says:

        My theory: Amaranth put it “away” sometime in the spring after a failed intervention by her friends to get her to stop wearing it, and she “forgot” to tell Mack.

        Current score: 1
  11. Paul says:

    A discussion/comic (6 pages) on “othering”:

    Current score: 0
  12. Larry says:

    Everyone is missing an important side to this. Imagine that someone shows a lot of interest in an amputee, but hides the fact that he has an amputee fetish? The amputee would be pissed off. Gets to the whole “exotic” issue as well.

    Current score: 2
    • Nocker says:

      Its more like working with prosthetics and having an amputee friend.

      Before you say Mackenzie is better off without diabolism than an amputee without prosthetics, go back and count how many times she or someone else almost died because she had no idea what she was doing in relation to herself. There’s at least four, one of which someone actually died due to her actions.

      Current score: 2
    • That other guy says:

      No, it’s like being an amputee, you meet a new person, and then they say, “Oh, yeah, I’m a robotics major and I work on designing new limbs.” I can see that there’s a major connection there, but I don’t see what has someone so upset.

      Current score: 1
      • zeel says:

        In Mackenzie’s mind, diabolists are not to be trusted. Period. This guy, whom she is just starting to trust, reveals he is one. First, it’s that automatic distrust, plus it’s the “why didn’t you tell me this? were you trying to hide something?” issue.

        Current score: 1
  13. Nym says:

    I really think we’re all overreaching here. I could well be wrong but it seems to me that this as simple as “We had a long conversation about my experience with the diabolism department last chapter and then I spent an unspecified period of time in the opening of this one asking you about your interests and at no point did you mention being a diabolism major/taking a class in it? Why would you hide that? Am I just a research project to you???” I mean, that’s an “are you freaking kidding me,why would you not mention this relevant information before now??” statement if I ever heard one, and Mack has specifically had experienced with diabolic majors approaching her in shady “sell me your blood?” ways before this, so she has reason to be wary.

    I’m sure Rowan has totally legitimate “Oh! That’s relevant? It just struck me as this boring thing, I only had one semester and don’t even know more than your friend Two” reasons, but from Mack’s POV it’s pretty suspicious.

    Current score: 3
    • zeel says:

      Precisely. It’s an awkward situation, since Mackenzie isn’t necessarily wrong to be suspicious. Rowan is in an awkward position too, he took classes or is majoring in a subject that Mackenzie has a problem with. If he tells her, she will lose her shit, if he doesn’t tell her, she will find out and lose her shit to a degree proportional to how long it’s been that she was in the dark.

      He probably either knows this, and hasn’t said anything yet (but it’s not a secret). Or he never thought of it, and seriously just doesn’t think it’s pertinent.

      But we can assume based on Dee that he is not hiding anything that he thinks is bad (since Dee can only really see how he feels about things).

      Current score: 4
  14. Zathras IX says:

    The downside to the
    Upside may be enough to
    Turn things upside down

    Current score: 5
  15. Zukira Phaera says:

    that’s one heck of a reaction to someone doing the same sort of thing Two did when Two did her research. Whats to say he didn’t take the class as a way to be better equipped to understand what happened to his childhood best friend.

    Current score: 4
  16. larry says:

    Why didn’t Dee pick up on / mention this?

    Current score: 1
    • That other guy says:

      Maybe Dee did, but didn’t care. I mean, in the grand scheme of things, it’s hardly that important, probably.

      Current score: 0
      • zeel says:

        Yes, unless he was thinking “oh shit, I hope she doesn’t tell Mackenzie I am majoring in the study of infernal stuff” Dee is unlikely to have found the information worthy of being shared. She could have seen his motives.

        Current score: 2
  17. Caddan says:

    Grammar check:

    “…does that mean the cold doesn’t bother you, or doesn’t?”

    doesn’t or doesn’t?

    Current score: 1
  18. Erianaiel says:

    If Rowan is indeed a diabolism major then Mackenzie has every reason to be suspicious and upset.

    People who want to fight demons don’t go into that line of study much. They become paladins or clerics and learn to fight and to channel Khersis’s power to banish demons.

    There isn’t really that much need to understand demons either. The fullblood ones are pretty nasty and regularly require to destroy something precious in a human being, just to remain in this plane of existence. Mackenzie’s biological father needs to eat a human heart every 13(?) months and given how long he has been around that is a lot of dead. Other demons we are told feed on youth or beauty or happiness. Mackenzie is lucky that her watered down requisite is a few drops of virgin blood every few months (or month to play it safe).
    And half- and lesserblood demons are, by church doctrine human beings, unless they give in to their demonic nature (or are unlucky enough to run into a zealot who decides not to wait for that to happen and banish the monster there and then). There is not much point in studying them either.

