[Hello to the jerky label fans coming from KUEC! This is the most traffic I have gotten in… ever. I really hope I pick up some readers. However, the story starts out pretty dramatic, which I hope does not feel like a betrayal after “Cowligator.” If you’re looking for funny, go directly to David Valentine, do not pass terrified and horribly depressed parental figure, do not collect brain-damaged six-year-old. THEN you can decide if you want to pick up the plot from the beginning. The current plotline begins at Elephant in the Room and involves a much-improved Erik getting the Christmas he missed out on when he was sick. Bearing that in mind, here’s some info. The About page has more and the wiki is in progress and being moved to another site with a simpler interface.]
There was a crooked house and it was full of crooked people. Some of them were really screwed up but all of them were pretty good at at least one thing to make up for it. Sort of. Some of them could do magic, which was interesting, but not nearly as helpful as you’d think. Some of them hated each other and some of them liked each other and some of them kept to themselves, but they tried to make it work because the rent was cheap and they had nowhere else to go. Sometimes they would even all try to do something together, like make cookies or go to the theater or help a hurt person. It usually got pretty weird when they did that, but they were doing their best. Sometimes it was funny and sometimes it was sad and sometimes both at once. There was a lot of screaming in the house and sometimes breaking of things and explosions, but not a lot of meanness. They really were doing their best.
The Story So Far…
(Here’s a little mood music, folks.)
One afternoon in late summer, an injured Erik was rushed home by his Uncle Mordecai, minus one eye and a certain amount of gray matter. Mordecai also managed to set off a city-wide riot by blowing up his violon-cello with an application of magic at two young men who were helpfully kicking injured Erik. (Erik and Mordecai are members of a fantastical minority race, being a green person and a red person respectively. So it is okay, or at least not as bad, to kick them if they are hurt and dying.) Back at the house, Hyacinth was able to repair Erik with metal, but she had to use what she had right there, which wasn’t a lot, owing to circumstances beyond her control. Erik has an eye socket and part of his head made of an alloy of antimony, copper and tin, and Milo and Hyacinth have made him a new eye out of metal, which he is doing well with, although sometimes it still seems to have a mind of its own. After a long recovery and some divine intervention, he is about as improved as he is liable to get. His speech slows down when he is excited or upset and he has trouble getting his letters pointing the right way.
He is also having some trouble with gods. He is able to see them walking around and hear them talking when he has his metal eye in. For his own safety, he is trying to ignore them, because sometimes they don’t like being observed and they are capable of harming him. They also tell him things, but this appears to be a voluntary interaction on their part. Sometimes when he is thinking of something, they just interject a little more information on the subject, things he couldn’t know on his own.
It is evident from backstory that his mother and his Uncle had some dealings with gods. The gods ride people of Erik’s particular race, but they don’t seem to be very nice about it. Mordecai is very anxious that Erik not have any dealings with gods, but there doesn’t seem to be anything he can do to prevent that. He is not aware that Erik can see the Invisibles, Hyacinth and Erik both considering it better for his tenuous mental health that he not be told.
Hyacinth is a blonde lady who could probably do with a good deep-conditioning treatment. She knows how to fix people with metal. She has a steel plate in her head patching an injury that was attained at the age of twelve. While she was healing, she displayed an anger and lack of tact that made her parents desire to have her committed to an asylum. Instead, they sent her to live with the man who patched her head injury, David Valentine. Hyacinth lived with David and (off and on) Barnaby from that point onwards. David had a lot of money and a serious mood disorder – he liked to scream a lot and threaten suicide and he occasionally wore fabulous dresses. Barnaby was not a whole hell of a lot more competent, honestly, but he was a bit more stable.
Barnaby currently occupies the attic space in Hyacinth’s house. Having lost contact with him, she found him sometime after the war, screaming at people on a street-corner, and she brought him home. He is a former state augur whose ability to see the future has gotten a bit out of hand in his old age. He experiences his existence as being surrounded by signs, all of which have blaring information and most of which are irrelevant. He breaks things and rearranges them in a desperate attempt to alter the unfavorable circumstances he sees, or at least to get the signs to shut up about them. He finds chaos upsetting and prefers to keep to his room, which he has papered with various collages relating to past and future events and that he can rearrange at his own discretion.
Maggie is a little girl with braids who is about two and a half years older than Erik and a crap-ton more resilient. She is learning to turn into a bird. Her mother is the General, a severe woman who turns into a glorious golden eagle. Every Pension Day, the General goes to collect her cheque, and to be alternately fawned over and screamed at by her fellow retired soldiers. Her own retirement and surrender were not willing, and she was sent home with incorrect records which state she never achieved a rank higher than Master Sergeant. Every month, she sets her pension cheque on fire as a form of protest. Maggie’s father is Sanaam. He is a sailor and a hilarious person. He visited in early winter and was badly shaken by what happened to Erik in his absence. He knows a lot about monsters. Maggie inherited his sense of humor and her mother’s magical skill. This is a dangerous combination.
