Chapter 311: Up All Night

on June 1, 2016 in Volume 2 Book 10: Lucky Thing, Volume 2: Sophomore Effort

In Which The Scene Is Set

My name is Mackenzie Blaise, and the more I think about it, the more I think I might just be the luckiest person in the world.

I mean, my life does get pretty messed up sometimes. It was actually pretty messed up from the word go, if I’m being honest. I was born a half-demon, with the literal and metaphorical equivalent of a delayed blast fireball coursing around inside my veins. It went off when I was nine, and it took out a good chunk of my life with it.

I know it’s not my fault, but I lost my mother. I lost all my friends, my home, and any hope of a normal childhood. I was taken in by my grandmother, a retired paladin turned back country exorcist who believed the only way I could be allowed to survive was if I could be utterly convinced of my own irredeemable evil so I could guard against it. This… left scars.

Against her wishes, when I graduated from high school I enrolled in Magisterius University. I didn’t have any plan beyond keeping my head down for four years, getting a bachelor of arcana in Applied Enchantment, and then making a giant pile of gold so that at least I wouldn’t be bored while I spent the rest of the life hiding myself away from the world.

I was lucky to get away from my grandmother at all, lucky to have the talent needed to get accepted to a reasonably prestigious imperial university and to get the scholarships that made it possible for me to actually attend. My luck really picked up when I arrived, in that I found someone… or was found by someone… who believed in me as much as she believed that no one was irredeemable, or even really needed redeeming.

Amaranth was a nymph. I didn’t understand at first what she meant when she said that she loved me. I knew that she did, because she was a nymph. She loved everybody. In fairness to my freshman self, she’d never had to explain this to anyone before, but it took me far too long to understand what she meant when she said that she loved everyone, but she also loved me… okay, I guess that’s not actually fair to younger me, because it wasn’t really too long. I mean, there was no deadline that passed. Nothing horrible happened because of it. I didn’t have true love in my grip and watch it slip away, or anything melodramatic like that. There was plenty of drama in my life, melo- and otherwise, but not that.

Amaranth was my first love, but she wasn’t the only one. After almost a decade under my grandmother’s tender care, I wouldn’t have imagined I’d find love with anyone, much less a woman… much less several women and one guy.

At present count, in addition to Amaranth, who I called my girlfriend but also recognized as my Owner in what I guess was a BDSM sense, I also had: a girlfriend, a boyfriend, a girl whose girlfriend I was but not the other way around… elven relationships always have a sort of lateral polarity… an asexual girl who had mutually claimed me as a sister, and a friend who was a girl with whom I had a sort of awkward fumbling flirtation.

That was to say nothing of my friends who had just put themselves on the line for me, stuck their necks out for me, or just rallied around me when I’d needed them.

I guess that’s why I feel like I’m lucky: even when everything around me is going to shit, I’m not alone. Is there any better feeling in the world than that?

Okay, so maybe everything around you going exactly right and not being alone is a better feeling than that.

The point is, my life had been a living hell.

It still wasn’t perfect.

I still had literal, actual, honest-to-badness enemies out there in the world: a cannibalistic slaver who dreamed of breeding an army of docile, trained half-demons using my thoroughly disinterested womb and the demon who’d impregnated my mother topped that list. I hadn’t heard from either of them in a while, but they were both functionally immortal and from what I knew, they both had long-simmering patient streaks in between the bouts of impulsive behavior that had brought me into direct contact with them.

I still had people who hated me because they thought I was a dangerous, predatory presence on campus from which normal, decent people had to be protected… whether it was because of the whole half-demon thing or the bisexual, polyamorous, and increasingly visibly queer thing. Over the course of the past school year, I’d been updating my look to be more… well, more of a look.

It had taken me a while to find something that still felt like me but wasn’t yesterday’s t-shirt and the same jeans I’d worn all week, but since I’d traded in my rumpled laundry-to-be for fitted jeans and tees and started wearing the kinds of boots and jackets I imagined people who kicked way more literal and metaphorical ass than I ever could would wear, I’d started carrying myself a little differently.

I don’t know if that made more people notice me, or made me notice more often when they noticed me, or just made me slower to assume they were staring at me for being a freak. I don’t even know for sure that I was entirely imagining that anybody was looking at me any more or any differently than they ever had. The point is, it used to be that even imagining people were looking at me would make me so anxious I would get sick to my stomach.

Now I’d still get flutters in the pit of my stomach, but even if I wasn’t sure the looks I got were different, I can tell you for certain the flutters were.

