34 thoughts on “[5.4 Spoilers] Outgoing Call

  1. Unofficial transcript:

    [Hello? Sharon?
    Calling at such a late hour.
    I’m afraid I don’t have much new information to give you.
    Everything alright?]

    Sharon’s here, but out. She can’t speak right now.


    I’ve got you on speaker. The guy who is driving Sharon’s car can hear you. Sharon can’t.
    We need to talk, Mr. Lawrence Bristow, esquire.

    [I see.]

    [Tell me, who or what am I speaking with right now?
    You sound young.]

    Do I? Dang.
    What will you give me, if I tell you my name?

    [You definitely sound like a practitioner.
    I’ll give you a few minutes of conversation, perhaps.]

    Only perhaps? Then perhaps I’ll hang up.
    Then whatever happens can happen.

    [Let’s talk, then.
    You have Sharon’s phone and car.
    You have Sharon, presumably.]

    Yes and yes.

    I did think something was odd when she contacted me by phone and not by text or video call. I think she prefers the hard-coded word over conversation like this. I do hope she’s well.]

    Unconscious, head wound, but otherwise fine.

    [Good. Good.]

    If you’re sending them here to screw over Alexander, you show know he expressed initial interest, then swore off any involvement for the next while.

    [Hmmm. The next while being?]

    That’s between us and him.


    Are you there?

    [I am most definitely here.
    Interesting that it’s for a while, and not him swearing off altogether. That’s interesting, very interesting. He doesn’t tend to let things go. So it suggests he still wants what’s there.]

    I’m not calling for you to work out riddles. I’m calling to tell you that you need to pull out your tenants and then you need to make amends for any and all damage done as a consequence of this.

    [Amends? Haha.
    My dear, you may let Karma have her way with me. I’ll manage just fine, I think. Just fine. Karma is a fickle mistress, I think we both know that. But she’s not a harsh one, in my experience. I’m one step removed from any responsibility here.]

    You sent them here. If any of them get hurt as a—

    [Will you hurt them?]


    [Will you hurt them? Are you willing to harm relative Innocents, blind to the ways of this world? What are you, apparently a child, willing to do to them? Because Karma will weigh on your actions. Whatever you do to them. You should be careful, be considerate, hmmm? Because you will be responsible, not I.]

    Sharon here pulled a gun on me. A bit of self defense seems fair.
    You sent them into a dangerous situation.

    [We can continue to disagree about karma and responsiblity, young stranger, hmm? I’ve been down this road at least a hundred times. Some of those times were with ehse same individuals. Karma has not bitten me too badly just yet, and I don’t believe it will bite me today. In fact, I act in the service of karma, seeking retribution for a true wrong done to me. I do believe I was cheated out of my livelihood, see? By your Alexander Belanger. If I act, and it does any inconvenience to Alexander, then that, my dear, is Right, and I do say that word with keen emphasis. You have the background to know what I mean.]

    Alexander isn’t a part of this.

    [Ha ha.
    He isn’t, unnamed stranger, but he wants to be. He’s benched and I know him will enough to know he is patient but eager, he is willing and wanting to leap off that bench, and he’ll leap with eyes wide open and cards laid out, so to speak. He’ll jump on whatever you’ve got there, that has him so interested. And my dear? If I can beat him to it, it will nettle him and hurt him. He’ll hate it. He may pretend otherwise and he may have told you otherwise, but if he’s interested enough to wait this long until he can be involved again, he’ll hate it and I’ll love that he hates it.
    You speak of your group as an ‘us’, between us and him. Why?]

    If you want answers, give me something. I’m not calling for your benefit, so you can chortle over having a riddle to work out.

    [No, a riddle is cleverer.
    You speak of an ‘us’ but it’s you and an unnamed driver who hasn’t chimed in despite the fact you’re on speakerphone.
    You have one, Sharon, but there should still be two there.
    I’m betting you don’t know how to deal with them. Yoiu’re calling to try to get me to call them off, to back off. To ask for amends too? Hahaha.]


    No? Dumb.

    [I’ll remember you said that. Not that I’m bothered, but when you see the fuller picture and know more, you may find your words, child, are simply wrong.]

