Notes on the Aware
The Aware are human or human enough that they retain their natural Innocence. Innocence, if not immediately clear from some of these entries, does not necessarily imply good, naive, or free of guilt or wrongdoing. Rather, it means they are protected from the world of practitioners and Others. Targeting the Innocent with practice or getting involved with them as Others, if not explicitly or tacitly invited in, can lead to negative karma. If anything, this Innocence greases the wheels of reality, making it easier to skirt by on consequences or to keep going.
Not typically very strong, the Aware keep one foot in the world of the Other and one foot in the mundane, and can be said to enjoy the benefits of both, though many find that their mundane lives are limited or hampered in some way. They cannot typically be bound as Others are, though they can in some cases be taken as Familiars.
The Aware are a broad category that cannot be readily summed up, beyond those generalized points above. The subcategories number in the hundreds.
Clementine ‘Clem’ Robertjon
Gilded Lilies, or Gilded, are those who frequently intersect with magic items, free of any clear design or any intent on their part or the part of others. We categorize them as such by these symptoms, not the source, when the source can be fate, bloodline, divine interference, patterns, or curses, among other things.
Clementine is a young woman, 20, independent as a reseller of items on online markets. She is subsidized by practitioners who keep a close eye on her listings and maintain a relationship with her to get first eyes on anything she thinks of as ‘curious’, though she isn’t fully aware of the degree to which this happens.
Her disposition is kind, if troubled. She very much enjoys the company of people, but avoids maintaining any long-term relationships. Many people close to her have died, including her friends and family, or else they’ve suffered worse fates. She earns a fair income and alternates between periods of seclusion and times spent wandering the city, with a focus on the arts.
Clementine is well aware of the existence of Others and suspects practitioners, but has been kept from full awareness, in part because awakening her or fully revoking her Innocence would tie one to her, and none of the twenty or so practitioners who have directly or indirectly been involved with her are willing to do so when it comes to Clem Robertjon. Her existence is too fraught with hazard, and her relatively intact survival up to this point may be owed to her Innocence. To take away that safety net while simultaneously lashing their fortunes to hers is not a risk any are willing to take. She remains quietly and enthusiastically interested, frustrated, and curious and these facts should be minded.
The paper trail and notes associated with Clementine are lengthy, owing in part to her childhood diaries, where some of her misadventures are chronicled. Many or most of these diaries are mundane things and thoughts, thinking aloud, and a great deal of work went into sifting through them for the relevant information. At the outset, they can best be described as doodlepads or scratchpads, with sporadic notes, self-affirmations, and moments listed as single sentences with accompanying illustrations. It appears her first find was at an antique store in Guelph, and that her rate of acquisitions increased steeply after that, before plateauing in high school, but appearances can be deceptive. She may have found some items in earlier childhood, letting them go without remark, and she may have consistently run into items every two or so weeks since the antique store, but not recognized some as notable. Locations, when not otherwise stated, are Guelph, Ontario.
Spring 2008 – Clementine finds an incomplete set of VHS tapes, titled ‘Magic Ways’. These items feature an aged, rumpled stage magician filming in what may be a basement, with a drop cloth nailed to the wall behind him, teaching stage magic. The audio quality is exceptionally poor, to the point his voice sounds as though it is coming from a well, and the tricks are bad if they can even be called tricks. Steps are missing, some tricks fail utterly and others produce unexpected results. Were it not for the extended runtime and the clear amateurish filming (including two very lengthy periods of time where the camera was left running while he departed to go get dinner), it could be interpreted as bad satire. There were six VHS tapes, but the early diary of Clem Robertjon includes attempts to note down the steps and suggests there are eleven of the two-hour videos, and that rewinding to the beginning can lead to a different video being shown.
Due to a lapse in the journals, an unfortunate recurring beat around the most critical or important moments, we don’t know what transpired, but Clem brought her neighbor, a boy of the same age, to practice the tricks with her, and he disappeared. She remarks in two short statements in her diary that she later saw him in the videos. According to her, years later, she remembers him as listless and distracted, introduced alternately as the stage magician’s son and assistant. She was apparently distressed enough the tapes were taken away. They haven’t been recovered.
Summer 2009 in the Bay of Biscay – Clem dives and surfaces with a smooth, glasslike stone that turned out to be the eye of a primal power of deep water. She was afforded three wishes if she agreed to give it the stone. She wished for her best friend to be with her for the whole summer trip, for her family to have ‘thousands and thousands’ of dollars, and for a dolphin to ride. The wishes were granted in a typical manner (the friend, for example, was sent to join Clem because her parents wanted to take time to work through marital issues). Clem’s mother would die before the end of the trip, drowned while trying to find more treasures like the cup the family discovered and gave to a museum for $17,000.
Summer 2010 – Clem discovers a crow pecking at something glinting, and discovers it to be a gold tooth. The tooth belonged to an Other (thought to be a Dreck Ghoul) that sought to be whole again. Thought by Clem to be a homeless man, it harassed her and tried to arrange deals, threaten, and use practice to obtain its tooth, upending trash cans and turning the refuse into sendings that could enter the house. Due to the Other’s communication issues and Clem running in fear from most encounters with it, or else being too scared to look away, she never seemed to discover it was the tooth it wanted. Due to residual taint in the tooth, her body slowly became more like that of the Other, with patches of her flesh undergoing various changes, including suppurating, drying out, tearing, scarring, and staining with ambient pollutants. She lost a tooth, several fingernails, and the vision in one eye, which she would never fully regain. Believing the Other had done it, she lashed out, attacking it, and drove it off, though it would continue to watch from a distance. In the winter of 2010, in the throes of the tooth, she picked up a dead and rotting bird from the playground and stuffed it into her mouth, chewing and swallowing much of it before faculty were able to stop her, all in view of her classmates. Distraught and confused, she ended up throwing everything she owned onto the lawn of the backyard, and called out to the ghoul to take anything and everything it wanted. It did just that, taking everything from toy, mother’s keepsake, and clothing in three trips, along with the ‘black gold tooth’.
Winter 2010 – Clem describes seeing someone run to catch a bus, dropping their bag. They note a young readers’ fantasy novel, but don’t include it in the things they reclaim. Clem picks it up. It is apparently ‘the most thrilling thing’ to ten year old Clementine, but paradoxically puts her to sleep within five to fifteen minutes, leaving her with no clear memory of the events. The ensuing sleep issues include Clem ducking away to find a hiding place during recess to avoid the bullies teasing her about the bird incident and sleeping through much of the school day, before police find her hiding spot in the back room of the school. The sleep issues are erroneously linked to the earlier, undiagnosed health issues by her father and doctors and Clem spends several weeks on and off in the hospital. The unofficial but most widely accepted diagnosis is psychosomatic reactions owing to the recent death of her mother.
Spring 2011 – Clem is walking home from school, taking the scenic route and throwing rocks at other rocks when one splits open, revealing a fossilized bone with bite marks on it. She keeps it. Unbeknownst to her, it makes her beloved to all dogs. Issues arise when the dog of one of her bullies repeatedly escapes its home or yard to find its way to Clem. It is not the only dog to attempt such, but is the key repeat offender. The bully and the bully’s father are savaged by their own pet while trying to remove the dog from Clem’s house.
Fall 2011 – Clem sees a ring in her aunt’s collection and asks if she can have it – apparently her aunt found it but never had occasion to wear it. Clem’s health improves and she finds herself excelling in her physical education classes, and even the scarring from the Black Gold Tooth incident improves, with half of her eyesight returning. At the same time, her classmates fall victim to a wave of what is thought to be bad flu. Her teacher passes and two of her classmates are hospitalized. Given her handling of the ring and some cryptic statements in her diaries, it’s suspected she realized the ring’s link to the incidents.
Winter 2011 – Clem buys a silk scarf from the thrift store, to hide a scar on her neck from the Black Gold Tooth incident. Effects are slow to build up and initially only affect people in her peripheral vision and people she glimpses in fleeting ways, but intensify over time and eventually affect everyone she looks at, making them seem as though they are dressed in their underwear. Because of the slow onset and the fact that removal of the scarf only means that the effect dwindles about as slowly as it came on, she doesn’t realize that the scarf is responsible for some time (she is depicted wearing the scarf in pictures from 2014).
Summer 2012, Gatineau (finding) and Guelph (remainder) – A flower that may or may not have been plastic is found at a roadside rest stop after a trip to a lake. The flower causes life to spring up in various places over the ensuing year, including the move to a new home. The life that sprung up would include flies, ants, maggots, pantry moths, bedbugs, and intestinal worms afflicting the house and family. There was reported mold and mushrooms growing in the dark and recessed areas of the kitchen, bathrooms, and laundry rooms, and roots grew into the water line once at each residence. The family dog birthed two litters despite no apparent inciting incidents with male dogs and a prior spaying, and many store-bought eggs had hatchlings within, including five dead and three alive. Most dramatic, however, was that Clementine’s stepmother, her fourteen year old brother’s girlfriend, and two students attending her school all fell pregnant within the one year span.
Fall 2012 – A goblin matchbox with a ‘living’ match count that replenishes when unobserved and uncounted is found on the sidewalk, and picked up because of what Clem describes as interesting art on the box. It produces fires that are very aggressive and vigorous. Matches also had a tendency to cause other fires to spontaneously erupt nearby when struck. The matchbox was taken by her brother, which soon led to the family home burning down.
