Oct 28, 2021 10:46 AM
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She guessed that the time Orion went on a mal-killing spree so he could snap El out of her (maw-mouth killing?) slump. Some people have all the luck. New York, an affinity literally for mal-killing, and he gets mana from it. "I'll see what I can do."

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The next day El is in the reading room instead of in her carrel, picking through her sutras, murmuring "what a lovely book you are, I'm so glad I found you, you're my favorite" to them every time she struggles through a paragraph.

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Too bad how Annie really shouldn't pick up another language midway through junior year; by the rumor mill the book is incredible.

 

She probably couldn't afford to pay for a peek at it anyway. Chloe playing nice is a lot, but, you know, Chloe is a pragmatic person who'll drop Annie in a heartbeat if she seems boring, and New York has a reputation to maintain but still might take her stuff and then betray her, if that's what it'll take to get them out. And Annie's resources that are actually hers, in the 'she can defend them', sense, are very limited, right now, and she shouldn't be tricked by the presence of Orion, and El, and all these other people who are powerful and are going to survive.

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Today New York has decided - well, Magnus in particular has decided - to uphold their reputation with a straight up murder attempt.

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Which is....confusing?

 

 

 

Like, confusing enough that once she's made the appropriate outraged noises she actually spends an hour in her bed with wards up that'll alert her of mals, processing, trying to figure it out, because major political moves among the students should not be confusing and surprising, not by this point, junior year - anything that doesn't make sense is something that is going to destroy you, something that you're accounting for wrong -

- and Magnus trying to murder El doesn't make sense.

 

(Her wards inform her that something's seeping in under the door. She stabs it, and tries to catch the remains in a jar for Chloe, though maybe they're officially no longer on speaking terms with Chloe because New York is collectively guilty of Magnus's shenanigans? Put a pin in that...)

 

Like, okay, El treats everyone in New York with barely concealed hostility and comes across as probably a malificer, but they can't be worried she'd go after them, she's evidently not stupid,, and Orion has the apparent personality of a puppy dog but obviously the reason he likes El is because -

 

 

- because she killed a maw-mouth, because she's the kind of person who would, which no one else knows -

- so it's probably completely mysterious to most people. "They are both one-in-ten-thousand power level heroes who keep risking their lives to save everyone else" is an extremely solid basis for the kind of fictionally-cute romance where he refuses to leave her bedside at night. 'He's a one-in-ten-thousand hero and she's the grouchy probably-maleficer who he dotes on' less so. So once New York checked it wasn't mind-control, they were probably really confused.

That doesn't get you to a murder attempt, though.

 

Magnus probably resents Orion. Lots of people resent Orion, as much as you can resent someone who's repeatedly saving your life. There's the argument Todd made, which pretty much any junior or senior has contemplated in at least its broad outlines: that there's an ecosystem here, and stopping the mals from eating people means the mals get hungrier, and maybe they turn on each other but maybe you just get mals venturing farther than they used to, trying things no one's used to them trying, you get maw-mouths from the graduation hall sneaking up the staircase for a snack, which there's no record of ever -

There's the even more uncomfortable argument that goes with that. The school doesn't actually have the resources to support a student body of this size; everything works off the fact that a third of kids don't make it out of freshman year and there's further attrition from there. 

This is a justification for, well, it's not really a justification for anything? Unless they think the school's imminently going to explode into the void if they run it too hot, and probably it would have been designed better than that, then on any given occasion it's better for Orion to save people than not. And Orion's not at all the kind of person to be persuaded by an argument that the normal system is known to work at getting a quarter of kids out alive and 'push the school to its limits and see how much the monsters push back' is not known to work at all. Annisa's not even sure she's persuaded by that, and she's not an idiot hero. A quarter just ...isn't very good. A quarter isn't even 'all the smart hardworking kids make it out'. A quarter is 'the enclave kids who aren't idiots or super unlucky make it out, plus the absolute smartest hardworkingest most socially competent of the rest', and Annisa...would give herself good odds, at this point, of making the cut, but it doesn't feel that much like pathetic raging-at-the-universe, to admit that probably the bar should be a little lower.

