Love Is A Doing Word

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Re: Love Is A Doing Word

Post by Eldorion on Thu Dec 14, 2017 9:26 am

So I've worried ever since the second half of the first Needlehole Mystery that I was taking my fiction in too heavy and emotional of a direction that it would be off-putting to people. No one has said as much to me thus far so fingers crossed, but this one goes a step further. I think it's an important step in the characters' development, though, and I don't anticipate the next few chapters being quite as heavy. In any event I hope it's a decent read.

content warning that is also a spoiler:
Self-injury


Last edited by Eldorion on Thu Dec 14, 2017 11:19 am; edited 2 times in total
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Eldorion
You're Gonna Carry That Weight

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Re: Love Is A Doing Word

Post by Eldorion on Thu Dec 14, 2017 9:26 am

Chapter 2

Neither Baingil nor Eldy got out of bed until nearly noon the next day. Baingil felt refreshed by the time she was awake and had washed up, but Eldy seemed so tired that Baingil wondered if she had slept at all. Eldy’s only explanation was that she was still recovering from jet lag.

The emptiness of their fridge eventually sent both out in search of the nearest grocery store. Eldy perked up slightly once outdoors and resumed pointing out various local landmarks as she had the night before.

“Most of the interesting stuff in Michel Delving is on the far side of campus,” she said. “But there’s a bowling alley down that street over there, and that diner on the corner is open 24 hours. They have a working jukebox and everything.” She paused. “Not that going there in the middle of the night was an option for me when I was a student here.”

“You didn’t live on campus back then, I take it?”

“Oh, no,” said Eldy. “My mother would never have stood for it. I guess I can’t blame her, though. The only reason I started living on campus a year after transferring to Plaza was that my dad didn’t give a fuck. My aunt on his side was pretty against it, though.”

“You mean Nia’s and Valeh’s mom, right?”

“Yeah, Aunt Miriel.”

“I always thought she seemed nice,” said Baingil.

“She is,” said Eldy. “My uncle and her let me stay with them during breaks, other than summers when I came back here. I think they saw me as sort of a bonus daughter. Not that I’m complaining, especially since my dad was out of the picture so frequently.”

“Why was she opposed to you living on campus?”

“She thought I was too young,” said Eldy. “She may have been right. You’ve probably heard some of the stories about the acting out I did once I got away from my mom.”

Baingil blushed slightly. “Er, some of the stories, I’m sure.”

Eldy laughed. “I had calmed down a bit by the time I met you.”

“That’s probably for the best.”

“Yeah.” Eldy sighed. “Being back here is always a weird feeling though. Sometimes it seems like all the progress I make gets left behind on the other side of the ocean each time.”

“I don’t think that’s true,” Baingil said kindly.

“Thanks,” said Eldy, but she declined to say more than two or three words in succession until they returned to their room.

The campus library was closed on weekends when classes were not in session so Eldy did a lot of reading in her room for the next day and a half. Baingil made several attempts to rouse her but was effectively told to go away each time, sometimes more politely than others.

Over dinner on Sunday night the two conferred about their plans for the coming week. “Elthir and Ally are apparently going to be in downtown Bree for a couple days,” said Eldy. “Depending on how things go they might ask us to join them shortly. I’m going to meet with Halfy tomorrow morning to touch base about the current state of affairs for all of us and I was hoping you would come.”

“You know I’m planning to,” said Baingil.

It was decidedly warmer by Monday morning than it had been the previous week, as if the weather had suddenly realized that it was almost June and hurried to catch up with the calendar. While Baingil was still getting dressed she heard a knock on her bedroom door. She opened the door partway and peered around it. Eldy was already dressed in black sweatpants and a hoodie. She bore an awkward expression.

“Hey, I have something I have to take care of before the meeting, so I was going to head out now. You know where the College of Lore building is, right? We can meet in the lobby there.”

“I can find it on the map, I’m sure,” said Baingil. “Did something come up?”

“I have a doctor’s appointment,” said Eldy.

“Are you feeling okay? Do you have a fever?”

“No,” said Eldy, not meeting her eyes. “I made the appointment last week before we got here.”

Baingil frowned. She thought it odd that that Eldy hadn’t mentioned this before as she was usually kept Baingil in the loop about her plans. “I can be ready in a minute and go with you, and then we can head to the meeting together.”

“You don’t have to do that,” said Eldy.

“It’s not about whether I have to,” Baingil said bemusedly. “But if you want to go on your own you can.”

“Thanks,” muttered Eldy. She was halfway to the front door before Baingil had time to wish her good luck.

Baingil arrived at the lobby of the College of Lore about ten minutes early. Just before 11:00 Eldy hurried in through the front door, wearing a backpack. She headed straight for Baingil after seeing her. Baingil heard a rattling sound like pills in a bottle coming from the backpack before Eldy came to a halt.

“Did your doctor’s appointment go well?” asked Baingil, glancing from the backpack up to Eldy’s face.

“Yeah, thanks,” said Eldy. She glanced down at the bag herself. “They have a pharmacy at the university health center so I was able to get my prescription filled right away. I’ve seen this doctor before and she takes former students as patients too.”

“I see…” Baingil said carefully.

“It’s nothing to worry about, Bain,” Eldy said curtly. “It’s a routine thing, I just had to go soon after we got here or I was going to run out.”

Baingil tried to remember if Eldy had ever mentioned being on medication before but came up blank. She supposed that finding out more about another person came inevitably with being roommates.

They arrived at Halfy’s office a couple minutes late, but he seemed not to mind as he welcomed them in. “How was your weekend?” he asked cheerfully. “Settling in well, Baingil?”

“Yes, thank you,” she said. “Everything has been very nice so far.”

“That’s good to hear,” said Halfy. “What about you, Eldy? How’s your mother doing?”

“I don’t know,” she said quietly. “I haven’t talked with her in a while.” She seemed to become even smaller as she slumped in her chair.

“She knows that you’re back on this side of the pond, doesn’t she?” Halfy asked, frowning.

“No,” Eldy said barely audibly.

“Well you have to visit your mother when you’re in the neighborhood,” said Halfy. “That’s just how it works. Everyone’s got something they don’t like about their parents but you learn to overlook it as you get older.”

“I know,” said Eldy.

“So, moving on,” Baingil cut in. “Eldy told me that Elthir and Ally had business in the city?” she asked Halfy.

“Yes, they do,” said Halfy, turning to face her. “They’re meeting with some of our political allies in and around the royal court.” He tapped his nose meaningfully.

“I assume that this is something more than lobbying for more research funding for the university.”

“You would be correct,” smiled Halfy. “You are aware that Princess Tinuviel is nearing her eighteenth birthday, yes?”

“I am,” said Baingil.

“When the princess turns eighteen in September she will be crowned Queen of Forumshire, which is significant for a number of reasons,” said Halfy. “Not the least of which is that it will mark, on paper, the end of the Dark Planet’s protectorate over Forumshire. Which means there are all sorts of security preparations already underway in the hopes of avoiding another uprising like the failed one five years ago.”

Baingil thought back to the security presence she in the airport and nodded.

“The more direct relevance to us is that to hold a coronation they must first select a new court magician, something that Emperor Taz and his Viceroy here, Lady Amarië, have steadfastly refused to do until now. That will in turn necessitate the reconstitution of the College of Mages, which was dissolved after King Ady’s abdication and the invasion.”

“I know a bit about that, and I’ve been reading up on it more,” said Baingil.

“I’m glad to hear that,” said Halfy, beaming. “So you’ll see the opportunity we have here?”

“Er,” Baingil glanced sideways at Eldy, but she was slumped even further and Baingil couldn’t catch her eye. “The Dark Planet won’t be able to control the College of Mages as easily as they have other institutions?” she guessed, figuring that made the most sense in context.

“Precisely!” said Halfy. Baingil quietly let out a sigh of relief. “We are very fortunate that most qualified magicians these days are academics,” Halfy continued, “and that most academics do not approve of political leaders who invade and conquer other countries, whatever pretexts they might give. The Dark Planet has imported many of their own scholars here, especially to the University of Bree, but they’re still a minority. Even better, the monarch must genuinely agree with the choice of court magician and the precise words they use for the coronation ceremony to have its full effect.”

That sounded familiar to Baingil from discussions she had previously had with Eldy. “Coronation ceremonies were traditionally pacts that established and maintained some of the foundational rules of spellcasting, right?”

Halfy looked pleased. “You’re not a budding magi-semiotician by any chance?”

“Oh, not at all,” Baingil laughed. “I never got very far in philosophy of magic , but some of the principles of it are relevant to the research Eldy and I have done, so I’m familiar with those bits.”

“Well, it is a very esoteric branch of study, even by Lore standards,” admitted Halfy. “Though my understanding from Elthir was that the two of you are still focusing your research on that for the time being?”