Fall 2012, 2nd Incident – Found while in transition between homes (unknown if it was a hotel stay or a stay at a relative’s), a chipped unicorn figurine prompted dreams of increasing realism and depth every time she slept with it nearby. By the two week mark, she was spending three days in the dream world for every eight hours spent asleep. A ‘laughing prince’ on the other side eventually made a pitch, inviting her to stay with it, promising to send a fetch to be her apparent replacement in her life. In the midst of the blame and upset over being accused as the source of the fire, Clem wrote a great deal about how she was considering the invitation, overlapping the issues and alienation noted in the next logged entry. She ultimately refused for reasons not consigned to her journals.
Winter 2012 – Clem’s brother bought a used stuffed monkey to sit on the shelf of the nursery in the new house, to sit next to his girlfriend’s love-worn childhood stuffed animal. It was situated so it could be viewed through the door of Clem’s bedroom. It apparently whispered of dark secrets and human ugliness, encouraging Clem to blackmail and lash out against those around her. When she refused, it told her that she was ultimately responsible for the death of her mother and neighbor friend, taunting her with these facts until she stole and buried it. This is widely believed to be the point she became truly Aware, past the bounds and securities of childhood.
Winter 2012 – The item itself is unknown and not recorded, but it may be a choker bought from the mall prior to a Christmas party. Toward the end of the year, she met two new friends who quickly became part of her life; one a faerie in disguise, the other a goblin in disguise. The item appears to give the wearer or user two everpresent, Other ‘partners in crime’, who then encourage delinquent, extreme, and criminal behavior while protecting the wearer from consequences. Already ostracized since the bird eating incident, Clem fell into their rhythm easily and participated in vandalism and rampant shoplifting. She discovered their nature when overhearing them discuss the kidnapping of the two babies (Clem’s stepmother and brother’s girlfriend) who were due to be born. When named (using the dug-up stuffed monkey to glean their Other names) and vanquished, all consequences of the acts Clem and the partners in crime had committed fell on Clem’s shoulders, possibly with added emphasis.
Spring-Winter 2013 – No journal entries are available for this time period. Later journal entries make mention of long conversations with her mother while detained.
Spring 2014 – Clementine was given a birthday present, a used, handheld game console. It only booted one game and the game booted ‘wrong’, with distorted or alternate artwork. Events and dialogue within the game corresponded to recent or imminent events, and successes in the game corresponded to analogous events in real life. She went on her first dates ever around this time, then ‘got rid’ of the game console.
Spring 2014 , 2nd incident – A thrift store dress, bought for one of the dates on a ‘belated birthday’ shopping trip with her grandmother, made people treat the wearer as adult and respected. Clementine enjoyed the initial attention and the seriousness with which she was treated, but soon came to loathe the added expectations and responsibilities.
Spring 2014, 3rd incident – Clem, enjoying the freedom to go out at night while wearing the dress, comes across someone hurting a stray dog. The attacker runs, leaving the dog and the weapon behind. She finds the dog dead and cold and collects the unusually colored weapon, which turns out to be a knife that kills with even a nick, with a tendency to find flesh through ‘accident’ if not regularly provided with victims. Clementine’s father gets in an argument with her where he tells her she should be more careful with how she acts, especially so soon after juvenile detention, and confiscates objects she tried to hide, knife included. He passes away one day later.
Spring 2014, 4th incident – Sometime around her talks with police in her stepmother’s company, a man offers the stepmother a bracelet with a puzzle incorporated into it. When she refuses, he gives it to Clem, insisting. Clem takes it with the intent of throwing it away as soon as possible, but immediately gets lost in the police station. The bracelet, while in one’s possession, appears to shuffle the layout of a building, while adding one room to the arrangement that can’t be found when the rooms are in order. Clem begins to use the bracelet to store items and keep them out of the way. She later describes this as a mistake, but isn’t especially clear as to why. Through inference and the fact that many items are later described as being in the possession of people close to her, with her having to go to great lengths to get them back, we can surmise that the items found their way out of the ‘extra’ room.
Note – At this stage, the progression of ‘finds’ continues to accelerate, monthly rather than seasonal.
July 2014 – The rusty key is described as having a number on it. She finds it in the dirt, sets it aside and a friend of hers takes it. The friend, acting on suspicion that the key was for a room at an old and disused motel, lets herself into a room, with Clem following. The key, according to her diaries, seems to change to a random number on each use. When used to access a space with a corresponding number, it lets the user into a space with rusty metal and fencing bolted to the walls, ceiling, and floor, and an arrangement of twisted improvised weapons and tools. The space can be anything from a storage locker in a bus station to a house with a matching number plate. More than one use in an uncertain span of time corresponds with more attention from goblins.
July 2014, 2nd incident – Found while looking through old boxes of her childhood toys that survived the fire, a bone white mask that seems to disappear like it was never there when put on, included with Halloween stuff. Somewhat ‘alive’, the item contrived to be put on, relocating to the headboard of her bed and falling onto her face as she lay down to sleep. She discovered its properties and later wore it while getting the Killing Knife back from her brother. The white mask protects the user from most harm until the next time they sleep, at which point it pops off. It renders the wearer mentally and physically numb, among other protections from wounds and dying, but the harm that is diverted is repaid in spades and then some. Clem was cut by the Killing Knife but didn’t die. Instead, when she next slept, she spent an indeterminate amount of time (to her, it was possible days, weeks, or months in perceived time) reliving variations of the cut and the ensuing death by heart attack as a loop in dreams.
At this stage Clem retreats from many things in her mundane life, ceases being as regular with the diaries, with periodic statements or pledges to resume keeping track of things, but never doing so for more than a month at a time, and with frequent references to events only she could tell of.
The practitioner community took a hand in events after an event with a piece of currency that ‘drank’ nearby change and loose money to increase its denomination before ‘shitting out’ (to use the assigned practitioner’s vernacular) a sapphire and becoming a penny again. Once Clem had people to sell the items to and a bit of a listening ear, she found something of an equilibrium. She was later offered a low-cost apartment at Sargent Ave Hall.
General Notes: The primary danger posed by Clementine is that she can very easily stir up problems or set off lines of dominoes. She may have up to five curious items on her which aren’t fully worked out in functionality, and she may stumble on more, particularly in new places or times of stress.
Shellie and Daniel Alitzer
Bright Eyed, Glamour Drowned
The Bright Eyed have been exposed to the Faerie, and may even call it their place of origin. They may be taken as babies, lured in as children, or seduced and lost for a time as in the old tale of Rip Van Winkle. Sometimes used as ambassadors, sent back and forth, other times their stays are brief or they are encouraged to remember their old selves. They remain rooted in reality as mortals, but are often Faerie in disposition and outlook. Creative, hungry for excitement and stimulation, they often have a magnetism that draws people in, and a tendency toward wild behavior that mimics the courts they have spent at least a decade in. They do not tend to live long due to their risk-seeking behavior. Despite what one might initially assume, they tend to live a much shorter existence in the mundane than the Glamour Drowned, despite their firmer grip on reality.
The Glamour Drowned are humans who have been exposed to extreme amounts of glamour or the depths of the environment of the Faerie courts and lost their attachments to their old selves, or even their current selves. Many of the Glamour Drowned were used for a specific function. In the High Spring court, for example, they may be endless dancers, trained by Faerie to dance as a competitive act, where one Faerie competes against another to see who can elevate a human more. The Fall courts may turn them into animals to sell to the other courts as pets and accessories, with the ability to turn them human on a whim because it is easier to set aside a place for a human than, for example, a twenty-foot serpent. The winter court may turn a person into an object, such as a goblet that is asked to tell riddles, or a tapestry that changes to keep track of the days in reailty. Whether they escape or are released for the amusement of their prior keepers, they cannot easily let go of their prior roles and have nothing to return to if they do. Expect them to ramble, dance, and stumble, rarely with any quality, until stars align or a moment comes to pass where they find themselves again for a critical moment of dance or whatever else. Such scenes can leave onlookers breathless.
Shellie, 27, is a Bright-Eyed human woman, caretaker of her brother, a 30 year old Glamour Drowned. Sold to the Faerie by their own parents as children, they were separated, Shellie sent to the Bright Fall court, and Daniel to the Dark Spring.
Daniel Alitzer was made to bear witness to the death of an immortal queen of the Dark Spring, an event contrived to evoke a sense of tragedy never before seen. Whether it was successful or not is up for debate, but as a young boy no older than ten, he was changed by the event. He was bid to stand vigil and sing a lament for the dead queen, working with four other boys of similar age to make the lament endless, one boy joining in with his voice overlapping, taking over so another could sleep, and he did so for seventeen years, on instruction to sound like he meant it with every single note. That he was mortal and the process thus more fragile and temporary was supposed to add to the drama of the song.
Shellie spent a total of eighteen years among Faerie brokers, thieves, and Fae who traded in faces like money. Working as a slave, she helped translate and decipher human media, separated true urban legends from references, and spent time in the human world seeking out art to bring back while getting caught up on things enough to do her more mundane duties.
In practice, Daniel found a routine with the other boys where they sang longer shifts and he went without sleep to be able to visit Shellie for brief periods of time. He told her what he remembered of their old life, family, name, holidays, and other things, and told her to hold onto what she remembered of their old lives, out of hopes it would ‘keep’ better instead of being distorted in the telling and retelling.
