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.
How to Read…
We are getting to the point where reading from the beginning may seem like a bit of an undertaking. There are over one-hundred installments (of +/- 4,500 words each) so that’s like reading Harry Potter through The Goblet of Fire (we’ll lap him eventually, just you wait!). The first four installments, the “Pilot,” have the main characters introduced and described, so you might want to go through that before you go running off at random. You’ll have to scroll aaallllll the way down to the bottom, or just begin here and navigate with the arrows. However, the story has something of a downer beginning with Erik injured and sick. If that is not your cup of tea you might want to pick it up from somewhere after he gets better, then turn around and go back to see why he’s got a weird eye and talks to invisible people. The archive page has installments listed by plot, so you can pick any given storyline up from the beginning instead of looking at the (occasional) illustrations and guessing. Year Two begins with The Artist and has some short character descriptions and recap, so you might also pick up the story from there. For those of you who want to try to navigate by the main page, the installments are numbered (in parentheses) because the panels tend to creep out of order. Newest are at the top and oldest at the bottom.
I am 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. Sanaam gets a summary of recent events every time he comes home, so you can get a fast review of what’s going on by reading installments with his name.
WordPress automatically decides what posts are related and recommends them at the bottom of each post, but it seems to do that almost completely at random. 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.
However, to assist you in whatever way you wish to read, there follows a character list with basic information, and links to Wiki pages with more information. These badly need updating, but I’ve been focusing on other things and I’m not fond of WorldAnvil’s interface. For more information on setting and mechanics, I direct you to the About page. I am working on more Wiki pages with more and better setting/mechanics info, but none are up as of this edit. There is also a Patreon with some extra art and an essay about trans people in media, focusing on Milo. I am intending to move to paid hosting with no ads and more features in the summer. If you want to help me out with that, you can give me some money. If you are super-enthused and want access to each installment as I write them, you can give me even more money. That is also an option.
As of 4/7…
We are two years old! I am doing better on the illustrations but not perfect. Going all-digital is still intimidating and I’ve found some micro-tipped pens that let me get more detail into ink drawing, so for the moment I’m using those and a scanner, with detail work and coloring done on the computer. This means detail like Calliope’s freckles and the metal specs in John Green-Tara’s face are often virtual – in other words, they are not there because I have forgotten to add them in with a paintbrush. My artistic shortcomings are frustrating and I’m considering trying to hire a real illustrator off DeviantArt, but with over 100 illustrations needed, it’d be hard to pay a reasonable fee for each, and a percentage of the Patreon income would be a pittance. If you’d like to volunteer yourself or a friend to do artwork for probably not enough money, but negotiable, drop me a line. I have character designs I can send you so you’re not having to do everything from scratch.
I am preparing to move us to a site with paid hosting, as mentioned above. It looks like a good time for a summer hiatus will be in July, one large and two small plot arcs hence. I hope not to take longer than a month to try catching up on the artwork (or hiring it out) and moving the site. I’m not totally sure what this will do to the site, as I’ve never exported a website before, and how hard it will be to get everything up and presentable. My personal life is also undergoing upheavals and I may be moving houses either before the hiatus or after. Getting the text portions of the weekly installments up will be first priority in all cases. Illustrations and extras like the character pages may be sporadic or altogether missing, for which I am sorry. Please try to be patient with me.
Our Cavalcade of Characters!
Links are to in-depth character pages with partial plot summaries and potential spoilers, though most of the ones for backstory are marked and hidden. This is the quick reference.
In the House…
Erik Weitz: 7 years old. He is green. His right eye was lost in an accident and replaced with a metal one made by Milo and Hyacinth. Due to the accident, he sometimes has difficulty speaking, he flips his letters around, and he can see and hear the gods. They often tell him things — past, present and future — seemingly at random. Mordecai is his uncle, but not by blood.
Mordecai Eidel: 57 years old. He is smallish and red. He earns money playing violin on street-corners and can also play the ‘cello, both with magical assistance that results in a more impressive performance. He is not terribly good at magic, but he can cook. Sometimes he gets very unhappy and hides, but he’s trying to be better about it. Hyacinth fixed his lungs with metal and they don’t work very well. Erik is his child, but not by blood.
Hyacinth: 46 years old. She is blonde and not too concerned about her appearance. She is a practicing ex-medic who can fix people with metal, not always well. She has a steel plate in her head from a childhood injury and tends to be overly honest and blurt things out — though how much of that is due to the injury is open to interpretation. She runs the boarding house and has a propensity to rescue people. She has a quasi-familial relationship with Barnaby, who sometimes took care of her when she was younger but not in any official capacity. David Valentine was her guardian and taught her to work metal.
Milo Rose: 23 years old. He wear glasses and suspenders (this kind… also this kind, come to think of it). He has a part-time job enchanting watches which is well below his capacity as a designer and engineer but about as much as he can handle socially. He does not speak, preferring to get himself across via preprinted cards and quick drawings. He likes pretty dresses a lot and when in a dress he changes into a completely different person.
Ann Rose: 23 years old. She has waist-length dark red hair and does not wear glasses. She sings at the Black Orchid, a drag club, one show on Frig’s Days and two on Sigurd’s Days. She is essentially Milo in a dress, but more than the sum of her parts. She protects him and helps him, and also pushes him to be braver and stronger than he thinks he is.