Eldy sat a little more upright. “Yes, more or less. I have a little more reading I need to do on Forumshiran folk magic traditions from titles that aren’t available overseas, but then we’ll be out in the field for a bit.”

“I still have yet to get used to hearing a theoretical magician speak about doing field research,” Halfy chuckled.

“Call it the bad influence of Baingil’s scientific mindset,” Eldy deadpanned.

“Speaking of!” said Halfy. “I had something I wanted to ask of you specifically, Baingil, if you’re comfortable with it.”

“What’s that?” Baingil asked in surprise.

“You see, Ally’s sister Carly – do you know about Carly?”

“I heard Ally mention the name the other day, but that’s all,” said Baingil.

“Ah, I suppose it makes sense that Eldy wouldn’t want to talk about her with you.” Halfy smiled knowingly but Baingil couldn’t figure out what he meant. Eldy stared pointedly at the floor.

“Carly attends Valinor Academy in Bree,” said Halfy. “She’s in the same year as Princess Tinuviel, and in fact the two of them know each other rather well.”

“I think I see where this going,” said Baingil.

“The princess will need to receive more education in magic than is typical for someone her age before the coronation ceremony,” said Halfy. “I have no doubt that Amarië has her own private tutors lined up. But if the princess were to already be receiving instruction in the principles of magic, say, alongside a friend who happened to have found a tutor in order to be better prepared for her university education, well, the Viceroy can hardly find that objectionable.”

“I’m not sure why you’re asking me,” said Baingil.

“Eldy mentioned over dinner that you’ve been a teaching assistant.”

“For an introductory engineering class, not for anything like this.”

“I found your explanation of magical principles to our friend Blue to be perfectly cogent,” said Halfy. “But more to the point, it would raise eyebrows for Elthir or myself, being full professors, to serve as tutors, and it would present an obvious conflict of interest for Eldy, a potential candidate for the post of court magician, to do so. But you are, and I mean no offense, an unknown factor and therefore unlikely to rouse suspicion. If any questions are asked, you’re a friend of Ally’s, who introduced Carly to you for tutoring because she didn’t want to teach her sister herself. Anyone who knows either of them will find that believable.”

“I don’t know…” said Baingil. She looked suspiciously at Eldy.

“Hey, I had no part in this,” said Eldy. “But it makes sense.”

Baingil sighed. “Can I think about it?” she asked Halfy.

“Of course,” he replied. “It would be best if we had your answer by next week but I hope you will give it your full consideration.”

* * *

It was close to noon as they walked back into the bright sunlight. Baingil felt very warm even in jeans and a T-shirt but Eldy pulled up the hood of her sweatshirt.

“Do you want to go get lunch?” Baingil asked. “I’m starting to get hungry.”

“Sure,” Eldy said distantly.

They went to the student union since it was nearby. Both ordered food but Eldy got only a salad which she spent more time pushing around with her fork than actually eating.

“Something on your mind?” asked Baingil.

“I’m not really hungry,” said Eldy.

Baingil put her half-eaten sandwich back on her plate. “Is the project stressing you out?”

“I suppose so.”

“That’s perfectly understandable,” said Baingil. “There’s a lot to it. I feel a little overwhelmed thinking about it, and you’ve got a bigger part than I do.”

“I’m sure you’ll be fine.” Eldy looked at her intently. “I have every confidence in you.”

Baingil smiled softly. “Thank you.”

Eldy nodded. “For me it’s just that there’s a lot riding on this. I don’t want to fuck it up. This is my chance to prove that I have worth as a human being.”

Baingil faltered at the look of glum seriousness on Eldy’s face. “I know this is important and I don’t want to trivialize it, but even if things don’t work out you’ll still have lots of people who love you.”

Eldy began fidgeting with her fork. “I dunno. I guess.”

“Of course you will,” Baingil said with a frown. “I’ll certainly still be here.”

“I’m not trying to say I don’t believe you,” said Eldy. She stared at the far corner of the dining area. “But if I don’t ‘live up to my potential’ I don’t really have a right to be here.”

“What do you mean?” Baingil asked in a concerned tone.

“Just … here.” Eldy waved her arm to gesture at their surroundings. “On a campus like this, I guess, or maybe anywhere. I don’t want people to find out how lazy I really am.”

“A lazy person wouldn’t have put in all the work you’ve already done.”

“Then I guess I’m still able to keep up appearances.”

“Appearances have nothing to do with it,” said Baingil. “I don’t know who told you that you’re lazy or that people won’t like you if you don’t accomplish great things, but whoever they are, they’re wrong.”

“That’s very nice of you to say,” Eldy sighed. “I’m sorry for being so moody.”

“Is there anything I can do to help?” asked Baingil.

“I’ve been thinking about what Halfy said about my mom,” Eldy replied. “Well, I was already thinking about her, but he’s right and hearing it from someone else means there’s no more hiding from it. I have to visit her and I should do it soon so that it doesn’t seem weird that I’ve been here for a while without telling her.”

“If that’s what you want to do I’ll support you in it,” Baingil said cautiously.

“It’s not really about what I want.” Eldy placed her fork back on the table. “But if it’s not too much to ask, I’d like it better if you went with me. And I’m sure my mom will want to meet you anyway.”

“Of course.” After a moment’s silence Baingil began to eat again, but Eldy didn’t so much as look at her food.

“I’m gonna go to the bathroom,” Eldy said suddenly. She unzipped her backpack and removed her small purse from it before standing up.

“I can keep an eye on that for you,” said Baingil.

“It’s okay,” said Eldy, avoiding eye contact. Baingil stared after her questioningly as she walked away.

Eldy took a long time in the bathroom but seemed to be in a much better mood when she came back. “I was thinking about going straight to the library,” she said as they left the student union. “Do you want to come along? I bet I can sweet talk one of the librarians into giving you a card without the non-student fee.”

Baingil chuckled. “I’m sure you can, but I might as well see you in action.” She was glad to see Eldy give a brief smile.

The library was a large seven-story building near the center of campus. Eldy walked confidently to the main information desk.

“Hi, how can I help you?” asked the librarian.

“Hi,” said Eldy. “This might be a weird question but I was hoping that my colleague here,” she gestured towards Baingil, “could get a regular library card. She’s not a student or faculty but she’s working with me on a research project. I should be in the system already.” She slid her card across the desk.

“Well, let me see,” the librarian said as she turned to the computer and pulled up Eldy’s account. “Generally, non-students and non-faculty can get a card for a small fee, but they can’t request inter-library loans.”

“I know, but I wanted to ask just in case if it was possible to make an exception,” Eldy said with a shy smile. “It would make things a lot easier for both of us if she didn’t have to go through me or our supervisor every time she needs an uncommon book.”

“Hmm,” said the librarian. “I see what you mean. Who are you working with?”

“Dr. Letobeard in the College of Lore,” said Eldy. “The Lore librarian here – Ms. Kitt, I think – could confirm about the project.”

“No, that’s fine,” said the librarian, turning to give a welcoming smile to Baingil. “Go ahead and fill out the form and we can get you your card right away.”

A few minutes later they were on their way towards the elevators. “Your flagrant disregard for regular rules continues to impress,” Baingil said teasingly.

Eldy grinned briefly, but by the time they reached the seventh floor her face had settled back into a more somber expression.

The entirety of the seventh floor of the library was a quiet study area with desks and tables arranged around the walls while the vast middle of the floor was filled with stacks. The floor was even quieter than usual since the summer session didn’t begin until the following day.

Eldy took a list of call numbers from her pocket and stepped into the stacks to begin searching. She quickly accumulated an unwieldy pile of books and so, as she went further down the list, took to sitting on the floor or stools to flip through titles before deciding whether to add them to her pile.

Baingil flipped through some of the titles Eldy had already picked out as well as ones on the shelves that caught her eye, but her main finding was to confirm that the history of magic and folklore was not an area of interest for her. She supposed she must have sighed louder than she thought when returning the exceptionally dull Reconstructed Folk Magic Traditions of Rushock Bog to its place on the shelf because Eldy looked up at her from the floor.

“I’m sorry, Bain. I wasn’t thinking about how boring this probably is for most people.”

“I’m impressed that you’re able to absorb so much of it,” said Bain. “It’s pretty far removed from my specialty, though.”

“I can’t blame you,” Eldy said wryly. “I’m probably gonna be a while, though, sorry. I understand if you’d rather find something else to do.”

“I might do that,” said Baingil. “Text me if you leave here, but otherwise I’ll come back to drag you out to eat by dinner time.”

“Heh. Thanks,” said Eldy. “I’ll probably be at one of the desks by then.” She smiled up at Baingil but quickly resumed poring over the book in her lap.

Baingil wandered through the science and engineering collections but had trouble getting absorbed in anything. Eventually she wandered into a computer lab on the fourth floor where, using the ID number from her library card, she was able to create an account and sign in. After an hour or so of watching cat videos, however, she found her thoughts wandering to questions of what it would be like to tutor a future queen and why Eldy’s mood was so erratic that day.