Daniel ultimately lost himself to the dirge. Through a confluence of events that included two of his peers being subjected to Faerie-worked deaths and tortures for indignities such as redundant verses and their voices maturing, the training of new people, and that particular sub-area of the court growing tired of the seventeen-year dirge, Daniel was able to walk away without returning.
Daniel then kept Shellie company for roughly one year before she was able to find a means of escape, injecting poisons into the skin of her face before trading it for another, then leaving the resulting body behind in the study of her slave quarters.
The two of them were homeless for some time before Daniel surfaced for a moment and sang well enough to get practitioner attention. They were referred to Bristow. Even with reduced rent, the pair barely scrape by on Shellie’s work at a gas station. Neither has much enthusiasm or capacity for mundane work, Daniel is addled, and Shellie is quietly angry.
Daniel either keeps Shellie company, tunelessly sings to himself, or both. He listens to music and experiments with instruments he rarely keeps up with. When other residents of Sargent Ave Hall are out in the yard or on their balconies, he will sometimes keep them company. Shellie quietly ensures there are eyes on him at all times, as he can daydream enough to wander into traffic or walk onto a stairwell as if it were flat ground. He also has violent crying jags and fits of dark depression, sometimes without rhyme or reason, periods of not eating or doing anything because nothing on earth has the quality of life in the Faerie courts, and he can sometimes be struck with the urge to return and throw himself at the mercy of the nearest Fae who might take him back, whatever they might ask, especially when it’s quiet or he can’t find new things to watch or listen to.
Shellie works, sits in a workshop sketching and building tools and weapons, and matches her behavior to whatever Daniel is doing, consoling him, entertaining him, or quietly watching him while looking after her basic human needs. Her work at the gas station keeps a roof over their heads, but her time in her workshop (the second bedroom in their two bedroom apartment) is where her dark passions come out. The tools she makes are largely for body modification, as she is keenly restless in her own skin after years of trading it back and forth as part of her currency in the Bright Fall. Skin is flensed, tattooed, burned, pierced, and grafted with surgical care in an ongoing process, with the most dramatic modifications happening where her clothes can cover her. The other passion is the weapons she makes. She knows how Faerie work and she knows how to make them stop working. Given an opportunity, she tracks them down and hunts them. Not often asked to run errands for Bristow, as they are unpredictable, chaotic, and easily distracted. Listed here because those things may be what he seeks.
General Notes: Both are dangerous, in different ways. Daniel is Innocent in ways that can be argued to be more dramatic than normal, not less. Hurting him would incur a cost and there’s a chance he wouldn’t even think to get out of the way of imminent harm. Shellie, by contrast, is aggressive, adept at disguise, well equipped, and fearless. It’s been argued that trying to use glamour or subtle practices on them might be more immediately dangerous than it is when trying to do so with a Faerie; the Faerie has an instinct to play the long game, to better inveigle you or inveigle humanity as a whole. This pair won’t hold back in showing you just how familiar they are with glamour and turning it back on anyone with less than eighteen years experience.
Maji, Evil Eyed
Those with the evil eye (sometimes called Maji) are capable of bestowing harm with a look. There are many variants, ranging from the tame to the terminal, with many different forms they can take. The most conventional will direct spirits of harm or strife to those under the Eye, but others usher in omens of Death, Exile, Heartbreak, Toil, Fear, or Madness. The eye may be opened by a specific event, it may be open at birth, or it may open and close as circumstances or mood change, or as certain criteria are met. The evil eye can be trained, but it fits into a difficult niche, where practitioners can easily refute it but careless or wanton use on the Innocent can hurt karma and bring consequences down on the owner of the evil eye. There are countless superstitions around the world to ward off the evil eye, some so ubiquitous that we think nothing of them, and the Sickness, Doom, Disaster, or Discord that is brought forth will oft turn on the evil eye’s owner if they aren’t careful. Often accompanied by strange, mismatched, or otherwise deficient eyes. We say a Maji is Aware if they are conscious of what their eye does.
Kevin Noone opened his eye as a Maji when he was nineteen, on the day of his younger brother’s graduation. Due to life circumstance, Kevin weathered his senior year while his family was living in a shelter, had no money to spare, and he was expected to work. They recovered, but his prospects were limited by deficient grades and the habits he picked up to deal with his stress. His brother, meanwhile, enjoyed a senior year with no responsibilities, a timely gift of a car from his parents, and a minimum of stress. Friendless, with no girlfriend, no acceptances for post-secondary studies, and no job prospects, Kevin watched his younger brother get announced as a prospective student at an Ivy League school, with a girlfriend to cheer him on and friends to whoop and applaud. Valedictorian.
Kevin’s eye took hold and he watched with green-tinted vision as his brother made an off-the-cuff joke about writing people’s papers for them, in front of faculty and students. Without the eye, he might not have made the joke, and without the eye, people might have laughed and treated it as the joke it was.
His brother ended up losing the spot at the Ivy League school and the girlfriend. Kevin, however, wouldn’t find out what his eye did until his girlfriend announced she was moving to a city with a better job. He acted supportive, but inside he screamed, frustrated. He didn’t want to let her go. He remembered the moment with his brother, reached for the same thing, and by the end of the week, his girlfriend had lost the opportunity.
Kevin Noone hasn’t found success or raised himself up, but he has a weapon and knows how to use it. He did end up letting his girlfriend go, but only because he found an especially attractive young woman he could bring down to his level and keep there.
The eye can’t be turned off at this stage, as it’s been used too often. It remains active and anyone successful who holds Kevin’s attention for any length of time finds themselves struggling, or events conspire against them. This ended up causing him difficulties, as he tends to sabotage his own employers, in-laws, landlords, and people he might otherwise lean on.
He was taken in by Mr. Bristow, and Mr. Bristow elected to allow Kevin Noone’s girlfriend to move in as well, possibly because she became Aware as well, albeit of another subtype. Kevin now maintains a working relationship with Bristow, a professional malcontent and assassin of characters, as well as a general go-to problem solver. These jobs are typically paid for in reduced rent and other favors. He knows what the Practice is, but not the general scope of this world or its Others.
General Notes: We have every belief that Kevin Noone would shoot someone if he thought he could get away with it, and we do know he has gotten in trouble with the law, only for the officers who were dealing with him to mishandle evidence and run into career trouble. He is a dangerous, deficient human who carries some personality disorders. He is greedy, resentful of the world, and indulges in his superiority over others whenever possible. He was considered for the Belanger circle but was rejected because his eye couldn’t be closed and that complicates many practices we would like someone like him to learn. There is a benefit to mixing far-seeing with the ability to hurt those one sees, even if this is a narrow skillset, but his personality is too wicked, he would be largely incapable of cooperating with others, and he was deemed to be a better fit for Bristow than for Alexander Belanger, at a time when Bristow and Alexander were friendly. Many of the notes above come from our investigations and interviews.
If present, expect him to be Bristow’s point man, sent to specific locations or with a specific job.
Worold, World-Weary, World-Wise
There are those who go through a transformational test or event, through practice, pattern, Other, Practitioner, or item. While these events alter the entire world or the fundamental paradigms of the world around the target subject or victim, they may be the Tested or Wonderings, Aware individuals who are caught in a conflux or strange set of events, that may be occuring in a pocket world or snarl in reality. These events can be time loops, visits to earths of alternate histories (typically projected within a pocket world and kept there), living life in another person’s body (or many people’s bodies), returning to childhood to relive events, or jumping from childhood to adulthood to experience it. These events tend to impart a karmic wholeness, as well as (frequently) unusual knowledge or skill, and a deep-seated, soul-shattering existential disquietude over an existence where reality and experience is so fungible. Or, put in simpler words, the test or the experience makes them (or requires the individual to be) very okay with themselves and where they stand, and also frequently makes them very distant from okay when it comes to a world where such wacky and distressing things can happen. Sometimes these events see the individual’s history or relationships rewritten in the aftermath.
Once an individual is through the test or situation and settles into the world anew, if they retain their old memories and memory of the testing event we call them the Worold, world-weary, or world-wise, with the latter two being dependent on just how they’ve settled in the aftermath. They often sit apart from everything. As an example, a reformed misogynist that has the experience of having lived the lives of ten thousand random women across history may have picked up a massive degree of competence and knowledge in countless areas, but while they remain human, they may find it hard to use that knowledge. The world will resist them getting into politics or doing more than making generous (and ideally anonymous) donations. The world and circumstance will fight them if they try to uncover ancient treasures or archeological sites or become CEOs with their accumulated skill and ability when it comes to reading people. The knowledge gained and the transformation in Self are for them and themselves. This in itself often proves to be something of a test of character.
Depending on one’s choice of definitions, Ted was chosen as a scapegoat or a champion. When a primeval predator encroached on a sleepy PEI town, a higher power of unknown origin settled on him as its means of dealing with the problem, a boy with no career prospects who sometimes hunted and fished. He was pointed in the beast’s direction, encouraged, and was summarily devoured.