Calliope Otis: 21 years old. She is quite small and has straight black hair and freckles. She is a single mother with one daughter, Lucy, and was fired and evicted because of it. She is an artist, and used to work for an ad agency. She still paints, but is currently living off her savings and the charity of others in the household. She has a strange way of looking at things and often behaves oddly, but this seems to stem from equanimity and self-assurance instead of past traumas, a rarity for Hyacinth’s house.
Lucy Otis: 2 months old. She has brown hair and brown eyes. She is a pretty chill baby, but she’s still not sleeping through the night.
Magnificent D’Iver: 10 years old. She has dark brown hair in braided pigtails. Usually called Maggie. She spends most of her time upstairs with her mother, learning complicated magic and the art of warfare. She has already learned how to turn into a magpie. Her mother is the General, her father is Sanaam. She shares her father’s sense of humor and her mother’s skill, which gets her into a lot of trouble. She is friends with Soup and Erik, and most of the other children are afraid of her.
The General: 38 years old. She is short and stout and nevertheless intimidating. She achieved the rank of Brigadier General at age 34, during the war, and was forcibly retired at the end of it. Her records are incorrect and she refuses to accept her pension cheques, preferring to set them on fire each month as a form of protest. She is able to turn into a golden eagle, and in this form is known to kill and devour pigeons. Maggie is her daughter and Sanaam is her husband.
Sanaam Sadiq: 39 years old. He is huge, totally bald and very dark-skinned, with gold tattoos. His appearance matches his profession as a sailor and his island heritage. He captains a small, fast vessel repurposed for trade after the war, and is not often home. With his sense of humor and freewheeling personality, he is nevertheless able to get along with the straight-laced General, and they seem to have a strong marriage — in spite or perhaps because of his frequent absence. Maggie is his daughter.
Barnaby Graham: 76 years old. He has ragged white hair and is always in a bathrobe and slippers. He is an ex-state augur, whose skill at divination was frequently employed in battle. His psychic ability has got out of hand in his old age, and he is no longer capable of controlling what he sees or when he sees it. As a result, he is easily upset and fond of rearranging or destroying things in a desperate attempt to change the future. He prefers to stay in his attic, with his many boxes and arrangements of papers. He was friends with David Valentine, Hyacinth’s guardian, and considered himself responsible for her after David’s death.
Room 101: We don’t know who it is, or even what it is. It has never been seen, or heard. It gets three meals a day delivered and eats them. There are some strange phenomena associated with it, such as Hyacinth’s inability to remember what’s in there even after she goes in to feed it, and Barnaby and Erik’s lack of knowledge about it despite their extrasensory perception. Evidence would suggest it has the ability to make people forget.
In the City…
Soup: 11 years old. He is blond with freckles, a red bow tie, and a checked driving cap. He does not appear to have any family or anyone to take care of him and can be found looking for food and entertainment on the streets at all hours. He is adept enough at petty larceny to get by, and Maggie is also teaching him magic. In return, he has taught her pickpocketing and other such skills. He is friends with her and Erik, although they tease each other mercilessly, and has a small amount of respect and affection for Seth.
Seth Zusman: 36 years old. He is blue, tall and thin. He lives under a bridge in Cinders Alley and also teaches school there. He used to teach in a real school, but his situation after the war prevented a return. He is a kind person and the kids love him.
John Green-Tara: 17 years old. He has dark hair, dark eyes and dark complexion. He and another boy happened upon injured Erik and kicked him instead of helping him. John has been trying to make amends, somewhat successfully. Erik and Hyacinth are friendly with him, Mordecai does not know about him. He has two younger siblings, Tommy and Jenny and a dog, Argos. His mother, Gita, owns a convenience store, which he helps out with.
Bethany: 5 years old. She is pink, with curly hair. She is the only colored kid with a permanent residence nearby who is around Erik’s age, but they are not best friends. Her parents are Ted and Maria and she has a baby brother, Pablo.
Kelly, Cornflakes, Jonathan, Natalie, etc: Other neighborhood kids, sometimes found attending Seth’s school.
In the Past…
Alba Weitz: Died age 19. Erik’s mother. She was pure white with shoulder-length hair. She called gods to help hold the wall during the siege, and was quite good at it. Mordecai took care of her in particular, and she asked him to take care of Erik. She died shortly after he was born.
Diane Desdoux: Died age 52. She helped hold the wall during the siege. Mordecai may have had a relationship with her.
David Valentine: Died age 49. Hyacinth’s guardian. He saved her life when she was injured, and later took her away to live with him when her parents were displeased with the results. He was not a particularly kind or stable personage, but he was a brilliant metalworker and he taught Hyacinth his skill. He occasionally wore dresses, among other idiosyncrasies. He had a long and mutually destructive relationship with Barnaby, whom he called ‘Gray.’ He called Hyacinth ‘Alice.’ They told the newspaper he died jumping out of an airship.
Linda, Janice, Jim, Kurt, Jimmy, etc: Mordecai’s ‘kids,’ young soldiers who were with him at the wall during the siege and frequently went with him on supply runs. Probably all dead.
Gregory, Bill, Natasha, Babette, etc: People who were with Hyacinth at 217 Violena during the siege and either died or moved on afterward. Hyacinth is not in contact with any who might be alive.