    Or, other way around, when you find this whole thing more costly than you expected and that little niggling regret catches you off guard? Let that regret come with a hit to your magic, Lawrence.

    [Deal. Let this be our competition. If I regret the outcome, I’ll be gainsaid. If not, let you be gainsaid]

    Or you could call them, ask them to leave, and you’d have some students at the BHI who haven’t taken a side in this imminent civil war you have going with Alexander. It’ll annoy him more.

    Tap tap type type]

    [Verona Hayward. Dabbler.]

    Picked up a little Augury yourself, hm? I don’t consider myself a dabbler. That was their best guess, when we refused to give our info.

    [No Augury. Process of elimination. You don’t consider yourself one, but you are one for the nonce. I’m looking at the BHI student records and class notes. You’ve explored several things already, taking out various books, drawing on the powers of several Others.
    Let’s call this one a draw.
    Why is he so interested in this small, sleep ski town, Verona?]

    Why are you so disinterested in the well being of Sharon Griggs?
    Because you have two more like her?

    [Because I trust her. I trust the others. And I trust the system. My system, and the bigger system. I trust they’ll be fine. I trust that they’ll find their way back to their apartments and to me.]

    He talks too much.

    [Is that the mysterious driver I heard in the background? I’ll tell you now, I have no interest in negotiating with those who would extort from me or take hostages. Especially with such vague threats and, I’ll stress here, no clear declarations that you’ll harm her. You left the answer ungiven, when I asked if you would hurt her. You left the damage to a head wound when another might chop off a finger.]

    Would it matter if we chopped off a finger?

    [It certainly wouldn’t be good from a moral standpoint. Not that lady Karma cares about right and wrong. It’s about positions, roles, and the status quo, and you would be the one breaching convention and doing wrong. You should know that. So yes, it would matter. But not to me, not in a way that would make me bend the knee or give you everything you want.]

    Are you-?
    Are you doing all this talking as some sort of play? Like, trying to dominate or claim the conversation?

    The way these things tend to work is that they—]

    Nonononono, stop talking. Stop. Stop, that’s enough. You’re annoying.
    Man, you’re annoying.
    I did mean what I said earlier, when I said we can end the conversation early. I can hang up, we can do our thing. And you can have your regrets, later. I’m willing to bet those of us here in this town can be really annoying enemies. The fact you could have us be Alexander’s enemies and you choose instead to inconvenience him a little bit by throwing away good people like Clem, Daniel, and throw away someone like Sharon is dumb. So dumb. You should take responsibility for them.

    No, dear Verona. I was careful to make everything clear when they became tenants, and I’ll remind them when they do jobs for me. That they are the arbiters of their own destiny. I situate them. I give them a place, in a mutually beneficial deal.]

    So fuck Sharon, I guess? You don’t really care? You’d let me take her to pieces? Clementine too? Daniel?

    [Oh, I’d act. I’d act.
    I’d care, even.
    But I have more trust in them than you do. I trust they will find their way through. Each of them has their own paths they must walk. They have direction, and they’ve traveled those directions ever since they were young. I’m happy to help them along, to benefit if I can nudge them toward an enemy or thing of interest. I trust the courses they walk will bring them right back to me, and that I don’t need to concede anything or bend to your desires to let that happen. If I truly believed you would or could do any significant harm to them, then I might act differently, but not here. There’s no need. I’m content to let them carry on, and I’m content to frustrate a man like Alexander Belanger.]

    Can I shoot him?
    I’m not saying no.

    [Hah hah hah.
    If you were going to hurt her, I do think you would have already. Reframing this conversation, it’s a desperate attempt to get me to call off my dogs. I won’t. I know what they are capable of, and I know how resilient they are. Hang up if you wish. I do believe I’ll come out ahead, and it would require some strain on your part, dear girl, to change that belief of mine.]

    [You made a mistake, if you dealt with Alexander and thought you came out ahead in the bargain. He’s a predator, sly and conniving, and I will tell you, I’m a man who puts great value on money, I eat well, I collect buildings like some might collect baseball cards. Verona dear, driver, you should know I do well in a way that few accomplish without a drive and a hunger.
    That man, Alexander, is greedier and hungrier for power, influence, success and respect than I ever was.
    Focus on him. Dread him. This little game with me and my tenants isn’t anything compared to what he will take from you, given time.]