Ted then, as he tells it, saw a bright light and heard screaming. He emerged from his mother’s loins and landed in her shit, an unfortunate byproduct of some childbirths that nurses normally attempt to clean up in a timely manner. He was wet, pink, and lacking in muscle coordination, and lived out thirty-five years of his life as an affable if impatient genius. The primeval beast emerged, attacked his town, and he was told to fight it. He drove in the other direction until midnight, blacked out, and saw a bright light as he emerged from his mother’s loins, landing amid her shit.
There is no telling how many times Ted lived out his life, but he became intimately familiar with his town, he eventually found his courage and practiced, and collected weapons with a mind to defeating the reptile from an age before things had form or easy label. He suffered ego death, found himself again, honed his abilities, traveled the world to learn from the best people possible, and became Aware of many things in the world.
He did eventually become a competent enough warrior to slay the beast, rallying the people in town as allies and armed forces, but the damage was so severe that the town was wiped from the maps and collective consciousness, to minimize questions.
Ted Havens moved west, lacking a sense of purpose now that his great journey was done, at unease with the universe and paranoid that he would be pulled into another great quest that would test him on so deep a level. He ended up discovering the Sargent Ave Hall apartment complex, and took up residence there, where he remains a resident advice-giver and helping hand. When Bristow is away or sick, Ted takes over the duties around the place, and many residents prefer it when he does.
General Notes: Alongside the Gilded Lily, one of the most powerful and problematic people in residence at Sargent Ave Hall, albeit for entirely different reasons. Ted is not only a man who enjoys the benefits of being technically Innocent, but he did enter into mortal combat with a creature larger than his hometown and strong enough to give all but the uppermost gods pause, and drove it off for another few centuries. The world-weary tend to have exceptional karma, either exceptionally good or bad, but almost always to a level and degree that surpasses what an ordinary person could achieve in a lifetime. Ted is one of these people, enjoying the karma of literal countless lifetimes well lived. When he does leave the complex, he does so because he believes it serves the greater good. This isn’t always or even often the case.
The Innocent enjoy protections from Others and practitioners, but Skeptics often turn these protections to weapons. There are many ways a Skeptic can come about, but these ways can include indoctrination or acclimatization. The indoctrinated skeptic may be brainwashed or otherwise augmented with doubt as a fundamental facet of who they are. Some are raised with daily lessons or a worldview and given no room for any other way of thinking, others are given drugs and reshaped, and yet others are starved, torn down to nothing, then rebuilt from the ground up.
The acclimatized take a gentler road. When Innocents find themselves faced with the practice or with Others, they will instinctively reach for ways to soften the blow. If there is room for doubt, they often capitalize on that room, then build on that capital. Excuses are clung to, they question their own memories or accounting of events, and may liberally revise these memories and accountings, until they return to comfortable reality. With enough repetition, they can form a comfortable bubble around themselves, where anything extraordinary is dismissed.
Skeptics are ignorant and ignorance is dangerous. Practice struggles to find traction on a Skeptic, and Others suffer a heavy cost to their karma and Selves simply for stepping into the light when the Skeptic is present, even though the Skeptic is often so insulated that the appearance of a god in its full bearing could be dismissed one way or another. Conversely, when the bubble is popped (again, if it can be), the cost is usually dramatically heavier than usual. The biggest Skeptics are often dangerous due to their propensity to dampen practice in an area around them and their simultaneous draw to practice; they have a habit of unwinding or bypassing protective wards that are keeping troubling Others locked up, or walking blithely through barriers meant to keep civilians out of a sensitive or dangerous area, often bulldozing the way for other Innocents to pass through.
An acclimatized Skeptic, Sharon developed her initial resistance as the eldest daughter of a family very interested in the occult, though they never became true practitioners. They entered abandoned places and tried to film ghosts, while she was brought along, typically coaxed with promises of treats or trips to the mall. As they explored an abandoned building, her brother fell through a stair and injured himself, and as it happened, was partially possessed by a ghost. The family got the event on video, and began to distribute it online, until certain interest groups with practitioners on staff took notice and countered that distribution, somewhat late.
The family enjoyed some initial fame, and the location saw more interest, which fed the echoes. To Sharon, however, teenage rebellion and her frustration with the state of things helped to form the armor necessary to become a fledgling Skeptic. Her rebellion against the family peaked after a comment of hers became a briefly-lived meme, and she spun that off into a separate channel that ‘myth busted’ the very things her family was trying to play up. Convinced they were charlatans, she fought them tooth and nail until she was eighteen and she was kicked out of the house.
She moved to a desperately poor area and there she began her acclimatization against other echoes and goblins. Her paltry stream of content was her lifeline, giving her an income stream when her jobs didn’t pan out, and she played into it hard, essentially brainwashing herself. She hunted down urban legends to discount them, and dampened their power with her presence, making them easier to discount. A group of young Witch Hunters recognized the effect for what it was and took her under their wing, under the guise of showing her neat things, and she pursued that work for two years, getting some steady money that helped her get on her feet. She would later depart the group when she heard gunshots and became convinced they were trying to subvert her by pretending there were really trolls. Her untimely departure led to them being devoured.
Sharon has shifted gears to other content, much of it both conspiracy centered and right-wing, intersecting in the area of the starkly racist. She periodically returns to her old Skeptical content, which gets ten times the views of her other stuff, but this fact frustrates her more than it anything; the spheres where she seeks to thrive tend to also be misogynist, and her viewership is a hundredth the size of what she feels it should be. As someone in Bristow’s toolkit, she pursues the work not when he requests it, but whenever she is desperate for the pay bump of two to three hundred dollars that a successful myth-hunt video gets her. She usually travels with other Aware Bristow sends, matched to the task in question, but gets along with and cooperates with very few other residents. In brief, her interpersonal skills range from nonexistent to argumentative. The ones who do tolerate her presence do so because her presence dampens the negative effects of whatever they are dealing with as one of the Aware and because Bristow is giving them a cut on their rent.
General Notes: Sharon is a breaking and entering specialist, very well equipped, and carries a gun. If present, she isn’t likely to be ‘on point’ in the same way Kevin is. She doesn’t tend to follow orders or maintain communication in the same way, but she can easily be pointed at a specific target or problem, or redirected to it by the partner Bristow sent with her, or other members of a larger group. Glamours tend to shatter pre-emptively when she goes to investigate them, echoes dissipate, wards and barriers break, the Sight and alternate modes of Seeing are weakened if attempting to track or analyze her, and the karmic or Other protections of a given Other are weakened. It should be noted that she is almost always recording, and has a tendency to catch practitioner’s faces in media and then disseminate it wildly to unhinged individuals and her community of hundreds who then dredge up and compile more information and even seek out the individuals.
Sharon maintains loose communications with several other Skeptics and with Witch Hunters. Sharon is one of three Skeptics in Bristow’s complex (and is friends with one), but he doesn’t send more than one out at a time, as a minimum of one is required to keep the complex in balance, and the effects don’t tend to overlap. She maintains a self-reinforcing bubble of several hundred followers that feed into and reinforce her mindset, and remains Bristow’s most effective counter-agent to all things Practice or Other.
Many interesting characters, but Sharon is definitely the most “Oh shit” one of the bunch.
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Especially Sharon. Not looking forward to her meeting Lucy, that’s for sure…
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I wonder what would happen if Sharon tried to “myth bust” the Awakening ritual.
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I’d imagine that the specific ritual woundn’t happen. As in the one she’s trying to ‘bust’. I’d think that it works to weaken things around her rather than everywhere.
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I think reality would try to push her away from that as strenuously as possible, and might even go so far as to try and spoil the ritual. If she actually completed it properly, though, I’m certain it would trump her status as a Skeptic (the Awakening ritual is one of the really big guns in the setting, after all, and a big part of why it works the way it does – it can’t be easily derailed.)
In that case her Innocence would by definition break, she’d lose her status as a Skeptic, and she would probably be completely screwed.
Can you become a Skeptic by repeatedly seeking out magic phenomena except it’s legitimately always mundane stuff, until eventually building up a strong enough pattern that It’s Never Real that it carries over to everything that is Other?
Because if so, that’s my self-insert sorted…
Scooby-Doo pretty much
I like how some of these characters are good people, some are bad people, and some are just the victims of circumstance. Makes it… less clear that Bristow is a “good” or “bad” guy.
Also, worldwise guy sounds like such a gods damned hero (in the most literal sense). I well approve this guy, and gawd his karma levels must be terrifying.
… if he shows up, probably their best bet is to convince him that what he has been asked to do isn’t Good, and get him on side (as opposed to acting against him).
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I dunno, he’s pretty blatantly exploiting their situations for magical favors.
Yeah, he’s a landlord- providing a “service” that, in an ideal world of true equity and equality, wouldn’t be needed (and thus, he is invested in propagating inequality)
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I don’t want to get into a big debate about the ethics of rent; it’s not an area I’m especially well-versed in, and I’m aware that there’s absolutely a spectrum between the useless landlords who just collect rent and the ones who maintain the property on their own dime and charge for that service.
That’s why I decided against bringing up the landlord thing directly, even though the image of an exploitative landlord is a pretty obvious archetype to use when drawing parallels between the real world and the Pverse. Which is something Wildbow has done extensively.
All that said, your arguments are still flawed in two regards.
1. “They get something out of it too” isn’t a very good defense. Kids working in coal mines got something out of that arrangement, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t an exploitative practice.