I didn’t necessarily feel any more like I’d figured everything out than I did when I’d arrived at the MU campus, but I could look around and believe that no one else around me did, either. Even the ones who looked so detached and cool… or maybe especially those ones. I know a lot of people had thought I was stuck up back in my “terrified to talk to or look at anybody” days.

I don’t want to give the impression that everyone I met thought I was hot shit these days, or even hot. I had just found this amazing core of people who liked me, and who I liked. If that’s not lucky, I don’t know what is.

On the night when these thoughts first passed through my head, there was a party at Glory’s house.

Glory was the elf whose girlfriend I was. Her wasn’t a house in the strict sense, but a residence hall, or the ass-end of a residence hall made over into a glorious new… face-end? It had once been part of Harlowe Hall, and then bricked off and made into a fraternity house, then left derelict until Glory decided to remove herself from the politics of Treehome, the enclave of elves going through their four decades of adolescence.

Her reasons had been complicated and many, but it mostly came down to the myriad ways in which turning people loose between the ages of eighteen and a hundred with neither adult supervision nor adult responsibilities could go horribly, horribly wrong. To her credit, Glory had learned how to play their games well enough to protect herself and her friends and her nigh-unto-identical baby sister Grace, but to her infinitely greater credit she hadn’t enjoyed them. She’d found her way out, with a little help from me and from my adoptive sister Two’s friend Hazel.

Hazel was a… well, I guess the most polite term is burrow gnome. They have their own name, but as it’s theirs, they don’t say it in mixed company. The rude term is “halfling”, which some of the more privileged varieties of humans started calling them because, ha ha, they’re basically half-sized humans.

Except they’re not.

They have their own proportions, not quite being the same shape as either human children or scaled down human adults, which makes sense, because, you know, they’re not humans, not even half human. Not half of anything. I guess they look more like humans than they do any other race you’re likely to run into, and to be fair, their own mythology regarding humanity’s origins reflects the similarity. But there’s no actual relation.

The most striking physical difference is in the feet. Burrow gnomes don’t have larger feet than humans in proportion to their bodies, though they used to be drawn that way in caricatures. What they do have is tougher, less sensitive soles, sturdier ankles and arches, and a thick, almost fur-like covering of furry hair.

Or most of them do. Hazel started shaving hers, either before or at the same time that she stopped wearing floor-length dresses that cover her feet. Since she started hanging out at House Glory… as it was now known… she’d started dressing even less conservatively, going between midriff-baring crop tops with miniskirts and variations on the flowing, gauzy, ethereal gowns the elven femmes wore.

I think Glory had courted her presence first because she wanted access to her on-again, off-again boyfriend Andreas. Not that Glory was interested in men, but he was a dwarf, and if he started coming to her parties, he’d bring more dwarves.

I didn’t know if she wanted dwarves hanging out because once they recognized a place as a hangout they would severely fuck up anyone who tried to mess with it or because bringing a bunch of male dwarves into a space that was mostly female elves would hammer home the idea that it’s not just for women or elves in a very clear way because I wasn’t sure if she knew herself… as I’d come to understand, she navigated a lot of this stuff on instinct. I only knew that had been her goal because she’d confided in me that she was disappointed it hadn’t worked.

Andreas had come over with Hazel a few times, but he’d mostly seemed to accept the elven thing as Hazel’s thing, her night out with the girls while he did guy stuff. Hazel had started bringing her suitemates Shiel and Nae, and while I had no idea if Shiel was worth anything in a fight, I wouldn’t trade places with anyone who tried to invade a building that Nae had grown attached to. The tiny kobold was fast, fierce, and almost impossible to keep down.

Their presence probably didn’t do as much as Glory would like to make the building an attractive hangout for the general masses, but frankly anyone who would stay away from a place because a couple of goblinoids showed up sometimes wasn’t worth courting.

Parties at House Glory had a tendency of turning into orgies, in a pretty low-pressure, low-key kind of way. It didn’t happen every time, or nearly as often as people probably thought. There was a lot of affection and touching and some casual nudity, but mostly dancing and people lounging around and quietly talking.

Leaving Treehome and abandoning… mostly… the power structures of elven middling culture had led to some really complicated relationship structures among Glory’s courtiers-turned-friends. People were still feeling things out, working out how to relate to each other as something a lot more like equals. Amaranth had been helping them, giving the equivalent of workshops on consent culture. She was at her best when she was teaching, and even better when those teachings were about sex and kindness.