Eventually Baingil signed out and stood up with a sigh. It was only the mid-afternoon but she decided to return to the seventh floor anyway to see if there was anything productive she might be able to do that wouldn’t put her to sleep.

The heat rising in the building did battle with the air conditioning and on the topmost floor the heat seemed to be winning. Baingil didn’t see Eldy at any of the desks near the elevators so she began a circuit of the floor. Almost all of the desks and tables she passed were empty. About three-quarters of the way around she spotted what looked like the top of Eldy’s head barely peeking over a stack of books arranged on the edge of a desk set directly against the wall.

Eldy had earbuds in and had taken off her sweatshirt, showing the tank top she had worn beneath it. There was a white bandage wrapped around Eldy’s upper arm which looked like it needed to be changed. Baingil suddenly noticed that much of the surrounding skin, almost always obscured by clothing, was covered in a series of parallel scars. Some were white and faded, but others were still pink and seemingly fresher.

Baingil typically enjoyed the feeling of all the mental pieces of a puzzle falling into place but she now suddenly felt anxious and like she had inadvertently walked in on a deeply personal moment. She hesitated before stepping forward and giving a slight wave. Eldy jumped slightly at the motion in her peripheral vision but recovered quickly as she turned her head and took out her earbuds.

“Oh, hey Bain. I wasn’t expecting to see you yet. Guess I lost track of time.” Eldy paused and looked down at her tank top. “It sure gets hot up here in the summer.” But she retrieved her sweatshirt from the back of her chair and put it on.

“Eldy…” Baingil began, feeling her anxiety rise.

Eldy cocked her head. “What is it, Bain?”

“I couldn’t help but notice – I mean, can I ask what happened to your arm?”

A dark look flashed over Eldy’s face for a split-second before being replaced with a rueful grin. “Oh, that. Yeah, I guess it’s kind of hard to miss.”

“How did you get hurt?” Baingil asked a little firmer.

Eldy gave a short laugh that almost sounded unforced. “I got in a fight with a bear.”

Baingil couldn’t stop herself from visibly frowning and took several deep breaths before speaking again. “Eldy, you can trust me.”

Eldy turned to stare at the desk. “Please don’t ask me about this, Bain.”

Baingil wavered but her protective instincts soon won out and she leaned down and wrapped Eldy in a tight hug. Eldy stood up while simultaneously pushing Baingil backwards to get out of the hug. Baingil’s mind reeled in confusion as she stared into Eldy’s eyes. “Please. Talk with me.”

Eldy shook her head. “I’m sorry. This is my fault for being careless.”

“It’s not a question of fault,” said Baingil. “I just don’t want to see you get hurt and it makes me sad when you are.”

Eldy was flushed red and looked as upset as Baingil had ever seen her. “Talking about it would just make you feel more sad. I do enough making other people unhappy as it is.”

“What?!” Baingil couldn’t stop herself from exclaiming. “This isn’t about me! I’m worried about you and whether you’re going to be safe.”

“I’ll be fine.” Eldy retrieved her notebook and phone from the desk and made to walk away. “I’ll see you later.”

Baingil almost yelled but some strange part of her mind felt the need to remind her that she was in a library. “Don’t! Eldy, don’t. Stay and talk with me. I want to understand.”

Eldy froze and then leaned against the wall and slid down to a sitting position on the floor where she sat hunched over. Baingil sat on the floor next to her and put her hand on Eldy’s arm but Eldy flinched and turned away.

“I don’t know…” Baingil began. “I don’t know why, but I want you to know that you don’t have to do this.”

Eldy stared off in the opposite direction. “This is what I deserve.”

“There are few people I know who deserve to be hurt less.”

“What do you want me to say?” Eldy asked angrily. “Do you want me to explicitly state that I hate myself for being a lazy, selfish, disappointment of a person so that you can tell me I’m wrong about myself?”

“You can’t expect me to agree with that,” said Baingil.

“I don’t. But this is the only way I can stop my sense of guilt from driving me to do something much worse.”

“There must be something better,” Baingil said pleadingly. “Have you tried–”

“Do you think that I like this so much that I haven’t tried anything else as an alternative?” Eldy spoke over her.

“I’m only saying that there are other ways of dealing with negative emotions.”

“How stupid do you think I am?”

Baingil fell silent.

“No, really,” Eldy pressed her. “Do you think I’m such an idiot that I’m unaware of the existence of other coping skills? That I don't wish they worked better for me?”

“That’s not what I meant, Eldy, and I think you know that,” said Baingil, blinking back tears.

Eldy stared at her miserably and then buried her face in her hands. “I’m sorry,” she said in a strangled voice. “But you see what I mean? Nothing good comes from other people knowing about this.”

“Who else knows?” asked Baingil.

Eldy lifted her head and stared forward blankly. “All my ex-girlfriends, since they’ve seen me naked,” she said in a monotone. “I think one or two of my cousins have guessed at it. And now you. That’s pretty much it.”

Baingil wasn’t sure what to say but she tentatively put her hand on over Eldy’s. This time Eldy didn’t flinch and Baingil slid closer to her.

“I’m sorry,” Eldy said again. “I didn’t mean to make you upset but I was an asshole.”

“I’m upset at the thought of you hurting yourself, but I’m not upset with you.”

“That’s still on me. If it weren’t for me you wouldn’t have that to feel upset about.”

“If it weren’t for you there would be a lot of things that make me feel good that would have never happened either,” Baingil said. She squeezed Eldy’s hand.

Eldy turned her hand to be able to wrap her fingers around Baingil’s and squeeze back. “Look, I’m sorry, but I really don’t want to talk about this.”

Baingil looked at her sadly. “Can you at least promise me–”

“No,” Eldy said flatly.

“Can you at least promise that you’ll talk to me first if you feel like you need to hurt yourself?”

Eldy hesitated. “I guess I can do that.”

“Thank you,” said Baingil. She leaned forward and gave Eldy a gentle hug.

“Don’t mention it,” said Eldy. “And I mean that literally.”

* * *

After a moment Eldy stood and extended a hand to help Baingil. “I think I know what books I want to check out,” she said.

“I’ll help you carry them,” said Baingil.

“Thanks.” Eldy didn’t speak again until they were waiting for the elevator. “Once we get back I’ll call my mom and see what times she’s available.”

“Are you sure that’s a good idea?” asked Baingil. “The thought of seeing her seems to make you miserable.”

Not seeing her makes me feel guilty and just as miserable,” said Eldy.

Eldy’s mother turned out to be free the following afternoon and Eldy, who seemed in a hurry to get it over with, agreed to that time. She called around afterwards and made arrangements to borrow Ringo’s car for the 40 minute drive to her mother’s house, where they were expected at 1:00 pm.

Baingil dressed a little nicer than usual on Tuesday morning. With still no sign of Eldy at quarter till noon, Baingil tentatively opened the door to her room, where she found Eldy awake but curled up under her blankets.

“Hey, is everything okay?” Baingil asked quietly. “I don’t know if you noticed the time.”

Eldy peeked out from under her blankets to look at the digital clock on her desk across the room. “Fuck!” She jumped out of bed and almost ran into Baingil. “I’m sorry. Thank you. Can you wait for me?”

“Of course,” said Baingil. As soon as she had spoken the words Eldy was already halfway into the bathroom. Baingil sat down on the couch in the living room and flipped through one of the Lore books Eldy had checked out the day before, which had been left on the coffee table. Eldy was quickly out of the shower but spent an inordinate amount of time in her room before emerging wearing jeans, a loose-fitting long-sleeved flannel shirt, and (to Baingil’s surprise) makeup.

“Won’t you be too warm in that?” asked Baingil. Eldy gave her a meaningful look and Baingil let the matter drop.

By the time they reached Ringo’s car in the parking lot Eldy’s hands were trembling as she tried to put the key in the lock and she asked Baingil to drive. Neither of them said very much during the drive except for Eldy’s abrupt directions for when and where to turn.

As soon as Baingil parked, however, Eldy began to speak very fast. “My mom’s name is Grace Dagda. She likes to talk a lot. She might mention some of my other friends and previous relationships. Try not to take anything she says too personally.” She paused to breathe. “I think that’s it.”

Baingil nodded. “Are you sure you’re okay?”

“I have to be.” Eldy opened the door and got out.

Eldy rocked back and forth on her feet while they waited on the porch after ringing the bell, but as the door opened she sported a broad smile.

Grace Dagda was perhaps an inch shorter than her daughter, with black hair that fell to the middle of her back. She bore a wary look until recognizing who was on her porch.

“Welcome home, Eldy!” Grace exclaimed.

“Thanks, mom,” Eldy stepped forward and hugged her mother for a brief moment. “Mom, this is Baingil, my friend who I was telling you about.”