2. Bristow’s exploitaton goes beyond renting rooms to people who can’t afford anything better. Many, perhaps most, of these tenants are unaware of the true value/extent of their powers, and Bristow could inform them. Instead, he sends them on errands without fully explaining why he wants them specifically to do that. How can I read that kind of behavior except as exploitative?
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Yeah! Screw landlords for making housing affordable to people who lack capital, or who move around a lot, or who just don’t want to or cannot deal with the hassles of home ownership! Those motherfuckers are out to get us! They trick us into lowering our guards by making life easier, and then the next thing we know they’ve got a lawnmower screaming past our window shattering our sleep as they care for that lawn we take for granted! Total dick bags!
I bet they’re in league with the clothing cartels. Their mighty seamstress covens have been brainwashing us for thousands of years to view nudity as immoral so they could enact public decency laws that force us to either buy their overpriced scraps of cloth or suffer fines and jail time. This has been a huge revenue source for them, but they have an inherent conflict: to maximize their profit margin, they need to minimize the fabric used in clothing… which runs afoul of those very same public decency laws. Thus the invention of housing: not only does it provide a place of privacy where high-profit items can be worn, it also encourages maintaining two different wardrobes — one for home and one for away from home. Might as well just print money!
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I am super pumped that the character of an exploitative landlord is going to be dived into in this story, I’m very excited to have their motivations manifest and picked apart! I am terrified for the interlude in which Wildbow somehow makes me feel sympathy for Bristow.
Pizzasgood I feel you’re making two points, both of which I disagree with (this is coming from the perspective of a person who lives in England).
The first being that renting is a cost effective and fair way to have some place to live, which it has never been for me.
The second being that landlords provide a service, similar to making clothes, which they don’t. (I also believe in the whole “no ethical consumption under capitalism” thing, but that is beside the point!)
A youtube channel named Thought Slime has made a pair of videos on the subject if you’re interested in learning more about my perspective!
Not quite. It’s a cost effective and fair way to have someplace to live over the medium term. It is not cost effective over the long term, and it is not practical over the short term; that’s what houses and hotels exist for. Renting exists for the sake of people who are still saving up for the down-payment on a house, and for people who move around frequently enough that buying and selling houses every time would be a pain in the ass.
I wasn’t intending to use clothes as an analogy; mostly I was just being silly by that point rather than trying to make any kind of argument. If I wanted to be silly and make an analogy, I’d target the farmers since they’re totally exploiting our need for food. It’s not like they really have a job; they just stand around watching the grain grow and then they sell it to people who would literally die without it, and then the poor saps die anyway of obesity. Okay, so the farmers do have to spend some time managing the fields and fixing equipment, or at least hiring other people to do that stuff. But is that really valid work? They’re redundant! Everybody can and should just own their own farms instead of paying greedy farmers!
So anyway, define “service.” To me it is a service if you build or purchase a facility and then maintain it while allowing other people to utilize it in pursuit of their goals. Providing a library is a service. Providing a laundromat is a service. And providing a place for people to live when they aren’t ready to buy a house yet is a service.
Speaking as a renter, my two main complaints are that landlords can evict tenants who are current on their rent for arbitrary reasons making the arrangement less stable than it should be and the common practice of requiring double a month’s rent, if not more to move in, making it hard to establish a new rental arrangement or to voluntarily terminate an existing arrangement.
Also, I laugh at the notion that renting is a viable mid-term strategy for saving up for a house, especially when a good mortgage has lower monthly payments than many rental properties. Of course, the downside of taking out a mortgage is the whole 20-30-year commitment part and catch-22 of credit(e.g. buying lesser goods on credit instead of saving up for them is bad money management, but required to build credit, a house is one good most people would never be able to realistically save up for, but no one is going to give someone with no credit a good mortgage).
As for farming, the whole point of division of labor is that a small group can grow enough food for an entire civilization so most of us can pursue other endeavors instead of spending much of our time growing our own food…
Granted, perhaps the question we should be asking is why such basic human needs as food and shelter are commercialized goods that we expect even the most unskilled, cog in the machine worker to spend roughly half of their waking life laboring to hopefully earn enough to afford rent on a crappy apartment and enough food to keep hunger at bay?
The US Federal Government wastes hundreds of billions of dollars annually maintaining a military industrial complex I’m not convinced benefits anyone other than weapons manufacturers… I’m not sure what the annual operational costs of all the farms and grocery stores in America is, but I can’t help thinking all that money could go a long way towards feeding the American people… or expanding public housing so more people don’t have monthly rent payments preventing them from more worthwhile pursuits… and that’s no even considering investment into better farming methods or improving the economies of scale for building and maintaining new housing.
And hey, if no one had to worry about keeping a roof over their head or food in their belly, we might have fewer people driven to a life of crime out of desperation, depriving organized crime of disposable labor, leaving law enforcement to only have to deal with the truly malicious members of society.
The biggest issue here seems to be the assumption that capitalism is a good thing- that any person can rent a place for a medium term while still saving up enough to someday own their own house. Sure, some manage it- the middle class exists, after all- but the many, many people are neither middle nor upper class, and will never have enough money to become a homeowner.
And so, we live in a world where there are roughly 31 vacant houses for each homeless person, where people starve while untold amounts of food goes to waste, and where few in recent generations will ever see retirement- because capitalism exists to extract as much profit as possible from the many and to funnel it to the few.
We’re in late-stage capitalism- it’s only a matter of time until the system collapses.
@Pizzasgood: I don’t think this analogy really holds up if you know anything about farming – there’s actually a lot of expertise that goes into it, high-stakes judgment calls to be made, and so forth. It is certainly not as simple as “just stand[ing] around watching the grain grow and then sell[ing] it”.
A landlord is much more analogous to the owner of a farm – which is not always the same as the person who farms it! If you own a piece of farmland or a residence, and you’re paying someone else to farm it or keep it in livable condition, respectively, while pocketing most of the profits (from crop sales or renting it out, respectively), then you are extracting profit from your ownership of the property without yourself contributing anything to society. Your job could almost be done by a doorknob, if doorknobs could have legal ownership of property. Some are of the opinion that this makes you a parasite.
(I’m preventing a slightly simplified picture here, of course. In reality, landlords do take some logistical burdens (buying and selling houses, as you mention, and finding and contracting with a maintenance company are the examples that spring to mind) off the shoulders of their tenants. But would that little bit of organizational work be anywhere near enough to justify them charging several hundred dollars (or more!) from each tenant, were the property relation absent?)
*presenting a simplified picture
*taking several hundred dollars (or more!) from each tenant per month
I gotta start getting more sleep…
Also, reading back, I feel like “managing the fields” kind of understates the work involved in planting and harvesting, if indeed that’s what you were talking about.
I grew up on a farm, actually. I was being sarcastic, and I straight up said that it was going to be a silly analogy. Sorry that was somehow unclear. I stand by it, though.
Yes, that’s exactly what I was getting at. Managing an apartment building is definitely not as much work as managing a farm, but it is still work even if it might not seem like it at first glance. In this case, the work is figuring out which tenants to accept or reject, how to go about getting rid of a bad tenant with minimal effort (doing it wrong can result in lawsuits or property damage that you’ll never be compensated for because the asshole in question has no assets to seize), balancing your need to check on and care for the property against a tenant’s need for privacy and not being disturbed by construction work, keeping up with local laws and adjusting as needed, dealing with the bullshit interpersonal drama between neighbors when they start making false claims to you, finding trustworthy companies to perform work, sorting shit out when you screw up and a contractor tries to screw you over, etc.
From the outside it might seem like they just kick back and let the money roll in, having only to make a call to a handyman now and then… but that’s a lot like saying a farmer just watches grass grow and drives around in a fancy riding lawnmower that does all his work for him. It’s a false perception born of ignorance and resentment.
Yes, there are situations where somebody technically owns the property, but they contract out to a management company to actually do all the normal landlord duties so that all the owner has to do is sign the occasional check while the management company does all the tenant vetting, negotiating, sourcing contractors, etc. In those cases I agree with you that the actual landlord isn’t contributing anything meaningful. But that’s not landlords in general, nor does it invalidate the concept of renting.
@Pizzasgood: I don’t appreciate the “ignorance and resentment” comment – you don’t know nearly enough about me to be making that kinda claim, and I think if you knew more you might not. Of course, saying this, I realize my comment about knowing anything about farming was rude (and off the mark!) in much the same way, so I apologize for that.
I did understand that you were being sarcastic in some way, but, like… cut me some slack here. You’ve mostly expressed your worldview in this thread via ridiculous and, honestly, a bit insulting caricatures of the viewpoints you think other people hold. And that’s your prerogative, but, if it’s the road you choose to go down, you can’t in fairness complain if others don’t come to a 100% accurate picture of why you think what you say is silly and what exactly you do and don’t understand.
Now, to address your point here, let me quote your list of things landlords do:
The thing I want to point out here is how little of this work is to the good of the tenants, or of society as a whole, and how much of it is about protecting your own interests as a landlord. The labor and expertise a farmer puts in is bent toward an important purpose – producing the food we need.