    Someone’s a sore loser. I hope that remains a constant. Sharon?
    Lawrence. Please.

    [Woken up now, have you Sharon?
    How long?]

    Since your ‘astute’.
    Call the police.
    And since we’re at it, let me just screenshot this… sending. Might take a minute.

    [Ah, I’m not so good with technology.
    I wouldn’t know how or where to find it.]

    Call the police, Mr Bristow.
    I’ve been kidnapped. They have my rifle. The man has blond hair, blue eyes.
    He has scars on his neck…
    Find it.

    [I’ll look.
    Hmm hmm. Hmmm…
    Found it.]

    [Screenshot of phone conversation]
    He sent Daniel here with the idea he’d get in trouble. And Daniel did. A lot.

    Talking to him about Sharon and he told me he’d rather let Daniel find his own way than take any steps to help. I think you and I want the same thing. Daniel out of here and somewhere safe.

    Thank you for telling me.
    Now see to it that Daniel is well or we well have a second conversation. I can do my talking with a knife’s edge, and you can do it with furtive whimpers.

    You sent, two minutes ago…

    Call the police.

    Can you hear me?

    [Let’s move to a one on one conversation, if you don’t mind.]

    They may hear my side of it, but sure.
    Done. Speaker phone off.

    [And keep it off.]

    These people are dangerous.

    [I’ll tell you now. This doesn’t change anything substantial about how this will play out.]


    [My dear, do you know the meaning of the idea of coup? Or of claim?]

    I know a conventional definition of claim.

    [You’ll have to round out your education at this school, should you decide to return. Verona, these are concepts that apply to practices that would take. If you wanted to steal a body for yourself, wresting it from its prior occupant, you would want to do this with an eye to the supporting principles of coup and claim, or you would risk wasted effort or wounded karma.]

    Okay, sure.
    Do you even know how to use that gun in the passenger seat there?

    [We use coup in the sense of a ‘masterful or superior move’, understand?
    What you did here, that works fine for counting coup. Getting yourself a win, an advantage, or an edge. It is through counting coup that one can whittle away the claim of the owner. If it can be dramatic, then there are forces out there that appreciate that and will give it credit.]

    Mess with someone enough and you can possess them easier. Or take their things?

    [Or take their things, yes.
    Claim, then, is the principle of ownership. Birthright, ritual, or more mundane things like having something for longer give one an established claim. The implement ritual gives a very strong claim. You do know what an implement is?]

    No comment.

    [If one’s claim is strong enough and their power established, then what is lost will be found again. An implement that is cast away will find its way back, as things find their way to Ms. Robertjon.]

    [I’ll tell you now. I’m confident in my claim on my tenants. Contracts are signed. They are part of a bigger arrangement and that arrangement is mine to wield from beginning to end and thereafter.]

    Well, that’s creepy, Lawrence.
    You’re telling me they’re your captives? No matter what I say or do, Sharon here is going to go slinking back to you? She’ll forgive you?

    What the fuck?

    [She may not forgive me, or even like me.
    Shellie most certainly will have her reservations. I can manage her.
    But they will come back. And the will find reasons or reasons will find them, for them to stay in the rooms I’ve assigned, unless you kill them.]
    [Which I don’t believe you will. This is what I do. and it’s what I specialize in and have specialized in since I was ten. Taking and keeping. It used to be things and now it’s people.]

    And you set them up in a specific way, to get what you want?

    [One arrangement to give the power of one to another, so that other one’s talents are more. Another arrangement to make them more of a team, or to change how they relate to the world, so that, for example, Sharon reflects Clementine’s penchant for finding trouble.]
    [I’m not an evil man. They are on average better off with me than they were alone. I say that with inviolable word.
    But I am a greedy man. I want my revenge.
    I’ll tell you, unless you kill them, they’ll return home to me.
    I’m confident in that. The pattern is long established.
    You have nothing over me. You are a child new to the practice and I’ve been at this for twice as long as you’ve been alive.
    Tell Sharon I will see here when she finds her way back.]