“It’s very nice to meet you,” Grace said to Bain. “I was just hearing so much about you the other day. Come in, I set out some snacks and lemonade. I know how much you like lemonade, Eldy.”

Eldy nodded and the three of them made their way to the dining room where the table was laid out with a pitcher, cups, plates, and a tray with fruit and cookies.

“Would you like anything else to drink, Baingil?” asked Grace. “We have water, milk, tea, coffee…”

“I’m good with lemonade too, thanks.”

“Of course,” Grace replied. “I’m more of a tea person myself so I already have a kettle on. Give me a sec and I’ll be right back.” She disappeared through the doorway into the kitchen.

Baingil glanced at Eldy, who was nibbling at the edge of a chocolate chip cookie and obscuring most of her face with her hand.

Grace returned holding a mug of tea and took a seat at the head of the table. “Let me know if you’re hungry for anything more substantial. I hope you’re both eating well on campus.” She turned to look at Eldy. “Have you lost weight again, or is it just those baggy clothes you always wear?”

“I don’t know,” Eldy said quietly. “I don’t really keep track of it.”

“Well, you should,” Grace said reprovingly. “You’ve never been good at taking care of your body.” She turned to Baingil. “How have you been liking Bree so far, Baingil? Eldy said this was your first time here.”

“Yes, it is,” Baingil replied. “I haven’t seen much of it so far but it’s been very nice. I got the chance to meet some of Eldy’s old school friends already.”

“Was one of them Ally?” asked Grace.

“Yes, I met her and Kate and a couple other people when we all went out to dinner.”

Grace pursed her lips. “I’ve only met Kate a couple times. I hope she isn’t still holding Ally back from her career.”

“I think Ally is old enough to decide what she wants to do for herself,” Eldy spoke up.

“Yes, of course,” Grace said dismissively. “Ally was offered a fellowship at the University of Scotsdale,” she informed Baingil. “I introduced her to a friend of mine who works in the graduate admissions office there. But Ally turned it down so she could stay in Michel Delving with Kate.”

“That doesn’t seem like a bad reason,” said Baingil.

Grace sighed. “Its always a disappointment to see a girl with brains like that squander them. I used to hope that Eldy could learn from her example but it seems not.”

Eldy suddenly became very interested in the floral pattern painted on the edge of the plate in front of her. Baingil looked back and forth between mother and daughter before Grace broke the silence.

“On that topic, Eldy, how is your dissertation going?”

“It’s going okay, I guess,” said Eldy. “I only just finished my Master’s thesis so I’m sort of taking a break to work on a different project.”

“I hope that it doesn’t distract you for too long,” said Grace. “If you take too long between being awarded your Master’s and your Doctorate it will set off red flags for employers.”

“I know,” said Eldy. “But this was an exciting opportunity. I’m working with two professors I know at UMD.”

“I’m still not sure why you wanted to come back to a downmarket school like UMD after being at Plaza. The connections you can make there would be far more valuable.”

“I know plenty of people at Plaza,” said Eldy. “But I wanted to do this as well.”

“You’re eighteen now,” Grace said impatiently. “When are you going to move past this selfish stage and stop wasting so much time on your frivolous interests? You do realize how much I have invested in you to get you this far, don’t you?”

“I don’t think that’s a fair description at all,” Baingil interjected. “If this project goes well it will have significant implications for all of Eldy’s other work as well.”

Eldy gave a tiny grateful smile from across the table as Grace looked sharply at Baingil. “You misunderstand me. Eldy has already jeopardized her future by picking such an impractical, self-indulgent course of study. If she can at least get a degree from a reputable school out of it she might have some chance of salvaging her eventual professional career, but the more time she spends playing around the lower her chances become.”

Baingil saw Eldy softly shake her head and decided not to respond.

“So I have to ask,” said Grace. “Mothering instinct and all that. But I got the impression after talking to Eldy the other day that the two of you are living together?”

“We have a two-bedroom suite,” said Baingil. “Student housing.”

“I already explained that, mom,” said Eldy.

“Yes, but you were rather evasive when I asked how you were going to explain that to Thali.”

“I told you that we broke up.”

“You can’t blame your mother for wanting to know more,” said Grace. She sighed after Eldy remained silent for a moment. “Thali was far too old for you, of course, and a distraction from your studies, but I don’t want you to be upset now if it will make you even more distracted.”

“I’m fine, mom,” Eldy said emphatically.

“In that case I hope you spend some of the extra time you now have making new and better friends,” said Grace. “If you put some effort into not being as disagreeable and ungrateful towards people as you are with me I’m sure you’d be much more popular.”

Baingil couldn’t stay quiet any longer but tried to keep an even tone of voice. “I don’t think you give Eldy enough credit. She’s very popular with her friends at Plaza and with her family.”

Grace gave a very thin humorless smile. “Oh, have you met her father, then?”

“Only in passing,” said Baingil. “I’m friends with several of her cousins on that side, though.”

“Yes, well, they’re certainly an interesting family,” said Grace. “I worry that Eldy takes after her father, though, and the rest of them encourage her worst habits. She’s coasted through her education thus far and gotten lazy but one day she’ll hit a wall and have to work hard for the first time in her life, which she doesn’t know how to do. I don’t think she’s been adequately prepared for that since she left here.”

Eldy stood up abruptly. “I need to use the bathroom. Excuse me.” She left before anyone could respond.

Grace turned to Baingil with a grimace. “I apologize on Eldy’s behalf for her acting like this. She gets in her moods sometimes and requires a lot of prodding to snap out of them.”

Baingil stared at Grace for a moment before finding words. “I don’t have a problem with Eldy. I think she’s a very hard worker who is trying her best to do the right thing.”

“That’s very nice of you to say,” said Grace. She folded her hands on the table in front of her. “She’s a good girl, deep down, but her sense of priorities isn’t right. I’m sure you’ve noticed that, being around her.”

“I’m afraid I don’t know what you mean,” Baingil said coolly.

“Consider this ongoing nonsense about her girlfriends,” said Grace. “Thali, and Carly, and I don’t even remember the names of the rest.” She glanced in the direction Eldy had gone and then leaned forward to speak in a quiet tone. “She isn’t a very good judge of people and seems incapable of finding someone stable. Instead she’s ended up with a succession of … let’s just say girls who she can’t keep her hands off of but who don’t offer her anything else.”

Baingil felt she should say something in defense of Eldy but was unsure how to respond to any part of that.

“You’re not like any of them, though, and she behaves differently around you,” Grace continued. “I hope that you can help her, but I know how difficult she is to manage. Call me if you have any trouble with her.” She gave Baingil a knowing smile.

Baingil pushed her chair back. “I’m sorry, I need to use the bathroom as well.”

“Let me go check on Eldy,” said Grace. “You can use the bathroom in the master bedroom.”

“No, I’ll see how she’s doing,” Baingil said firmly.

She found herself in a dimly lit hallway with four doors, three of which were closed. Through the open door she could see an empty bathroom so she instead knocked on the door with a yellowed piece of paper taped to it on which the words “Eldy’s Room” were written in black marker. Baingil couldn’t hear anything. After a moment’s hesitation she tried the doorknob, which turned out to be unlocked.

The first thing Baingil noticed was the intricate pattern of white stars painted across the midnight blue ceiling of Eldy’s room that, Baingil was fairly confident, accurately reflected the night sky as seen in that part of the world. The walls were a light blue, covered with posters that would not have been out of place in the bedroom of a twelve-year-old girl which, Baingil considered, was how old Eldy had been the last time she had lived there regularly.

After taking a step in Baingil saw Eldy. She was sitting at the foot of her bed, curled in a ball, with her arms wrapped around her folded legs and her head resting on her knees. Her whole body was shaking but Baingil still couldn’t hear any audible sounds of distress.

Baingil quietly closed the door and walked over to kneel next to Eldy. She put her hand on Eldy’s shoulder. “Shh, it’s gonna be alright. Eldy, it’s okay. We don’t have to stay here.”

Eldy lifted her head to look at Baingil. Her eyes were red and puffy and her tears and makeup had combined to leave long streaks down her cheeks.

“I’m a terrible daughter,” she whispered. “I haven’t seen my mother in almost a year and I can’t even spend fifteen minutes around without breaking down.”

“Your mother is a fucking asshole,” said Baingil. “I couldn’t stand being around her for much longer than you could, and I don’t have a history with her.”

Eldy blinked in surprise. “You swore. You never swear.”

“Normally I wouldn’t say that about anyone’s mother, but I can surprise people when someone I care about is hurt.”

Eldy gave a nervous giggle. “It feels nice to hear somebody else say that.”

“I can say a lot more later if it’ll make you feel better, but for now I think we should focus on leaving.”

“You’re right,” said Eldy, wiping some of the tears out of her eyes. “I’m a mess. I don’t have anything to blow my nose with.”