The labor and expertise a landlord puts in, on the other hand, is with an eye to, as you say (in order), gatekeeping access to housing on the basis of what will benefit you personally, kicking “bad” people (which is often to say, destitute and desperate ones) out on the streets, surveilling people’s homes to protect your own investment in the property, complying with laws governing renting (which, to be clear, is not itself bad – I’m not opposed on principle to compliance with laws! – but isn’t something I would hold up as an example of landlords adding value to society, since many of those laws are there explicitly to protect tenants against negligence and abuse on their part), getting involved in disputes that aren’t your business (usually involuntarily, as you say, but again it’s not something I’d use to say “yes, this is why landlords are more than parasites”), and, okay, I grant that the last two have some value.
Do you see the point I’m making? To use an extreme example, if I make my living by stealing from people, it might still be the case that I’m working pretty hard to pull it off without landing myself in jail – it’s not as though I’m just kicking back and letting the money flow in – but it would be deeply weird to say that my line of work is not to some (very large!) extent parasitic just because of that. I don’t suddenly become entitled to the money I get by picking someone’s pocket, no matter how long I spend running from the police afterwards, nor to the profit I make off robbing an art gallery, no matter how many months I spend assembling a colorful cast of accomplices and planning the heist. That labor doesn’t really “count” because it benefits no one but me.
Likewise, we have to draw a division between the work a landlord does that is actually beneficial to the tenants or society as a whole, and the work that is aimed at maintaining their ability to extract profit. Given this, I think my framing of the (perhaps I should here have just said ‘useful’ to start with) work a landlord does as ‘handling some logistics and paying other people to perform maintenance from time to time’ and my contention that this does not justify the amount of money they extract are essentially correct. Would you disagree?
I should conclude by saying that, if you or someone you know is a landlord (and some of the vitriol against hypothetical(?) assetless tenants makes me think this might be the case), I am not trying to be personally insulting here. Again, somewhere I realize I should have been more clear: When I said “Some are of the opinion that this makes you a parasite.” I wasn’t being catty (well, not too much, anyway…); I did genuinely mean to say that some people hold this opinion, not that I’m necessarily one of them. If you do happen to be in these circumstances where some injustice in society benefits you, I don’t think you’re personally responsible for single-handedly dismantling it or anything like that, and I don’t think it necessarily makes you a bad person – I’m not one to judge. I do, on the other hand, think you should at the very least be clear-sighted about the position you occupy, and moderate your interactions with the world accordingly. In particular, never deceive yourself into thinking that the people who take it too far and say absolutist things like “all landlords are evil” are anywhere near as much of a problem as the injustice itself, even if you feel personally affronted when they say it.
More like trying to determine who will and will not cause problems for everyone else. A tenant who sells drugs attracts crime and endangers their fellow tenants. A tenant who is violent or negligent is a threat to his fellow tenants. A tenant who is noisy is a nuisance to his fellow tenants. A tenant who refuses to pay his rent or who vandalizes his apartment inflicts additional operating costs on the landlord, who may have to pass those costs onto his other tenants in order to make ends meet and continue offering housing.
If they’re being kicked out for bad behavior, whether they are destitute or desperate is irrelevant. It is their responsibility to behave themselves and coexist peacefully with their neighbors, the staff and contractors, and the physical structure itself. If they cannot behave, they cannot live there. Landlords are housing providers, not therapy providers.
If they’re only being kicked out because they can’t pay, then that really sucks, but at the end of the day it’s not a landlord’s problem to solve. Setting up free housing is the responsibility of government, and if we want to be upset at anyone it should be either the politicians or the people who voted for them.
The “investment” they’re protecting is their literal product. If a farmer spends some effort protecting their field from joyriding teens, or a painter protects their unsold painting from vandals, or a mechanic protects their tools from thieves, is their effort illegitimate, not deserving of recognition because they were greedily serving their self-interest? No!
As I said above, damage to the property increases operating expenses. More expense means more rent. Vandalism hurts the other tenants financially, and some forms can physically endanger them (structural damage, wiring problems, sanitation issues, etc.). Time and energy spent checking on this stuff is effort put into actually providing the designated service.
Regardless of whether you can see the value of landlords who do a good job over those who do not, these are tasks that a good landlord must spend time on in order to deliver on their intended service. This is necessary work, not fun personal enrichment. A landlord who skips checking the law will not remain a landlord very long, and his tenants will have to find new homes.
Nah. As I’ve demonstrated, tenants suffer if you remove any item on that list. Furthermore, a landlord maintaining their ability to extract profit is synonymous with maintaining their ability to continue offering their service. Landlords are not Others able to subsist on the bubbly feeling of goodwill alone. They are working a job, just like anyone else, and must walk away with enough profit to live their lives. If being a landlord was not profitable, nobody would do it, and there would be no apartments to rent. Those who cannot afford a house would either be exploited even more thoroughly by the hotel industry, or be relegated to the streets. (At least until we sorted out a new solution.)
If you’re asking whether the purely managerial aspects of what they do are worth the full cost of rent, ignoring that they own the property? Then no, I agree that it wouldn’t add up. If I owned my chunk of the property and just didn’t want to take care of the stuff a landlord would handle, I would not spend rent-level money to have somebody take care of it.
But the reality is that landlords do own the property. The service they provide isn’t just managing the property. It’s allowing me to use the property. If someone wanted to borrow my truck for a few months, I would not be satisfied if they only paid me enough to make up for the wear and tear while they were using it. I’d want to also be paid for the inconvenience of not having the use of my truck while they borrowed it. When a landlord rents out a room or a building, they are temporarily giving up some of their rights to utilize their own property. It is perfectly reasonable for them to want compensation for that.
I can agree that the amount of rent charged is higher than it needs to be, but at the same time I don’t feel cheated or taken advantage of when I pay my rent every month; it doesn’t feel unfair. Granted, this is in Knoxville where $450/mo gets me a 530 ft² apartment; I know it gets a lot more expensive elsewhere.
And I do want to be clear that I support the idea of setting up free public housing for anyone who wants it (and all the other basic essentials). So none of this should be taken as an argument in favor of perpetuating the status quo. I’m just, you know, arguing against misrepresenting an entire fucking profession.
In all fairness, some of that only applies to apartments and only if the landlord owns the whole building or entire floors.
Though, I’m not convinced a landlord has any right to vet potential new tenants beyond asking for proof of income sufficient to cover the rent and paying the first month’s rent prior to moving in. Nor am I convinced there is any legitimate reason to evict tenants who are current with their rent and have never missed a payment.
And while it’s nice if neighbors can get along, I’m not convinced its the landlord’s responsibility to play peacekeeper, especially in cases where neighbors don’t share the same landlord. Besides, if landlords are responsible for providing individual therapy, why should they be expected to provide group therapy?
Now admittedly, a landlord that provides these services as part of making living in the rental properties they own more pleasant might actually be justified in charging higher rents, but for every landlord who goes out of their way to either give their tenants the most value for their dollar or the most affordable rent, I suspect there’s a dozen or more charging the highest rent they can while providing the poorest service they can get away with.
Though, your right that it’s largely the politicians that allow for housing and other basic human needs to continue being a for profit commodity, and sadly, at least in the US, the electoral system is so broken that there’s little hope for nudging things in the right direction, and to make matters worse, some of the social problems brought up in these comments are the kind of thing that could take decades for lasting improvements to take root, and good luck making any long term plan last longer than one electoral cycle.
Yeah, but a standard mortgage will require making a 10%-20% down-payment. That’s the part you save up for. I didn’t mean to imply that you should rent while saving up to buy a house with cash.
I don’t agree. A landlord should have the right to set reasonable rules (especially pertaining to health and safety), and they should have the right to evict people who agree to those rules and then refuse to abide by them.
Smoking is a good example. If it’s legal to smoke indoors in a given region, the owner of a building might want to forbid it for safety and odor control. They should be allowed to do that. If a tenant signs the lease but then smokes inside anyway, the landlord shouldn’t have to wait out the rest of the lease while the stench gets more and more embedded into the property and other residents are endangered (albeit only slightly) by the heightened risk of fire. They should be able to just evict the dumbass.
That’s not quite what I was arguing, though I understand how you read it that way. What I was saying is that people are going to drop that stuff on the landlord’s doorstep, and it’s going to occupy some of his time and energy whether he involves himself or not. He can’t just not pick up the phone when somebody calls.
@Pizzasgood: The thing is, though, that the vast majority of evictions are for non-payment or late payment of rent. The types of scenarios you’re describing just don’t happen that often in comparison. I don’t disagree that we should be upset with politicians (although given the options involved I think trying to blame voters is a bit off the mark), but that in no way detracts from the observation that these things your describing are not for the most part done with an eye to helping tenants.
Similarly, this thing about determining “who will cause problems”: What background checks are your landlords performing that are determining these sorts of things, and not the prospective tenant’s ability to pay rent? Mine were all about creditworthiness and so forth, with the exception of the criminal background check – and the way they use that one is fairly restricted in most places because hey, it’s actually kind of messed up for one mistake to lock someone out of access to housing for the rest of their life!
I dunno – a way I’ve seen it work is this: If the tenants have a problem that needs fixing, they let the landlord know, and otherwise they’re left alone. It seems to work pretty well for everyone involved – I don’t see why it needs to be a challenge to respect everyone’s privacy.