    We’re not done, Bristow. You’re not that-
    Man, do I hate you.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. I can think of one way to make Bristow regret sending his tenants to Kennet: tell them how to perform the Awakening ritual, so that they wouldn’t fit into Bristow’s apartment ritual anymore.

    Liked by 2 people

      • If Bristow has used magic to enforce a claim over them, then odds are that he’d be the one held karmically responsible for them, even if someone else gave them a copy of Essentials and suggested that they read it and give the ritual a try.

        Liked by 1 person

      • The karmic responsibility for awakening multiple relative strangers would be highly dangerous, but it would also probably weight heavily enough on the scales to trump Bristow’s “claim” to these people.
        (of course, trying to get Sharon in particular to do the awakening ritual is probably going to end horribly…)

        Liked by 2 people

    • As Sleeping Shadow said, directly introducing Innocents to the world of magic means taking responsibility for them and their actions. If Daniel uses his newfound magic to eff with a bunch of Innocents even more effectively, that’s karmically on the trio.

      The Trio might come to trust Clem (if they can catch up to her), and might even reach some kind of arrangement with Daniel, but even if Lucy was Aryan as they come they wouldn’t want to take responsibility for effing Sharon.

      (Incidentally, in Pact gur bayl Vaabpragf Oynxr oebhtug vagb gur zntvpny jbeyq jrer crbcyr ur nyernql xarj naq gehfgrq vzcyvpvgyl, naq bayl jura ur jnf qrfcrengr sbe onpxhc. Obviously he was taught differently than the Trio, and a world-weary person like Blake has different experiences with/expectations of people than three young teenagers, but it’s still a point of reference.)

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Bristow’s desire to have karma judge the world (and him in specific) reminds me of real-life people who want to leave questions of right and wrong to the courts, knowing that they and people like them will probably get a decent result at the courthouse.
    Though “And I trust the system. My system, and the bigger system” might be a bit more direct in that regard…

    Aside: The verbal cruft Verona had to use to avoid accidentally calling Sharon a good person was hilarious, and I wish she was conscious to hear it Wait, the “astute” is right before Verona does that speech, awesome.

    Bristow talking a big game about how his tenants are free to choose, this is a mutually beneficial relationship, etc etc, contrasts so strongly with his open admission of his claim over them and how he manipulates their lives to his convenience. I wonder if there are any social systems in our world to which a parallel could be drawn…

    Liked by 6 people

  4. “I’m not an evil man”


    …oh wait, he really thinks that? Let me laugh even harder

    Also, now they’ve turned Clem and Sharon against Bristow, and Shellie’s half-way there; if they can safely part Daniel from his glamour that’ll be a full three victories against this jerk.

    Liked by 4 people

    • I’m kind of confused as to why Verona (and you) see the conversation with Clem as a success – Verona tells her some stuff and she replies with a trivial acknowledgement of the information and a death threat.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Clem didn’t…?

        oh, I think you mean Shellie? The big thing we (and Verona) know about Shellie is that she will kill anyone who puts Daniel in harm’s way; finding out that Bristow put Daniel in harm’s way sounds like a pretty solid way to turn her against him.


        • Whoops, read the wrong name off the text window.

          And true, but that’s sure not what the message shows.


    • He really isn’t. He’s incredibly pompous and annoying, but that’s not evil. He’s using people, but he’s not exploiting them. He pays them for their work. He shows a callous disregard for Sharon being kidnapped, but he has every reason to believe that Sharon is going to come out of this okay without his help.

      It’s interesting to compare him to Alexander, who’s a much worse person than Bristow, but also much more likeable.

      Liked by 2 people

      • He shows a callous disregard for Sharon being kidnapped, but he has every reason to believe that Sharon is going to come out of this okay without his help.

        Also, she’s Sharon, so I think he can be excused for being callous.

        Liked by 1 person

  5. The thing is, I’m not sure if Bristow is wrong about his tenants coming back to him. Sharon is desperate for $200~300 paybumps even with Bristow’s reduced rent and her personality likely makes it difficult for her to find consistent well-paying work. Daniel and his sister scrape by on one crappy job and Bristow’s reduced rent. And Clem is dependent on Bristow and his network of practitioner buyers for the slightest hope of one day being able to have safe relationships with people, or not die or worse herself.