“You can use the bathroom in the hallway to wash up and I’ll stand guard outside,” said Baingil.

Eldy gave a weak smile. “Thank you, Bain.”

The two walked back to the dining room holding hands, with Baingil walking slightly in front. Grace glanced up at the sound of their footsteps. “I was just thinking we can have a real lunch, or maybe call it an early dinner. What do you say?”

“Unfortunately we need to go,” said Baingil. “Thank you for your hospitality.”

Grace seemed taken aback. “Oh. I’m very sorry to hear that. I hope that everything is okay.”

“We’ll be fine,” said Baingil. “We can see ourselves out.”

“No, it’s no trouble.” Grace insisted on following them to the door. Baingil stepped onto the porch and held the door open. Eldy hesitated before giving her mother a hug.

“I love you, mom.”

“I love you too, Eldy.” Grace looked into her eyes. “If you ever need anything–”

“Have a lovely day,” Baingil said loudly. She took Eldy’s hand and pulled her onto the porch before letting the door swing shut.

“Thank you,” Eldy whispered.

Baingil gave her hand a squeeze. “Come on. Let’s leave this place behind.”

The return drive was just as quiet as the drive out but it was a considerably more peaceful quiet. Eldy had taken hold of Baingil’s hand again after they both sat down so Baingil drove one-handed until they reached the parking lot in front of their building once again.


Last edited by Eldorion on Thu Dec 21, 2017 4:04 am; edited 3 times in total
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Re: Love Is A Doing Word

Post by halfwise on Thu Dec 14, 2017 4:25 pm

That was beautifully done, with great sensitivity to both the readers and the main characters.  And yes, Ally, Kate and Carly needed to be in here (newer members won't know and it's impossible to explain).

From the spoiler I thought we'd be inside Ely's mind, but instead you took the much more intriguing approach of the slow reveal from the point of view of others looking in.   The self-awareness needed to get that right is staggering.

Freud supposedly launched the field of psycho-analysis by analyzing himself.  It seems you've done the same.


Last edited by halfwise on Thu Dec 14, 2017 8:51 pm; edited 1 time in total

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Re: Love Is A Doing Word

Post by azriel on Thu Dec 14, 2017 7:34 pm

Therapeutic isn't it, feels like a deep breath. Nod

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Re: Love Is A Doing Word

Post by Eldorion on Fri Dec 15, 2017 12:41 am

Thank you both. Parts of this chapter were decidedly less than fun to write, especially since I always try to put myself inside the mind of every character with dialogue, but the final bit was pretty cathartic. Kinda wish-fulfillment but hopefully not in a bad way.

I appreciate your detailed thoughts halfy and it means a lot to me that you think that. Smile I think being able to write this at all without becoming a complete mess IRL is a positive sign that I've made progress. I wasn't sure if this was a bit too much to cram into one chapter but the self-injury stuff and Eldy's history with her mom are hard to address separately, and I also wanted to get her to a point where she was able to open up enough to be comforted sooner rather than later.

Doing justice to Ally and especially Carly is foremost on my mind for the next couple chapters, although there are several new characters who are likely to make an appearance. We'll see how that goes. Razz
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Re: Love Is A Doing Word

Post by Forest Shepherd on Fri Dec 15, 2017 6:44 am

One day, one day I'll star in some forum-fiction! Hm... I should put myself in that Dwarf Fortress playthrough.

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Or so you thought.
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The way is in Boar in Brockhall
Under ale, under bread, under cheese.

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Re: Love Is A Doing Word

Post by Eldorion on Sat Dec 16, 2017 8:46 am

This is my first time writing a forum fanfic where the POV character isn't based on myself, but it's made easier by my familiarity with Bain (both the real person and her forum persona/role-playing character) and my ability to pick her brain and run ideas past her during the writing process. I would feel unqualified and presumptuous trying to write such a personal and psychological story about anyone I didn't know as well. I'm hoping to be able to include a decently-sized supporting cast but I wouldn't want to cram anyone in without being able to give the character based on them room to breathe.

NB If you ever feel like writing/sharing your own stories (or more of the Dwarf Fortress playthrough) I'd love to read 'em. Smile
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Re: Love Is A Doing Word

Post by Eldorion on Sat Dec 23, 2017 11:54 pm

So my goal has been to make each chapter of this story semi-contained, with its own emotional climax or at least narrative payoff, since I am posting it serially. However, I am also trying to not make them too long. I've somewhat arbitrarily picked 7500 words as my maximum since that's the cutoff for short stories under the SFWA's definition (chapter 2 was about 7300). If I included everything that was in my plan for chapter 3 it would be well over 10,000 words, so I decided to split it in two. Unfortunately, that means the actual chapter 3 just sort of ends and most of the payoff won't come until chapter 4, but fortunately that's partially written already.

I have made several minor edits to the previous two chapters to correct spelling and grammar and sometimes alter word choices, but I have also made a few more substantial changes that bear mentioning since they effect continuity (albeit in small ways).

  • In chapter 1, the reference to "the Autonomous Principality of Bree" has been changed to "the Kingdom of Forumshire".
  • Also in chapter 1, I have substantially rewritten most of the conversation with Ms. Lothierial. Most of these changes don't impact continuity but I did remove the implication that Eldy lived on campus during her two years at UMD since that was contradicted in chapter 2.
  • Also in chapter 1, Eldy's line "The alternative, then, is that certain types of wood work better for wands because someone, at some point, decreed that it should be so." now reads "The alternative, then, is that certain species of tree – though not sacred groves – produce better wand wood because someone at some point decreed that it should be so."
  • In chapter 2, Halfy's request that Baingil give her response "by the end of the week" has been changed to "by next week".

I would also like to offer huge thanks to the real Baingil for reading multiple drafts of this chapter and offering numerous insightful suggestions and critiques.


Last edited by Eldorion on Sat Dec 23, 2017 11:58 pm; edited 2 times in total
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Re: Love Is A Doing Word

Post by Eldorion on Sat Dec 23, 2017 11:54 pm

Chapter 3

Eldy went straight to her room after they returned and Baingil expected her to remain withdrawn there for the rest of the day, but she reappeared after only a few minutes, carrying her laptop and wearing pajama pants and a tank top. Baingil’s eyes immediately darted to the scars on Eldy’s upper arms and the bandage around the left one.

“Does it bother you?” Eldy asked quietly. She stood shyly against the wall of her bedroom.

Baingil looked her in the eyes from across the room. “No, it doesn’t,” she said firmly.

Eldy nodded almost imperceptibly. “Thank you.”

She put her laptop on the coffee table and began to thumb through the library books she had left there. Baingil took this to mean that Eldy didn’t want to be alone and after retrieving a magazine from her room sat down on the other end of the couch and began to read. After about an hour of silently reading and transcribing handwritten notes onto her computer, Eldy abruptly closed her laptop and leaned back on the couch. She exhaled deeply and then turned her head to look at Baingil.

“I just want to say thank you for being here for me.”

Baingil set down her magazine and looked back. “I’m glad I’m able to.”

Eldy looked like she wanted to ask something but hesitated. “Do you mind if I lie down? I’m kind of tired.”

Baingil looked at her curiously. “I don’t mind, no.”

Eldy nodded but otherwise didn’t move. “Could I … would it be okay if I laid my head in your lap?”

“Oh,” said Baingil. “I guess so, if it would make you feel better.”

“It would.” Eldy looked at her seriously.

“Go ahead, then.” Baingil gave an encouraging smile and moved her arm to the back of the couch.

Eldy curled up on the adjacent cushion and rested her head on Baingil’s thigh. After a moment Baingil moved her arm back to hold her magazine in a reading position but ended up resting her forearm on Eldy’s head.

“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to do that.”

“I don’t mind it,” Eldy replied without looking up.

“I don’t want you to be uncomfortable.”

Baingil thought Eldy seemed to blush. “I like it when people touch my head,” she said shyly.

“If you say so,” said Baingil. She patted Eldy’s head before picking up her magazine again.

Eldy blushed deeper but spoke a little more assertively. “I especially like it when people play with my hair.”

“I’m not sure why, but okay,” Baingil said teasingly.

Eldy shifted slightly so that her head was closer to the center of Baingil’s lap. Baingil looked down in puzzlement and there was an uneasy silence for a moment.

“You don’t have to do anything if you don’t want to,” Eldy said quickly.

Baingil felt a belated moment of realization. She gently rested her open hand on Eldy’s head and slowly ran her fingers through Eldy’s hair. “Something like this?”

“Mmhm,” Eldy nodded.

Baingil let her fingers run through Eldy’s hair again, this time rubbing gently against her scalp. Eldy squirmed slightly and nestled closer to her. Baingil repeated that motion several times and then moved her hand against the grain of Eldy’s hair, and rubbed her fingers in a small circle on Eldy’s scalp. Eldy made a strange purring sound in response and Baingil stopped in surprise.