I feel like we’re having different discussions here! You’re saying these things are all “work landlords do”, and I’m saying that the work landlords do to maintain their position doesn’t really add anything to society. You’re coming back at me with this “well, if the landlord goes out of business, their tenants will lose housing, so the work they do to stay in business is good for us” line of argument, and, like, sure, within the current system the first bit’s true – but the point I’m making is that this is only true because the current system is set up in a way that protects landlords’ ability to extract profit from ownership! It’s profoundly different from a farmer, who’s protecting his ability to produce food, or a mechanic, who’s protecting his ability to repair machinery – a landlord is protecting, for the most part, his ability to profit from the fact that he already had property and his tenants didn’t!
Let’s jump down a little further, because I felt like we were closer to the same wavelength towards the end of your post:
I think the parenthetical really weakens what you’re saying, though! The system where landlords get to take “their” cut isn’t really preferable to other systems – it’s just that it’s the one we have, and positive change is difficult to orchestrate.
Here’s the thing, though – utilize it for what? If someone borrows your truck, that is an inconvenience – there are things you can’t do, or can’t do as easily, without it! You’re giving up the ability to drive (if you don’t have another vehicle), transport largish objects, and so forth. What ability is your landlord giving up? What were they gonna be doing with a whole-ass empty apartment building that they had to drop to let all these tenants live in it? Nothing – because they own the apartment building as a way to turn money into more money, not for any personal purpose. (I believe this is the distinction Marxists draw between “personal” and “private” property – being in favor of the former and against the latter – but I’m far from an expert!)
So it seems like we agree that to be a landlord is to take money from people largely based on “what you own” and not really “what you do for them” (as you say, some managerial things are done, but not enough to really justify rent-level money absent the ownership factor). Is it fair to say, then, that we differ only (or at least mainly) on whether this is a reasonable thing to allow in society? I’m particularly interested in your view on the last point regarding personal utility – are you persuaded that the truck example is fundamentally different from the apartment example, and, if not, why not?
Thanks for talking about this, sorry I disappeared for a few days! Been real busy.
Okay, I guess what I mean is, I have a landlord; they make money out of the fact I need a roof over my head.
I’m not exactly assuming they are an evil person here, even if they are using their financial power to profit off the fact that I can’t afford to own a house, and they can.
Similarly, while it is totally possible Bristow ends up being an evil scumbag… there is also the fact that (for example) Clemintine’s life may be a lot simpler now that she has interested practitioners helping to keep a roof over her head, and artifacts under control. Bristow is profiting off his knowledge advantage, but depending on how its set up, Clem may well be gaining something too.
of course- not every landlord is a greedy, morally evil person, just like not every cop is violent and racist. But the institution of landlordship is bad, just like the institution of the police (which is, incidentally, directly descended from slave patrols) is bad. So, even if your landlord is giving you a good deal in exchange for a roof over your head, they are directly benefiting from the institution of landlordship, and thus are invested in keeping society as such that you can’t easily have your own house and must rely on them.
In the same way, Bristow is invested in making sure that none of his tenants find solutions to their troubles- if any of them did, they wouldn’t need to rely on him, and he wouldn’t be able to exploit them for his own benefit.
Bristow, being a landlord, and Alexander, being essentially a karmic billionaire, are both pretty clearly being set up as antagonists to our main characters who just happen to be at odds with each other as well. Combined with the girls- Lucy’s experiences with racism, Avery’s queerness, and Verona’s being an abuse victim- it feels like the story is very much growing into one about social justice.
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@emmavoid: Well, some police precincts. Others evolved out of community watch groups (some of which were also racially-motivated).
The history of police as tools of oppression is more intricate than “they used to be slave patrols”. For more information, I’d suggest reading “Origins of the police” by David Whitehouse, which I will try to link below.
Oh, and the YouTube channel Knowing Better has a good video on more recent police history.
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I do love these discussions:
Some very good points up above, especially point 2 regarding him not keeping people informed over the use he is putting them to.
I think point (1) is more of a “there is a spectrum of how much they get out of it, and we don’t have information on where that falls at the moment” ; given that this is a WB story, I can’t image Sergent Place rental house is a great place, but that is mainly based on my Meta knowledge of WB, as opposed to things stated in text so far. So far in text we have “Bristow is carefully managing a bunch of Aware with weird powers”, and that management might be using them purely as power plant, and it may be careful pressure valves to prevent people exploding. The story could go either way (but probably won’t)
Point 2 on the other hand is pretty damn watertight.
I agree, the institution of landlordship does lead to problems, and probably needs to have some pushback/limitations on it (at the very least, people should be required to hold a license to landlord, with higher expectations placed on those who have more houses).
I’m not so sure how I feel about the police analogue. Both because like… Police are in many countries, and I’m curious if you are claiming that all police everywhere are from slave patrols, or just the history in your country?
… and regardless of the history… I live in a country where police have an 80% approval rating, and don’t carry firearms. I like police… I just get freaked out by police in other countries walking around with semi-automatics. I don’t buy the argument that Police are an inherently bad institution (though can perfectly accept that this is very country/culture specific).
I do agree with your claim that the story is very much pushing in the social justice direction, especially with the protags we have… which is something I had not noticed previously, so thanks for pointing that out.
oh definitely- my opening statements regarding police are very much dependent on the assumption of a US-centric reader (which, isn’t a great assumption to make- I’ve been working on doing better about that) as well as being an oversimplification of the situation. greatwyrmgold’s link about the origin of the police is much better and in-depth.
tl;dr, it’s that police have never been about justice or law- they’ve always been a tool of keeping large numbers of people pacified, often with the implicit threat of potential violence. Nearly all other countries who have police did, however, base them on the US and UK’s models.
I feel like a good way of explaining the problem with police as an institution is this: in most countries, the police wear many, many hats- dealing with petty theft, robbery, assault, mental health emergencies, drugs, domestic disputes, etc etc etc. Dealing with so many different issues should, ideally, be the work of a number of different professionals with different types of training, but instead it all gets lumped into one job with a frankly minimal amount of training and an excessive amount of funding into less-than-lethal crowd control tech at best, and actual military equipment at worst. (again, this is a very US-centric thing- I honestly don’t know much about the police in most countries, but I do know that even in some places where police don’t carry firearms, they do carry and use tools that can cause serious injury- pepper spray, beanbag guns, tasers, tear gas, and sonic crowd control weapons- things that are completely unnecessary for most of their job.)
In the US, the police wind up ingrained with a very “us vs them” mentality- if you look online you can find videos of the “warrior training” seminars that so many US police go through, that pumps them up for the opportunity to use their position of authority to kill someone in the line of duty. In some states the police departments have been banned from paying for cadets to attend these seminars- and so the seminars give them free tickets to make sure that the attitude gets spread.
All of this, plus a healthy dose of institutionalized and individual racism, ableism, queerphobia, etc, is what leads to police abusing their power, shooting black men in the back, killing autistic people when called to help them, charging trans women (especially black trans women) with prostitution just for walking on the sidewalk, and generally failing to “serve and protect” the people- because their job is actually to “serve and protect” the private property of those in power.
If little of this applies to the police in your country, that’s awesome! I’d still argue that their duties likely need to be diversified into a number of different positions, but police who don’t abuse power, who don’t kill innocent people and get away with it, is very much a good thing!
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That wasn’t an abuse of power, if you’re talking about the dude who got shot in Kenosha. The police in question thought he might have been trying to get a weapon out from underneath the seat of the car, and shot him to protect himself. Tasers had already been used previously in the confrontation, and he’d shrugged them off.
If he’d done what the white kid who shot and killed the Antifa who were attacking him during the ensuing protests did, and just walked slowly with his hands in the air, he’d have been fine. Arrested for rape and domestic violence, granted, but unharmed.
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Yeah, I can’t really relate to this either. Of course I rent an apartment, just like I buy milk from the store instead of keeping my own cow. Owning the apartment wouldn’t give me any benefits, I’d just have to pay for it all at once instead of monthly. The absolute opposite of benefits, really. I’d be responsible for damage to it, even if I didn’t cause it myself. I’d have to find a buyer for it if I ever wanted to move out.
I’ve heard stories of how horrible things are in the US, but those problems sound like they’re mostly caused by not having legal regulation for rent contracts, or not enforcing the laws that exist. There’s no reason why renting should place you in a worse position than owning a home.
They are nominally the people who enforce law. If they aren’t doing that, you don’t really have law. None of those words in the law books mean anything if the government is unwilling or unable to enforce them, and the police are the branch of government tasked with doing so. Without a police force that does its job, you’re essentially living in anarchy.
If your government has chosen to oppress its own people, it’s naturally going to be the police who carry it out, but that’s not the only thing the police are for. They enforce all laws, including the ones that personally harm you.
I don’t think this claim holds up historically – the Roman Republic, for example, had a fairly sophisticated legal system, but no police force in any sense we’d think of today, unless I’m badly misremembering things.
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Dug up my notes for more details – I think what I’m about to say applies mostly to the late Republic, but I admit to being hazy on the evolution over time. As I say, there was no police force, and shedding the blood of a citizen was taboo even if they were committed of a crime (although a number of methods of “bloodless” execution were permitted).
The customs I have written down as ways to deter crime/seek redress are convicium and occentatio. The former, basically, means pointing at the person who did the crime and shouting (like “Stop, thief!” or something) – other citizens join in, and the criminal is mobbed or otherwise apprehended by the crowd. The latter is a method of public shaming – you go into mourning (pour ash in your hair, rend your garments) and then basically just harass the offender; you can sit outside their house wailing and moaning, follow them around shouting things like “This guy did ! He’s a !”., and so forth.