    They might all want to leave when they understand how Bristow has screwed them over. There may be friction between him and them. But they need him in a bad way.

    The only one I can see being successfully pulled off is Clem, and that only if the girls take responsibility for formally introducing her into the practitioner’s world.

    Liked by 5 people

      • Well, yes. If you pay someone for their labour, then it’s entirely reasonable that you use the labour they provide for your own benefit. What else is Bristow supposed to do? Not offer cheap rent to people who can do him magical favours in return?


        • But they have no idea what they’re getting into. Do you think it would be reasonable to knowingly pay someone to work in a building with, say, an asbestos issue without informing them of it? If not, why does this thing you’re saying about Bristow’s actions being reasonable because he’s paying them for their labour not also apply to this case?

          Liked by 2 people

        • That’s a good point. It’s different in that Bristow can’t really tell them. It’s magic. Beyond their ken. He could offer to swear them into the Practice, but that would also be getting them into something dangerous that they don’t understand, and many would probably be worse off for it.

          I’m not sure if that makes it better, though. As a practitioner, Bristow is naturally going to be keeping a lot of secrets, but there should probably be some limits to that excuse.

          Liked by 2 people

        • There are tons of less-exploitative ways he could do that.
          The simplest (and least Marxist-theory-ey) would be to effing tell them about their special abilities and what he’s sending them to do. But that would make him responsible for them, and Bristow doesn’t like responsibility.

          Liked by 3 people

        • @Soadreqm: My personal take would be that that doesn’t make it better. As you say, he can’t really bring them in on the Practice without a) destroying Sharon’s usefulness to him and b) as you say, also getting them involved in something dangerous by stripping them of what Innocence they have. So we have a situation where, if he wants to deploy these people toward his own ends, Bristow has to endanger them without their informed consent, either by sending them in as he actually did or by giving them information that itself puts them in danger. To me, this means he just shouldn’t use them – it’s not like “well, if I told the workers about the asbestos I wouldn’t be able to make money” would be a valid excuse in the other case!

          Liked by 2 people

  6. First off, an excellent chapter, made doubly impressive since it was apparently put together on the quick.

    Secondly, each time we check in on one of the trio, we see them pretty in over their heads and struggling but still managing an impressive performance. Kennet is taking its licks from this attack/interference, but whatever the case, Avery, Lucy, and Verona are showing themselves to be as talented as they are determined… even if they may not all recognize that fact.

    And thirdly, Bristow comes across as an extremely unlikable but there’s an interesting setting-element at play there. Since the Practice is at least in part performative, coming across as a smugly confident chess master secure in one’s inevitable victory is an actual, viable strategy rather than an admission of being more hubris than man.

    I’m not saying that Bristow isn’t that smugly awful, but rather that said behavior may have been heightened and accentuated as an emergent property of the setting.

    Whatever the case, I’m really looking forward to seeing where this goes and hoping that it turns out as a win for the Kenneteers and a loss for mister magical meddling landlord.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. Man is Bristow an unpalatable person. I didn’t think he would succeed in further antagonizing me after the opening back-and-forth, but then he went on to talk about “claim and coup” over people 0_O

    Imo Verona probably shouldn’t have let him talk so much… He kept making debatable assertions about karma and destiny and 90% of them went unchallenged. I mean, he doesn’t strike me as halfway as eloquent as Alexander, but still, if you give him free reign he still clearly has enough experience to talk up his case to the spirits.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. So, OK, another one that’s not in the menu. That means my previous way of finding these Thursday chapters just isn’t workable any more.

    It turns out, though, that if you scroll down to the place between the end of the chapter and the start of the comments, you can find wildbow’s name (it’s not at the top, unfortunately), which is a hyperlink. If you click wildbow’s name, it takes you to some sort of top-level page which is not the Table of Contents (the ToC lacks these bonus chapters), but this top-level page has a copy of the bonus chapter, plus a link to get to the bonus chapter on its own. So, I guess that’s what I have to do now.


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