Eldy twisted around to look up at Baingil. “What is it?”

“I just wasn’t expecting you to make a noise like that,” Baingil smiled. “You suddenly reminded me of a kitten and it was very endearing.”

Eldy hid her face against Baingil’s stomach and spoke in a muffled voice, “Thanks for humoring me, anyway.”

“I can keep going if you like.”

Eldy kept her face hidden but Baingil, feeling bold, ruffled Eldy’s hair again and scratched behind her ears. Eldy made the same purring sound again but when Baingil paused she turned her head to stare upwards.

“That was unfair,” she mock-pouted.

Baingil ran her fingers up and down through the hair on the back of Eldy’s head, causing Eldy to arch her back and make a mewling sound. When Baingil stopped Eldy closed her eyes but had a contented smile on her face.

“I didn’t know that having your hair touched made you so happy,” said Baingil. “No one else has brushed my hair since my mom when I was a little kid.”

“It feels really nice,” said Eldy, her eyes still closed. “It makes me feel closer and more connected to people. Cared about.”

Baingil smoothed back Eldy’s ruffled hair. “I hope you already know that I care about you.”

“I do,” said Eldy, opening her eyes. “But the whole … you know, physical aspect is reassuring.” She paused and looked up at Baingil. “I hope that’s not inappropriate to say.”

“Why would it be?” asked Baingil.

“I don’t know,” said Eldy. “You used to seem less comfortable with touchy-feely stuff.”

“I probably wouldn’t do this for anyone else if they asked me,” said Baingil, blushing slightly. “But I don’t mind when it’s you.”

Eldy squirmed again to wrap her arms around Baingil’s waist to give her a hug. Baingil smiled to herself and gently brushed her fingers through Eldy’s hair. Eventually Eldy murmured, “It felt really nice having someone stand up for me earlier.”

“You, er, don’t think I went overboard?” asked Baingil. “I know she’s your mother but I tend to get very protective of people I care about.”

“I’m glad that you’re protective of me.”

Baingil lifted her hand slowly and watched Eldy’s hair slide through her fingers. “I wish I could keep you from being hurt, even by yourself.”

Eldy loosened her grip around Baingil’s waist. “I’m sorry.”

Baingil leaned down to kiss the top of Eldy’s head. “That’s nothing for you to worry about, okay?”

Eldy sighed. “Okay.”

Baingil rubbed the back of Eldy’s neck. “Are you doing alright?”

“Yeah,” said Eldy. She gave a small smile. “I’m a little hungry, though. I haven’t eaten anything today except like one cookie.”

* * *

After eating Eldy was more her usual self again. The next day she again brought her laptop to the living room and set up there to continue studying. A number of large books were spread over the couch next to her so Baingil sat down in the nearby armchair with a stack of current events magazines. Some time later she looked up at the sound of Eldy yawning.

“Is the literature on folk magic as exciting as you hoped it would be?” Baingil asked with a grin.

“Most of it is really fucking dull,” Eldy replied. “But I’ve found a few pieces of useful information already. One of these books has a decent list of irregular incantations and rituals used by hedge witches in eastern Forumshire that seems like it might be accurate. And multiple sources have mentioned Needlehole being a center of magical innovation which makes me even more confident that we were on the right track before coming here.”

“How far away is Needlehole, again?”

“About three hours by train,” said Eldy. “Which is how we’ll have to travel since Ringo needs his car back. He said he’d be by later today to pick it up.”

Baingil nodded to herself. “That’s reasonable.” She paused in thought. “Didn’t you say that ‘hedge witch’ and ‘hedge magic’ were terms to avoid?”

Eldy shrugged. “It’s certainly not something one says to a practitioner. Bad habit of mine, though, probably since my magical education was entirely academic, and theoretical magicians in academia tend to look down on folk magic. That’s the more polite term and the one typically used in the literature.”

“Did they pick that name by analogy with folklore?” asked Baingil.

Eldy bit the tip of her pen before responding. “You know, I’m not entirely sure. Generally speaking the ‘folk’ part just means that it’s a cultural tradition of a particular nation or people, with the implication that it is maintained by ordinary people rather than the elite. Same meaning as in ‘folk music’. But since Lore and magic are so closely associated there may have been a more direct inspiration. I’d have to look into it.”

“It’s not really important,” said Baingil. “I was just curious.”

“I get curious about everything,” Eldy laughed. “But this is an interesting thought. Most scholars dismiss the stories and legends about the origins of folk magic rituals as fanciful inventions, but as you know I have my own hypotheses about the etiology of rituals and incantations.”

“Eh, more or less,” said Baingil. “I have an easier time with applied magic.”

Eldy put down her pen and pressed her hands together in front of her, brow furrowed in thought. “Can you give me your very simple explanation of abstraction again?” she asked.

“You mean abstraction in computer science?” Baingil asked in surprise. “Or are you referring to some concept in Lore that I’m not familiar with?”

“In computer science, yes,” said Eldy. “You gave me a really good explanation of it several months ago and I’ve been trying to remember everything you said, but I don’t think I’m succeeding.”

Baingil vaguely recalled such a conversation. “Does this have anything to do with what we were just talking about?”

“I think it provides a useful analogy,” said Eldy. “I’ll try to explain what I mean if you can confirm whether I’m remembering what you said correctly.”

“Okay.” Baingil took a second to organize her thoughts. “Well, as you probably know computer hardware operates in binary, whereas computer programmers don’t use it that much for most tasks. The hardware works in binary because ones and zeroes are used to represent the physical state of transistors, but that has more to do with electrical engineering so I’ll spare you the details.”

“That’s probably for the best,” Eldy said ruefully.

“Programming languages can be sorted into higher- and lower-level languages based on how much abstraction they employ.” continued Baingil. “Programming languages are written and edited by humans so generally speaking they consist of words, numbers, and mathematical symbols that people can understand.”

“I remember that.” Eldy was looking at her intently.

“Computers don’t think in terms of words and numbers, though – not base ten numbers, I mean. At the lowest level machine code is entirely in binary and effectively unreadable to humans. The next level up is assembly language, which is written and readable by humans, but it’s only a marginal step because you have to spell out nearly every command. But that’s a huge pain: think of it as telling a computer to print the letters H, E, L, L, and O individually rather than just saying to print the word ‘Hello’, except even more broken-down and arduous.”

Baingil paused for breath. “Higher-level programming languages allow you to bypass that, and when you run the program a compiler breaks the commands down into more basic instructions in stages until it’s in a form that the computer can execute by changing the state of transistors from what we call ‘one’ to ‘zero’. Obviously it’s a lot more complicated than that but you said you wanted the simple version.”

“That’s perfect, thank you!” Eldy said brightly. “There simply isn’t a standard vocabulary in theoretical magic for some of the ideas I have in mind because they’re discussed so infrequently, but borrowing some terminology from computer science makes it easier to think about and explain.”

“Can you take a stab at explaining it, then?” asked Baingil.

“I’ll do my best,” said Eldy. “A lot of this is still speculative, so don’t quote me on it.” She cleared her throat. “Anyway, you know all about how incantations don’t work because of anything innate about the words themselves, same as magical artifacts and substances.”

“Of course.”

“Incantations could be considered the highest-level language of magic because they’re spoken by humans and are very similar to natural language. But they’re not identical; if you want to make a rock levitate, to use a simple example, you can’t just tell it to do so like you could tell someone to jump. But there is something that makes the rock understand, not that rocks have consciousness, but it turns the words into a physical imperative that the rock, say, move upwards three feet and then come to a halt. If performed properly, the outcome of a spell is just as inevitable as the trajectory of the rock, as determined by the laws of classical mechanics, if you were to pick it up and throw it.”

“So there’s some sort of compiler that turns the words of the spell into magical instructions that can interface directly with inanimate objects, or the laws of physics, or something?”

“That’s the idea,” said Eldy. “The biggest problem is that we don’t know what the lowest levels are: the magical equivalent of machine language. There are plenty of mystical explanations and there are people who try to explain it in religious terms, though most religions officially frown on that and treat magic as a sort of black box. Theoretical magicians have spent centuries puzzling over the question but what interests me more are the intermediary levels.”

“Have they been studied as much?” asked Baingil.

“Well, you sort of touched on it when talking with Halfy the other day.”

“You mean the conversation about coronation ceremonies,” Baingil said thoughtfully. “So you’d consider the mechanism by which coronation magic establishes rules of spellcasting to be the compiler in this analogy? Or would it be more like assembly language?”

“I would need to think and study more to say one way or another, but I think it clearly fits in there somewhere,” said Eldy. "There’s a lot we don’t fully understand about coronation magic since it has its origins in preliterate sacral kingship. The interesting thing about folk magic, though, is that while its practitioners maintain a different tradition than that of academic magicians, the two share common historical origins.”

“Both follow rules established in ancient coronation rituals?”