Of course, this is all occurring in a vastly different cultural context, and I don’t want to be misinterpreted as saying that it’s a model we should adopt wholesale or anything silly like that. That said, I think it’s a serviceable enough example of the point that it’s a mistake to think of the police (or any number of other institutions, really) as a necessary part of public life for any society – these things are usually more contingent than you might think!
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*”This guy did (specific crime)! He’s a (specific-crime-doer)!”
@nick012000: It seems like you’re espousing the idea that the existence of uniformed representatives of the state with the authority to summarily execute (or attempt to execute) citizens for offenses such as “potentially having a weapon” or “failing to react with the ideal amount of level-headedness when menaced by heavily armed men” is a normal, desirable thing. Is that an accurate summary of your position? Like, set aside all the partisan proxy battles that get wrapped up in these kinds of things for a moment – is this genuinely the way you think our society ought to be organized?
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“> police abusing their power, shooting black men in the back,
That wasn’t an abuse of power, if you’re talking about the dude who got shot in Kenosha. The police in question thought he might have been trying to get a weapon out from underneath the seat of the car, and shot him to protect himself. Tasers had already been used previously in the confrontation, and he’d shrugged them off.”
Coming from a country where the police do regularly do not shoot, suffocate, or otherwise kill or injure their citizens, this argument is terrifying.
The job of the police is to de-escalate a situation whenever possible.
I guess I’ll put it this way:
If I have a gun, and I shoot someone with it, then I am by default wrong. No ifs. No buts. No “Oh, but I thought.”.
There exists exceptional circumstances where this doesn’t apply, but “Oh, but I thought he was a baddy” is not one of those circumstances.
And yes, It is an abuse of power, because any standard citizen who shot someone and said “Oh but I thought he was a bady” would be arrested for that (at least… in any normal society). If you are using your position to protect you from the consequences of that, then that is an abuse of the trust society has put in you.
People shouldn’t be shot simply for running away from the scary dangerous armed men.
If you say “But they followed protocol”, than the protocol itself is an abuse of power.
Some really cool stuff, and some dangerous sounding folks to go up against. Wouldn’t want to deal the trouble one of them would cause, let alone being hit by them all from different angles, will be interesting to see.
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Also, I’m sort of wondering how Ted managed to level up his power level enough to fight some cosmic monster and win without Awakening. Does he know anime-esque martial arts or something? The way it’s described, he probably could have Awakened if he’d chosen to, so why did he decide against it?
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Awakening requires a specific ritual. He didnt have anyone teach him that. Also they pretty explicitly state he rallied his whole town against the monster. Fighting it in his own got him killed a whole bunch
If he’s still Innocent, he was probably never properly informed about that possibility. Which I don’t find surprising; he can only do so much to discover secrets that are actively hidden from everyone like him.
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I assume that there’s a reason why even gods don’t lightly infringe on the Innocent.
A hypercompetent Innocent might actually be the best counter to a cosmic monster.
That, and I assume that whatever force trapped Ted into a groundhog loop didn’t want him trying to escape, which I presume the practice would have made possible.
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So we got an antiquarian, two Changeling: The Lost players, a Youtube (Youwoob?) e-celeb, an actual fucking Dragonslayer, and a man who was, quote, considered for the Belanger circle. Dire indeed.
Yeah, I don’t think I want to know what happened with the dolphin.
Remember to always save the third wish for undoing the first two, after their true effects become apparent. Proper wish safety saves timelines!
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Not just any kind of YouWoob e-celeb…the alt-right kind. Her description makes me think of what would happen if a lesser demon stole bits of thunderf00t’s anima and shaped it into a person around copies of The Bell Curve and Paranormal Home Inspectors before accidentally banishing itself with the fruits of its labor.
I love Shellie and Daniel 🥺
I feel really bad for Clem, Daniel, and Shellie. I feel bad about Sharon. She’s noted to break glamour, which all of the main characters use, but Avery and Lucy use them especially. Sharon seems likely to dig especially hard at a lesbian and a Black girl, and break their glamours that way.
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Oh criminy, Avery getting near her could break her self-confidence like a pro-wrestler suplexing a child😰
The Alitzers are playing Changeling: the Lost while everyone else is playing Mage: the Awakening.
All of these are neat, but I didn’t find much to specifically comment on in most.
Clem’s entry (and, to a lesser extent, some of the others) reminds me of something from the SCP Foundation. I wonder if there’s already a “gilded lily” in their database…
blockquote>Due to a lapse in the journals, an unfortunate recurring beat around the most critical or important moments…
Hah. I wonder if there’s some supernatural element enforcing this omnipresent horror-log trope?
Quoted in full because this is a dang effective joke. The ominous buildup over a lengthy compound sentence ending with “dressed in their underwear”? chef’s kiss
This can probably be attributed to the genre savvy she developed over four and a half years with a part-time job of fantasy short story protagonist.
The dress entry sounds exactly like the summary of an actual fantasy short story for…what’s the literary term for an audience too young to be YA?
Wait, how? Was it a raqvat-bs-Cnpg sort of situation where the damage itself wiped out the town and its memories, and if so why is a motive provided? And if it was done intentionally, who did it and how? Huh?
Oh, she’s one of those YouTubers. Um, YouWoob? WooTube? Wait, that sounds wrong.
And her fans are dox-crazy? Aw geez, she’s deep in that part of WooWoob. (That sounds even worse.)
As always, the extras have been a blast. I’d take up half the page if I pointed out everything neat here. I look forward to these new antagonists being properly introduced, and hope they stick around! Especially Clem and the Alitzers.
As for Sharon, I hope she gets caught and/or cursed by a First Nations Other.
Jessica might have a few names interested in taking her down a peg.
I’ve long thought law enforcement, as its handled in the US, attracted way too many people who care more about harassing mostly harmless individuals for minor infractions and not nearly enough who care about protecting the innocent and minimizing harm. I have long found it disturbing that many US law enforcement agents are better armed than some non-US soldiers, that Basic Law Enforcement Training is only a single semester, and that by some metrics, law enforcement is responsible for a tenth of US homicides. That said, I am not convinced that all, or even most, incidents of an individual from a traditionally unprivileged group being severely hurt or killed by a law enforcement agent is motivated by the associated prejudices. Not to say there aren’t an excessive number of prejudiced assholes in law enforcement, but I would expect them to be outnumbered by the unprejudiced assholes who, all else equal, would’ve still shot even had their victim been light-skinned.
And while I’ve never really thought about it, I have to agree that law enforcement could do with a heavy helping of specialization. Ending prohibition, dissolving the DEA, and refunneling those funds into drug rehab, education that’s better than “drugs are bad, don’t do it” style stuff that only makes rebellious types want to do it to spite “the man” and generally treating drugs as a public health problem rather than a law enforcement one would be a good first step. Putting an end to harassing people for doing things with no victim would probably help a lot too and convince most of the assholes that law enforcement isn’t the right job for them.
And even if it’s completely justifiable self-defense, any incident of a suspect, perp, bystander, or victim recieving injuries more severe than what can be treated with a first aid kit from a police officer is proof that the police can do better, and I find it disturbing that anyone would offer seminars to specifically encourage a warrior mindset in law enforcement agents, even moreso that said seminars would be made free in response to agencies trying to d escalate. Granted, I’m also the kind of person, that had I control of the Federal Government’s purse strings, would put a halt to all of the military’s lethal weapon R&D and have those funds redirected to more worthwhile projects, such as non-hospitalizing containment and crowd control(Containment Foam needs to be real and on every law enforcement agent’s primary tool belt), improving the viability of non-weaponizable nuclear and renewable power, making urban food production viable for the masses, etc… The US already poses one biosphere eradication risk, we don’t need more ways to kill whichever group of foreigners Washington wants to scapegoat instead of addressing problems at home.
And while the post against Rentals and the clothing industry read as mostly sarcastic, I honestly agree with some of the points. Some of the so-called primitive peoples of Tropical latitudes had the right idea: if it’s hot, why wear anything more than loin cloth or maybe a utilitarian accessory for holding the tools you need to carry at all times so you can keep your hands free. To hell with the idea that the human body is something shameful that should be covered even when common sense says nudity is the most appropriate clothing for the weather. Also, to hell with whoever decided business and office work should be done in constricting, usually too hot for the in-door weather, and providing little utility to the job clothing, especially since business and business casual attire is often much more expensive than the casual clothes that would actually be comfortable enough for one to focus on their work instead of how uncomfortable the dress code is. Also to hell with shoes and plus one to forcing someone to involuntarily wear shoes without a good reason to be classified as misdemeanor torture(and the same goes for involuntary wearing of business attire).
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I’m guessing that the Kenneteers will end up fully bringing Clem to Awareness. Very wary of the others’ abilities. Particularly worried about what might happen if Avery faces Sharon or the Fae twins, due to her glamour.
I love this chapter so much! Especially the Clem dossier. It’s really cool for it to be pointed out how much in this world even non-practitioner humans can be magically dangerous. I can easily picture a tv show about Bristol’s apartment, with Clem one or more new objects each episode, causing that episode’s problem or resolution.
but this fact frustrates her more than it anything
should probably be
but this fact frustrates her more than anything