She was also the one responsible for the aforementioned nudity. Her body, with its large, soft thighs and large, soft breasts, was far from the typical elven ideal, but with less social pressure enforcing that ideal, some of the less ideally proportioned elven girls had begun embracing their curves, trading binders and corsets and tent-like garments that hid their forms for clothing that showed them off or, when they felt like they could get away with it, nothing at all save for the veil over their mouths that woman-loving elven women used as part of a signal system.

The new trend made things more comfortable for my girlfriend Steff, whose human blood meant she could never attain the ideal she’d grown up with, which was sometimes phrased as “elm-straight and willow-thin”, and our friend Dee, whose subterranean folk had very different ideas of what feminine beauty meant than the surface elves did. The nudity was something I’d have to get used to, but I had the feeling I could eventually enjoy it.

Amaranth was another story. While she loved the humanoid body in all its infinite variation and she certainly wouldn’t stand for anybody to be ashamed of theirs, she also loved the beautiful elven dresses that, as a nymph, she was not allowed to wear, and… well, she was a bit of two minds when it came to her new proteges rejection of their garments.

“Oh, Rainbow… why don’t you ever wear that lovely purple frock anymore?” she asked one of them, who was dancing close to another girl.

“It was a tent on me!” Rainbow said. “If you’ve got it, flaunt it, right? You told me that!”

“Yes, but, the right clothes can do so much to help you flaunt it,” Amaranth said. “It wasn’t very flattering to your form, but I’m sure Two’s friend Hazel could help you alter…”

“I’ve a three month waiting list,” Hazel said. “And don’t even think about throwing Two’s name out, neither. She’s running herself ragged as it is.”

“I don’t run, Hazel,” Two said, in her always-even tone of voice that, as it always did when she was explaining something, managed to sound both patient and exasperated at the same time. “I don’t know how.”

I had never thought about this before, but I couldn’t remember ever having seen Two run before. Unlike Hazel, Two did look human, more or less, but she wasn’t. She was the spitting image of a human girl with pale white skin, straight blonde hair, and clear blue eyes. If not for the ever-present band keeping her hair back off of her ears, she would have been easy to mistake for an elf.

The only outward difference was the faint impressions of wizard runes in her forehead. They weren’t scars or burns, just indentation in the flesh. These runes had been pressed into clay, which had then been transmuted into the flesh and blood semblance of a living human girl. It was like necromancy but prettier. The runes had imbued her with life, magic, and free will, while her basic nature had been created in a way to ensure that she never used that will in any way that contradicted her owner’s orders, right up until the point he’d abandoned her.

The dick. I hoped I never met him, for my sake as much as his. I knew now that my grandmother had been wrong about me, but I didn’t want whatever I would do to him on my conscience, much less a rap sheet… assuming I got one. Half-demons who kill a human don’t often live to be sentenced.

“That’s okay, Two, sweetie, no one expects you to run,” Amaranth said. “Okay, but there has to be other seamstresses…”

The elf called Rainbow laughed. She’d been born Iris, I was pretty sure, but Glory (nee Cleo) had a thing for human culture, or at least the human culture of the Imperial Republic of Magisteria as it appeared to her, and she had started a trend of using the Pax equivalents of elven names. Glory and Grace had come off fairly lucky, but most of their friends had wound up sounding like the love children of aging druids with reagent abuse problems.

So far, though, none of them that I noticed had reclaimed their original names even with the formal dissolution of Glory’s court and her abdication as their queen. Maybe it was part of their ongoing rejection of the culture of Treehome. I didn’t know. I didn’t ask. I didn’t really care, either. What a person called themselves wasn’t my business.

I did suspect there was something to it, because to a one they had adopted Steff’s habit of calling Amaranth “Amy”. Steff did it because her everyday use name was a form of Steff’s elven father’s name. Amaranth didn’t mind. She loved her name, but she also loved people being comfortable with her, and I think she appreciated what she saw as the affectionate familiarity inherent in a nickname.

I don’t think the people back home in Paradise Valley really saw her as a person. They had never called her by any name; Amaranth was the name of the flowering crop that grew in her field, and the name she’d adopted for herself when she went out into the world. Amy was a name she’d been given by someone who loved her, which was more or less the way that most people she knew had gotten their names.

This had been a fun night, as I recall. We had just finished with midterms in the second semester of what was for me and most of the non-elves in the room that I knew our second year of college.