“Yes. The really interesting about folk magic, however, is how much of it still works, even though it’s been over a thousand years since folk magicians have had any input into the, admittedly small, changes made to coronation magic. You could think of folk magic and academic magic as two separate but related high-level languages that compile into the same lower-level one. Granted, folk magic is more ‘buggy’ and less reliable, and for that reason hasn’t received much attention from serious scholars, who tend to dismiss it as the stuff of amateurs. But by studying the similarities and differences we might be able to infer certain things about the nature of that common foundation, whatever it is.”

“I would think that both traditions have influenced each other as they’ve evolved over the centuries,” said Baingil.

“That’s true, especially in terms of university-educated magicians who leave the academy,” said Eldy. “Theoretical magic has probably been influenced less; our tradition is much more ossified and the standard grimoires haven’t been updated in centuries. Trying to determine which similarities have been there since the beginning is part of what my reading has been about, but it’s definitely not easy.”

“I think I see what you’re trying to do, though,” said Baingil.

“It’s all especially relevant here in Forumshire given the current political situation,” Eldy said excitedly. “The potential level of access for us to coronation magic, which is being opened up to an unprecedented extent and where most of the traditions have to be rewritten since the old ones were lost in the turmoil of the initial occupation, could be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”

“I was reading more about that turmoil in some of the magazines you gave me,” said Baingil. “The editors of The New Reuelean in particular seem to have a strong antipathy for the Forumshire rebels.”

“What do you think?” asked Eldy.

“I think that fighting back was understandable in that situation even though I do not, as a general rule, approve of political violence.”

“That’s fair,” said Eldy. “I’m sure you’ll hear a lot more about politics in the near future, so I hope that knowing more perspectives than just mine will be helpful.”

* * *

Ringo arrived in the late afternoon to pick up his car keys. Eldy was hurriedly finishing typing out a thought so Baingil invited him in.

“Good to see you again, Baingil,” Ringo said cheerfully as Baingil closed the door. “How have you been?”

“We’ve been good, thanks.”

“I’m glad to hear that,” Ringo smiled. “How’s your visit to Forumshire been so far for you personally?”

“Oh, that,” said Baingil. “It’s been nice so far. We haven’t done a whole lot yet, to be honest, other than visit Eldy’s mother. Thank you for letting us use your car, by the way.”

“My pleasure,” said Ringo. He glanced at Eldy in the living room where she was still typing, then leaned forward to speak in a low voice. “How did that go?”

Baingil hesitated before answering. “Not great. We didn’t stay very long, though.”

Ringo nodded. “That was probably for the best.”

Eldy closed her laptop and called across the suite, “Hey, Ringo! Thanks for doing me such a big favor.”

“No worries,” Ringo replied. He walked over and took the armchair so Baingil moved a pile of Eldy’s books to the floor and sat down on the couch next to her. “I was just asking Baingil what she’s made of Forumshire so far.” He and Eldy both turned to look at Baingil.

“It’s been nice,” Baingil said again. “I’m still doing a lot of reading for various parts of our project, and I was asked to serve as a tutor already.”

“Was it Halfy who asked you?”

“Yes,” said Baingil. She looked back and forth between the other two.

“Eldy didn’t tell me anything, if that’s what you’re wondering,” said Ringo. “Halfy was very pleased with himself for having the idea after meeting you last week and said he would ask you. Are you interested in it?”

“I’m sure it would be interesting, but also a lot of responsibility,” said Baingil. “Even setting aside the bigger picture, I don’t have any experience interacting with royalty.”

“Tin is pretty down-to-earth by princess standards,” said Ringo. “Tinuviel, I mean; she prefers Tin. You’ll see what I mean when you meet her.”

“If I say yes, I suppose.” Baingil shrugged. “I have to decide by next week.”

Ringo looked at her curiously. “Did Halfy and Eldy not tell you about Friday?”

“I never heard back from anyone about whether it would actually happen,” Eldy piped up.

Ringo sighed. “Ally’s parents are hosting a party on Friday night to celebrate Ally and Kate’s engagement,” he explained to Baingil. “Carly will be there, obviously, and so will some of her friends, including Tin.”

“I didn’t know Ally and Kate were engaged,” said Baingil. “I only remember Kate introducing herself as Ally’s girlfriend.”

“They were going to wait a little longer before announcing it, but it provides a good opportunity to rub shoulders with people who will be involved with the College of Mages. Making plans is mainly what Ally and Elthir were doing in the city this week; Ally’s parents are fairly well connected.”

“Are both Ally and Kate okay with that?” asked Baingil. “Shouldn’t a day like that be more about the two people involved?”

“Ally’s as invested in this as any of us and Kate understands,” Ringo shrugged. “I don’t think Carly is very happy, though.”

Eldy snickered. “She still hadn’t given up hope that Kate would change her mind and fall for her instead of Ally?”

Ringo looked at her with exaggerated seriousness. “It’s unseemly to take pleasure in the misfortunes of one’s exes.”

“It was just so obviously never going to happen,” said Eldy. “I mean, the age difference alone–”

“You’re hardly one to pass judgment there,” Ringo pointed out.

“Yes, but,” Eldy started before sighing. “I was going to say ‘I’m more mature so it’s not the same’ but I guess I’m not really demonstrating that right now.” She grinned.

Ringo chuckled. “Just try to play nice when you actually see her again.”

“How have things with Hannah been, O font of relationship wisdom?” asked Eldy.

“They haven’t,” Ringo said lightly. “We got in the on-again off-again routine while I was in the service.”

Eldy shrugged. “Nothing wrong with that so long as you respect yourself through it all.”

“Listen to you spouting wisdom of your own,” Ringo said teasingly. “How about you, Baingil? Have any crazy exes you want to let off steam about?”

Baingil gave a slight start. “No, not really.”

“You must have been very lucky, then.”

Baingil felt slightly uncomfortable. “No, I mean I’ve never had a girlfriend. Or boyfriend. I’m always busy when I’m at school.”

“I’m sure Eldy is glad you could spare the time to do so much research with her,” Ringo said with a wink.

“Of course I am,” said Eldy. “So don’t give her a hard time.”

“It’s fine, Eldy,” said Baingil. “I’d rather not go through the process of finding and then having a crazy ex, certainly not at this point in my life,” she told Ringo. “If I meet the right person in the future I suppose I’ll see how things go.”

“Ah, we all think we’ve found the right person when it starts,” said Ringo. “One hopes that one’s judgment will improve with experience, but alas,” he finished dramatically.

Baingil wasn’t sure what to say. She noticed Eldy and Ringo glance at each other quickly just before Ringo cleared his throat.

“So, what do you do for fun, Baingil?” he asked. “Other than reading books with Eldy I mean, thrilling as I know that pastime can be.”

“I like crochet and I write poetry sometimes,” said Baingil, “though I don’t think much of what I write is worth sharing.”

“I hear that crochet can be relaxing,” said Ringo.

“It can, yes,” said Baingil. “It’s nice to make something that you can see come together, too.”

“I can see that how is,” said Ringo. “I learned a bit of knitting – came in handy when I was stationed up north – but that’s about it for me and arts and crafts.”

“Were you in the military?” asked Baingil.

“The army, yes. It’s mandatory in Fjordia, at least on paper. I received a deferment since I’d won a scholarship to come to UMD and I could have easily avoided serving altogether, but I was still unsure of what I wanted to do with myself after I graduated so I went back home for a few years.”

“That must have been quite the adjustment from Lore studies,” said Baingil.

“That’s certainly true, but I enjoyed my service” said Ringo. “I got to see parts of my country I’d never visited before.”

“How far north did they send you?” asked Baingil.

“Far enough that I’m not allowed to say anything more specific than that,” said Ringo. “They don’t want people to know where exactly to look for the trolls, not that you heard that from me.”

“I always assumed the trolls were just a Fjordian fairy tale, like the giant herring,” said Baingil.

“Oh, the giant herring are very real too,” Ringo said with a completely straight face. “But you’d have to ask someone who was in the navy for more details about them.”

Baingil laughed. “It all sounds like quite the adventure.”

“That’s a fair description,” said Ringo. “You see why I wanted to go back?”

“Certainly,” said Baingil. “I don’t think it would be for me, though I do enjoy bullseye shooting.”

“Not something you had to learn because of trolls, I hope,” said Ringo.

“No, I didn’t have anything more dangerous than rattlesnakes or scorpions to worry about when I learned,” said Baingil. “Though finding a scorpion in your shoe one morning isn’t a fun experience. Actually I prefer the bow but there’s more opportunities to practice rifle shooting.”

“There’s a shooting range not far from campus that I go to,” said Ringo. “You should come visit some time.”

Baingil hesitated. “I appreciate the offer, but I haven’t had much time for it the past couple months and I wouldn’t want to embarrass myself.”