Milo is a young man with glasses and long red hair that he wears braided and tucked down the back of his shirt. He has a gift for enchantments and mechanical design and helped Hyacinth to build Erik’s metal eye. He does not talk. Social situations appear to scramble his ability to do words entirely, as well as other things. He does pre-printed cards for himself and he draws things. He also puts on dresses and turns into a completely different person. That person is Ann. Ann does not have any trouble talking. She does shopping for the house and sings in a drag club. Milo builds things in the basement and works in a factory. In his past, he had a traumatic experience that involved being left in a straitjacket. Erik was unwillingly informed of this due to the curiosity of a god he was hosting at the time, but his Uncle has tried to help him forget it.
In order to help his sick Uncle, Erik called a god into his body – Auntie Enora, who deals with disease and makes perfect medicine. She stayed in Erik for two weeks, during which time she cured Mordecai and helped Milo and Hyacinth redesign the metal repairs in his lungs to make them work a little better. Erik was made to subsist on black coffee and cigarettes and no sleep for the duration, and also dragged around in his own body with no ability to move or speak. He was in pitiful condition by the end of it.
Fortunately, his Uncle Mordecai spent the whole siege helping people call gods and dealing with the consequences. Employing hypnotism, vanilla custard and care, he was able to help Erik cope with the mental and physical trauma of the experience, before breaking down himself because this should not be happening again. Auntie Enora left him some medicine, which provided an assist with his emotional difficulties, at least until it ran out. She also left some medicine for Erik, which helped him regain his ability to read and write. It took Erik a few weeks to deal with the lingering effects of having held a god for so long – mostly bad dreams and difficulty with voluntary motion.
One of the young men who kicked Erik, John Green-Tara, appears to be trying to make amends. He refused to identify Mordecai as the man who started the riot in Canburry Square, and he recently showed up at the house with some paint. Given that the paint was in all different colors, Erik suggested they do the house in puzzle pieces. This idea was enthusiastically accepted. In the aftermath, upset by various circumstances, Mordecai vanished in an attempt to conceal his emotional problems.
Resigned to the fact that he was going to need help from another human being in order to be able to help Erik in turn, he enlightened Hyacinth as to the nature of his difficulties and she managed to get it out of him that he sometimes thought about killing himself. Being a problem-solver and fixer-of-things and somewhat panicked by the new circumstances, she ran out and bought him a violin. John Green-Tara also proved invaluable in finding and paying for the instrument, sacrificing his sweater to the cause. Mordecai accepted his unwanted present with about as much grace as could be expected, given that he was also upset by the new circumstances. There was a certain amount of screaming, both parties felt better, and now Mordecai has a violin to play, although he is still relearning how to do so and doesn’t feel confident playing it in public. He does not know that Hyacinth had any contact with one of the men who kicked Erik, or that John Green-Tara had anything to do with the violin.
Erik, meanwhile, in a continuing quest for normalcy, accompanied his ostensible friend, Soup, to school. The only school in the slum where Soup and Erik live is held under a bridge, free to all comers and taught by a homeless person. This person is Seth Zusman, who used to be a real teacher and was acquainted with Mordecai during the siege. Seth is also a colored person, and used to call gods, which was, as Mordecai explained to Soup and Erik, a horrible experience for him. Suitably concerned, Erik promised his Uncle he would never call gods again, though Mordecai set that aside and asked that Erik just come to him for help before calling another god.
In mid-March, Sanaam came home again, with a stuffed elephant in tow as a belated birthday present for Erik, and a ring of sending so that his wife would be able to contact him if anything horrible happened while he was away. Hyacinth broached the subject of doing a second Yule for Erik, since he had been sick for the first one, and all parties agreed this was a fabulous idea. They are going to attempt to surprise him, though this may prove difficult with the Invisibles feeding him information all the time. Selecting presents, affording them, and finding a Yule tree in the middle of March may also be a problem…
How to Read…
Ideally, at this point, from the beginning. You should definitely read the Pilot first, because it has the house and all the main characters described. The first part of it is hard-stuck to the top of the main page, along with the latest installment. You can navigate from the bottom of the posts. The panels on the front page creep out of order, so the links at the bottom of the posts are your best way to get things in order. Each installment is now numbered (in parentheses) to make it a little easier.
Now, I’m trying to tag posts with the characters they focus on, so if you particularly like (or loathe) a character, you might be able to skip around that way, but it could get confusing. I will admit, I do not write things chronologically, but I try to correct them and post them that way, and I intend them to be read that way, so your mileage may vary if you just read randomly.
WordPress seems to do a thing were it decides what posts are related and recommends them, also at the bottom of the posts. You can try reading, or reviewing, this way, too. I have no idea what criteria go into these selections or how relevant they will be so your mileage may vary even more that way.
With forty installments now available, we have an Archive page with posts organized by plotline.
For more information on setting and mechanics, I direct you to the About page.
We now have a Wiki page, although that version is being abandoned in favor of a different site with an easier interface that I am still experimenting with. The old wiki has some character pages and more detailed information. Beware of unmarked spoilers! Character pages will have backstory that hasn’t been mentioned in the serial yet. Hopefully, the new site will allow me to block these out easily, but, again, I’m still figuring it out.