We were pretty much all there, except Ian… myself, all the women I loved, most of my female friends, or at least the ones who could hang out at a college party and not have it be weird.

I remember this night in particular because it was an unusual night in that no one had anywhere to be, there was nothing in particular going on, there were no plots being hatched by or against me or anyone I cared about, or at least none that I knew about.

It was in all respects an utterly typical, normal night, in every respect I could think of. That’s what was so memorable about it at the time.

I kept thinking about it after it ended mostly because it was the only night like that for a good long while.

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18 Responses to “Chapter 311: Up All Night”

  1. zeel says:

    Well, that last line was certainly telling…


    On a calmer note… Rainbow got a character tag, I’m not sure if this is just AE being thorough, or an indicator that this character may be important…

    Current score: 5
  2. LurkerAtTheDoor says:

    Back country is actually one word (or hyphenated).

    “demon who’d impregnated my father” uhhh

    Also- oooooo cliffhangers.

    Current score: 0
  3. Elaine says:

    I love this transition piece, so promising!

    Potential typo alert: “the demon who’d impregnated my father” is probably not what you meant to say?

    Current score: 0
  4. Yar says:

    “the demon who’d impregnated my father”

    I assume this was supposed to read “mother”, but the freudian slip started showing when she tried to talk about him in the ambigous person…

    Also, the full sentence is oddly collated and makes it sound like Mercy wants to breed her WITH her father. Ewwwwwww.

    Current score: 2
    • zeel says:

      Yeah, it ends up super squick, super fast.

      Current score: 0
    • William Carr says:

      That’s what The Man has in mind, I’m sure.

      Impregnating human females isn’t a HOBBY.

      His daughters are resistant to the Divine prohibitions on Demons, just as he is.

      If he bred his daughters, his granddaughters would be far stronger than Mack and still “daywalkers”.

      This is why he doesn’t give a damn about his son, Mack’s brother.

      First generation males are no use to him.

      Second generation males would be breeding stock with their sisters.

      Current score: 0
    • Anthony says:

      Yeah, that’s how it parsed for me too.

      Current score: 0
  5. Glenn Brown says:

    Welcome back. I hope the problems that prevented you from updating this story more regularly are a thing of the past. I saw one small error:

    “I still had literal, actual, honest-to-badness enemies out there in the world: a cannibalistic slaver who dreamed of breeding an army of docile, trained half-demons using my thoroughly disinterested womb and the demon who’d impregnated my father topped that list.”

    I think you meant to say, “impregnated my mother” Even Mack’s life isn’t so weird that her father got pregnant.

    Current score: 1
  6. Readaholic says:

    Dun da dun dun!!! for that last line.
    And yeah, yay!! MU is back!!

    Current score: 0
  7. Brenda A. says:

    What a great teaser to end with!

    This worked pretty well – another recap of who’s who, but we got some new info as well – like that Two can’t run! Does she just walk extremely fast when she needs to get somewhere quickly? Can she be taught how?

    Current score: 0
    • zeel says:

      To the first, yes – I expect she is capable of walking very fast.

      Learning to run… seems like she should be able to emulate the movement, but I doubt she can ever really learn to do it properly – she would likely look very awkward, attempting to replicate the stride of a person with a differently shaped body.

      Current score: 0
  8. Another Greg says:

    ” Glory and Grace had come off fairly lucky, but most of their friends had wound up sounding like the love children of aging druids with reagent abuse problems.” made me LoL 🙂 Welcome back, A.E.

    Current score: 1
  9. Zathras IX says:

    While Life can be a
    Living Hell, that’s better than
    An undying Hell

    Current score: 2
  10. tigertoe says:

    love it!

    Current score: 0
  11. euthanatos says:

    Awesome! Looking forward to seeing where this new book goes.

    Current score: 0
  12. Saint of Lies says:

    Thank you for taking the proper time to get well and come up with a piece as wonderful as this. Beautiful lead up, and though I might disagree with you on a few political stances I’d be lying if I told you I wasn’t enjoying your work up to this point! Well done.

    Current score: 1
  13. Arancaytar says:

    Oh, Rainbow…

    I can’t not picture this elf as a cyan pegasus pony now.

    Current score: 1
  14. Arancaytar says:

    It was in all respects an utterly typical, normal night, in every respect I could think of. That’s what was so memorable about it at the time.

    I kept thinking about it after it ended mostly because it was the only night like that for a good long while.


    Current score: 0