“Don’t let her fool you,” Eldy interjected. “She’s on the Plaza’s competitive rifle team and is one of its top shooters.”

“I was, but I’ve been focusing on other things since the end of the season rather than staying in practice so I probably won’t be in the future.”

“I don’t think anyone would judge, in practice or not,” said Ringo. “Most of us don’t have any competitive shooting experience at all.”

Baingil sighed. “Eldy seems determined for some reason to make people believe I’m an expert on things: first Lore and now shooting.”

“Anybody who has seen you in competition would say the same thing I did,” Eldy protested, but Ringo looked at Baingil knowingly.

“Eldy’s always wanted to share her ambitions with others. That she’s recruited you into it means she thinks highly of you already.”

“I am not ambitious,” Eldy said petulantly.

“I’m not saying it’s a bad thing,” said Ringo, “but what else would you call your goal of becoming the first person in centuries to invent a new spell?”

“I just don’t want to be someone who nobody notices or cares about.”

Ringo looked towards Baingil with amusement. “She hasn’t dropped the humble act, I see.” But Baingil had a sudden mental image of Eldy’s mother and thought she had a good guess about what was going on beneath the surface of Eldy’s sulky face.

* * *

Eldy put on a good show of cheerfulness as Ringo left and handed him his keys with another hearty thank you, but she remained moody afterwards, slowly and sullenly typing away on her laptop and periodically deleting everything she had written.

“What do you want to do for dinner?” asked Baingil.

“I’m not hungry,” Eldy replied without looking up.

“You should eat at least a little anyway,” said Baingil. “Regular meals are important.”

“I know,” said Eldy. She stopped typing and stared glumly at her screen. “I’m sorry if I’ve been inappropriate in talking about you and what you’re good at.”

Baingil sat down on the couch and wrapped an arm around Eldy’s shoulders. “I don’t really like talking myself up but I’m not upset with you.”

“Thanks.” Eldy leaned against her and was quiet for a moment. “Do you think I’m ambitious?”

Baingil tried to pick her words carefully. “One of the first things I noticed and liked about you was your passion for topics that interest you and how much work you put into them. I can see why people describe it as ambition.”

“I guess,” said Eldy. “I suppose I’m a hypocrite for wanting to stand out from the crowd and then being moody and ungrateful when I get attention for it.”

“I don’t think having mixed feelings and being self-conscious is that uncommon,” said Baingil. “And I know that you sometimes feel good about it, like at dinner last week. That doesn’t mean you’re a hypocrite, but it’s good to be able to enjoy the times when you feel more positive.”

“I get what you mean, but it’s really confusing going back and forth between my normal state of thinking I’m worthless and the moments when I feel really smart and capable and accomplished.”

Baingil squeezed Eldy closer. “Just know that I think you’re really smart and capable and accomplished all the time.”

Eldy smiled weakly. “I think you are too; much more than you give yourself credit for.”

Baingil smiled back. “I know. I have some of the same anxieties you do, but I understand what you’re trying to do when you tell people about me.”

“I’m glad.” Eldy rested her head against Baingil’s shoulder. “Do you to go out somewhere for food? I think walking would be nice and there will be more on-campus options now that the summer session has started.”

“Sounds like a plan,” Baingil said reassuringly.

A pleasantly cool breeze picked up as the sun began to set. Eldy began to stand a little straighter as she and Baingil walked through the campus.

“If you decide to take Ringo up on his offer I can give you his number,” Eldy said suddenly.

“Oh … thank you,” Baingil said uncertainly. “I don’t want to be impolite to a friend of yours but I’m not really sure I will, though.”

Eldy looked at her slyly. “I’m pretty sure he’s not looking for a hook-up, if that’s what you’re thinking.”

Baingil looked back at Eldy curiously. “That’s definitely not what I was thinking.”

Eldy shrugged. “You don’t have to reach out if you don’t want to, I’m sure he wouldn’t take it personally. I hope you meet people here who you like one way or another, though. I don’t want to inadvertently isolate you by making you spend too much time with me with our noses in books.”

“I can think of a few worse ways to pass the time,” Baingil said teasingly. “Don’t worry about me, though. I can find other things to do if I start to go stir-crazy.”

Eldy nodded and the two walked in silence for a couple minutes before she spoken again. “I’ve sort of been avoiding bringing this up, but since I mentioned Carly earlier I should cut to the chase.”

“What is it about her?” asked Baingil.

“Well…” Eldy began. “I might be fretting over nothing, but there’s a possibility she’ll give you a hard time.”

“Why would she do that?” Baingil asked in confusion.

Eldy looked embarrassed. “People have already assumed that we’re girlfriends, and with Carly being an ex…”

“I’m still not sure what you’re getting at.”

“I guess you might not know since you haven’t been through a breakup, but running into an ex after the fact can be weird. I mean, you heard what I said about Carly and Kate earlier. I shouldn’t have, but that kind of thing happens. And if Carly assumes that we’re together, then y’know.”

Baingil shrugged. “I can ignore her if she says anything rude.”

“I just don’t want you to be caught off-guard,” said Eldy.

“I appreciate your concern,” said Baingil, “I saw the divorce between my mother and stepfather though, so I’m aware that relationships can end unpleasantly.”

“Alright,” said Eldy. “Hopefully I’m just being my characteristically anxious self.”


Last edited by Eldorion on Wed Dec 27, 2017 11:04 pm; edited 2 times in total
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Re: Love Is A Doing Word

Post by halfwise on Sun Dec 24, 2017 12:45 am

The speculation on the parallels between magic and computing is really quite original and worth following up. I don't think a real exploration of magic and modernity has really been attempted where they are both given equal weight.

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Re: Love Is A Doing Word

Post by Eldorion on Tue Dec 26, 2017 6:01 am

Thanks halfy. Smile I've been a little uncertain trying to write about magic since that's a bit outside my wheelhouse in terms of fantasy elements, but the computing comparison is helpful for me and I'm glad it's intriguing to others as well. Chapter 4 will actually (finally!) include someone performing magic which will help shed some more light on how it works in this setting.
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Re: Love Is A Doing Word

Post by Bluebottle on Mon Jan 15, 2018 1:05 pm


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Re: Love Is A Doing Word

Post by halfwise on Mon Jan 15, 2018 2:32 pm

rather cynical for Joan Baez.

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Re: Love Is A Doing Word

Post by Bluebottle on Mon Jan 15, 2018 6:34 pm

It was written by Bob Dylan, but he famously forgot he wrote it until Baez told him.. after she had recorded it, released it and he heard it on the radio and noted "Hey, that sounds good." She retorted "Well, you wrote it!". Razz

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Re: Love Is A Doing Word

Post by Eldorion on Tue Jan 16, 2018 2:19 am

I wouldn't necessarily have guessed that of the two of them Dylan wrote it since it feels like a natural companion piece to Diamonds & Rust (or perhaps the other way around since it seems the D&R was recorded later). Razz Good song either way. Nod
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Re: Love Is A Doing Word

Post by Bluebottle on Tue Jan 16, 2018 2:34 am

I have to admit, I think I find it quintessentially Dylan, because, if you've listened to him a bit, all the themes of the song are so his character, the dismissal of love, while retaining hte vulnerability of dismissing it. The callous casual treatment of a term that seems so important in "popular" songwriting, and to so many people. Every line of the song is, pretty much, a demotion, demolition, of the term love. It is really rather wonderfully cynical. Now D&R, which I like, I find a whole lot more sympatetic, not as much of a Dylan song.

Of course, I mostly remember it from the story aboe Razz

However... I did not mean to derail your story tread, (damn norc) I was simply listening to the song and it reminded me of your tread title Smile

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Re: Love Is A Doing Word

Post by Eldorion on Tue Jan 16, 2018 2:37 am

A thread Norcing? On Forumshire?!

What is the world coming to? No
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Re: Love Is A Doing Word

Post by Bluebottle on Tue Jan 16, 2018 2:42 am


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Re: Love Is A Doing Word

Post by Bluebottle on Tue Jan 16, 2018 2:43 am

Or.....

Eldorion wrote:A thread Norcing? On Forumshire?!

What is the world coming to? No

Oooooooo children


to spell it out Razz

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Re: Love Is A Doing Word

Post by Eldorion on Tue Jan 16, 2018 2:47 am

I've loved that scene and song since the first time I saw/heard it. I love you

{{{And actually, thematically, it's not dissimilar to what I'm trying to do with this story. study (Making no comment on relative success or artistic merit, of course.) Which I hope to be more productive with again; I'm at least continuing to mull over and refine ideas in my head even if I haven't had much luck getting them out on paper.}}}
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Re: Love Is A Doing Word

Post by Bluebottle on Tue Jan 16, 2018 2:56 am

I really loved that part of the books. but the movies kind of failed to capture it. (by simply not having enough time to build the envirmoment and atmosphere) but this song kind of captured it all in 3m Nod

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