    Which leaves the apparent primary reason to study diabolism, namely people who want to /use/ demons.
    Unless more explanation is forthcoming, this sounds like the equivalent of a black person being told by her new white friend that he is studying ‘human husbandry’ to prepare for the day he takes over the plantation from daddy.
    It may well be wrong, this impression, but that is how it must come across as to Mackenzie.

    Current score: 1
    • That other guy says:

      No, it’s like a black person being told by the new white friend that the white person is majoring in African-American Studies.

      Current score: 1
      • Erianaiel says:

        I would agree with you if I could imagine any other reason in the MUniverse for the study of diabolism, other than to control demons and creatures from the infernal plains.

        Things are of course entirely different if Rowan only took that introductory class, but it sure sounds like he is majoring in diabolism. That is the study he plans to spend his life pursuing, or at least using. Not something it seems to me you decide to do on a whim after seeing your friend on television and, on a lark, crossing the box ‘diabolism’ on your application form.

        Current score: 1
    • Nocker says:

      Normally I’m the first one on the “lets take the fight to THEM” train but I think you’re just a bit off base.

      There’s absolutely reason to study demons. Their inherent properties are basically your wet dream if you need something disposed of(dangerous magic items, the bodies of other dangerous humanoid monsters like ghouls that cause ill effects even after death, ect), and the raw materials in their body will undoubtedly have thousands of applications in “modern” alchemy if they can be taken. In a more abstract sense, without outer space the “final frontier” of this world will be the multiverse and you’ll want to study every example of someone who’s made the trip you can.

      As for “Mackenzie COUNTS as human and thus there’s no need to study her”, are you out of your fucking mind? She has a berzerk aura that drives other monsters crazy and a digestive system that can run on zero and produce no waste. Even if you don’t want to stop the first effect(which is reasonable, Mercy doesn’t need to know where she’s going wrong), the second is more information healers can use to save people with organ problems if they can apply it elsewhere.

      You can make the same argument for Necromancers and Diabolists, and unlike Steff actual Necromancers who aren’t flunking or fucking around are expected to take multiple ethics courses before graduation. Ethical diabolism is a logical extrapolation of that and given how the requirements seem to be just as stringent if not more safety and registration is obviously a primary concern of the job.

      If nothing else think of it like this: The more you study them here in peace, the worse you can hurt them there in war. If there’s a solid front runner for what’ll kill The Man for good, beyond the vague meta idea it’ll be some enemy he’s made of offspring he’s spawned, it’s probably some weapon made in a diabolists lab outside his little zone that he can’t expect.

      Current score: 3
    • Fyrm says:

      Aside from everything already said, there is another perfectly valid reason to study diabolism: pure academia. It is a subject that exists, and that is as good as any reason to study it. Sure, some people may have their own motives, but when you have a good number of long lived races, you’ll probably have a good number of cases of people just wanting to take a class because they are board and the subject piqued their curiosity. Heck, I know I took a ton of random courses in university and I don’t have an awkward near century to dick around and wait to be an adult. And then you’ll have people that will have heard stories or something about demons and think “wow, that is interesting. I wonder how they work.” and just want to major in the subject because they are huge nerds.

      Current score: 3
      • Loony says:

        Thank you for that comment. I am a bit shocked every time I hear the line “There is not much point in studying…” whatever it may be relating to.

        by the OP line of reasoning, there’s not much point in studying nuclear physics, as it can only lead to atomic bomb, and so on.

        Current score: 0
  19. PrometheanSky says:

    Upon it’s discovery Mackenzie did dote
    Ugly as sin (or so it’s been wrote)
    Speak but with kindness, treat but with care
    Don’t ever let it catch you glare
    Or you’ll face the coat of the owlbear

    Current score: 2
  20. Iain says:

    Ladies and gentlemen, we’ll be taking a small diversion in our flight to Answersville in order to pick up a contingent of llamas from Dramaton.

    Current score: 4
  21. Arancaytar says:

    “…does that mean the cold doesn’t bother you, or doesn’t?”

    One of those “doesn’t” sounds incorrect.

    Current score: 0
    • Brenda A. says:

      There just needs to be an “it” at the end.
      “Does that mean X, or doesn’t it?”

      Although it would be less awkward to say:
      “Does that mean the cold doesn’t bother you, or that it does?”

      Current score: 0
  22. tijay says:

    Does AE only update every 2 weeks now?

    Current score: 0
    • Brenda A. says:

      From her main website,

      “Had a small panic yesterday afternoon when all three of my active WordPress sites had similar (though ultimately separate) backend issues… before I got it sorted out, I thought there was something much deeper and scarier going on. That’s why I ended up breaking out a short for the Thing of the Day instead of the MU chapter.”

      Check there for updates, and to see some of the short stories and poems she’s been posting lately.

      Current score: 0