So maybe Orion's just right, no matter how much he's proceeding with blissful ignorance of the idea that it might be in question. 

Magnus probably resents Orion, and he's probably freaked out that Orion now has a girlfriend whose good qualities are not on display - though, uh, there's an obvious assumption, when a guy goes for a hot girl whose good qualities are not obviously on display, once you've ruled out mind control -

 

She falls asleep before figuring it out.

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El doesn't bring it up. Nor does she seem to have wreaked grisly revenge upon Magnus.

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"Probably it is unstrategic to kill Magnus but I would at least be contemplating disabling him," she offers during artificing. "Otherwise he's just gonna try again."

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"I guess he might at that. If he doesn't think Orion'll catch him at it. And know it's him, I mean." Orion got the crawler.

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"Orion's not down to just declare very publicly if anything happens to you he'll know it's Magnus?"

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"He doesn't think it was."

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"Ah, that sucks." Mind control is good at getting confessions out of people but not very discriminating about them being true ones. "If it were me I'd probably - man, he's never alone, is he - maybe shoot him with a dart gun where the darts say 'if El doesn't make it out of here, you don't either'..."

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"That doesn't sound very constructive."

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"You don't think it'd give him pause about whether to keep trying?"

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"It'd have more teeth if I were actually in an alliance. Orion hasn't done more than yell at Todd and Todd's murder attempt succeeded."

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"Aadhya'll have you, you know. Even without Lake locked down."

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"That'd be nice."

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"Unfortunately I personally need a rich person and that is by my count neither of you. I'll write a nasty blog post about Magnus once we get out if he murders you, though."

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"Aadhya's going to run an auction for the sutra spells, for me."

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"Is that so? Well, do keep me updated on how it goes."

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Annie doesn't get another update on the situation until El's name is up on the wall with Aadhya's and Liu's.

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Which confirms it, that El killed the maw-mouth, because otherwise it's not a good alliance for Aadhya, and she has a good head on her shoulders and wouldn't sign on for a bad one. She's an artificer, like Annisa; she needs resources, and she's capable enough to attract an enclave, and if she's putting her chips on El, instead, it's because she's very sure. 


Liu she knows barely anything about. Long hair, which is a sign she's either powerful or stupid. Mild bit of evidence for 'powerful', now. Likely maleficing, she has the tells - or did sophomore year. Now she doesn't, which probably means she's gotten better at it. Maleficing doesn't have to make you creepy, no one would get away with it, if it did. If you're inexperienced, then the sense that your magic isn't right - that you're you isn't right - is right there to be picked up on, but if you're good, you can conceal it as easily as concealing your face. 

Annie doesn't lose much sleep over it. She wants an enclave. She wants New York, ideally, because it's the richest English-speaking enclave, but it does have the major downside that Magnus is a dumbass and that Orion is a completely different kind of dumbass, and she's not sure what that means for her odds of angling in. 

 

She brings Chloe some jars of mal entrails, the next week, to feel that out.

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"Oh, awesome," says Chloe, "yeah, I can mix these up into something that'll burn really nicely, I think. Do you have a prototype?"

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"Not yet. I figured I'd spend most of this semester selling divining rods so I can buy the mana for it. If you can spot me, I can work it up in a day or three." That'll take more stimulant tabs but it's worth impressing a potential ally.

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"We'd need to work out who the prototype belonged to."

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"I'm not feeling possessive of the prototype, I don't think there's anyone else in our year who could pull it off." And she can build a backdoor that makes sure of that. "How about if we end up hating each other or Magnus decides to indulge his homicidal impulses more blatantly you can buy it off me for the cost of the materials, no guarantees it'll work for anyone else."

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