Fiction Friday: Scion: Hero
Today we look at a slice of Carl Bowen’s Birthright, the introductory fiction from the first edition of Scion: Hero:
The next morning, Eric awoke hearing a conversation about wars in the Holy Land. The television was on and broadcasting the news. He sat up to blearily paw around for the remote and was shocked to find Sylvester, the desk clerk, sitting in the vinyl chair beside his bed. The lanky fellow clicked the TV off and smiled at Eric, as if his being there weren’t at all strange.
“Morning!” Sylvester said. “I let myself in.”
“What are you doing in here?” Eric snapped. He jumped out of bed in his boxers to loom over the intruder.
Sylvester cringed and tried to put on a charming smile. “Housekeeping?”
Eric snatched him up by the shirt in one hand and drew back a fist. “I said…”
“Okay, okay!” Sylvester said, pleading for peace with splayed hands. “I just wanted to talk. This seemed
like the best way to get your attention.”
Eric’s eyes narrowed, but he lowered his fist. He realized he’d lifted Sylvester completely off the ground like the man weighed nothing. He set the clerk down.
“Out of curiosity,” he said, “what seemed like the worst way?”
Sylvester laughed out loud and straightened his rumpled shirt, casually putting a few yards distance between himself and Eric as he did so. “It wouldn’t have been pretty.”
“So what do you want?” Eric asked. He pulled on some jeans and searched around for a clean shirt. “Make it quick.”
“I want to talk about why you’re here,” Sylvester said, leaning back against the wall by the door. His eyes were bright blue, showing none of the deceptive vacuity he’d evidenced before. “Why we’re both here, really. Something bad’s going on around town, and nobody wants to talk about it.”
“Not even you, night before last.”
Sylvester flashed a self-deprecating smile. “Yeah, I was just being careful. I didn’t know what sort of guy you are.”
“But now you do?”
“A little better. I heard about what happened last night at the diner. That’s the first time anybody’s stood up for anybody else in this town in a long time.”
“Word travels fast.”
Sylvester shrugged. “Small towns.”
“Fine. So why do you think I’m here? Better yet, why are you here? Your accent says you’re not from here.”
“That’s right. I came here a few years ago and sort of accidentally settled down. I was looking for somebody, like you are.”
“My dad. You?”
Eric nodded. “My dad.”
Sylvester touched his lower lip and narrowed his bright blue eyes in thought. “Let me guess. He’s a big, burly joker like yourself, with the same red hair and beard? Likes blondes? Calls himself Tony or Don or something like that?”
Eric nodded slowly, hope kindling in his heart. “Yeah. Don. Do you know him? Is he…?” He waved toward Sylvester, unable to form the words. “You know…”
“What? My dad?” Sylvester laughed out loud. “No way! My dad’s an ugly old weasel like me. But I have heard of somebody who looks just like you. He used to come around here before Jared and his crew took over the iron mine. He was real popular. In fact, he’s the reason we got so many midgets all down in the mountain.”
“Hey, watch that talk,” Eric said. Anytime Randall had heard someone use a word for a type of person that that type of person wouldn’t use for himself, he wasn’t shy about giving out a piece of his mind.
“Fine,” Sylvester said. “Dwarves. Whatever.” He rolled his eyes. “Anyway, from what I gather, it was this Don guy — your dad — who brought them here and opened up the tunnels in the mountains for them to live in. They used to come around some nights to shop in town or trade little handicrafts they made. That was before my time, though. Now they all work the mines.”
“God knows why,” Eric said. “The people they work for are jerks.”
Sylvester’s face turned grave, and he gave Eric a hard look full of bitter sadness. “The parts of that you’re wrong about are exactly the problem.”
“For one, the dwarves don’t exactly work for the mining company. They’re more like slaves. Those tunnels used to be their homes, but the bigger, stronger folks just came down there and made them start hollowing it all out. Nobody pays them. They barely feed them.”
“And they just take that?”
“What else can they do?” Sylvester said. “It’s not like they can leave the tunnels. And they can’t complain to anybody, because the local cops don’t want to get involved. Plus, hardly anybody knows they’re still down there.”
“That’s just wrong,” Eric said. Anger built inside him like black clouds massing into a thunderhead. “How do the miners get away with this?”
“They can because of the other wrong part of what you said before — when you said the people forcing the dwarves to work were jerks.”
“You’re right,” Eric nodded. “They’re much worse than jerks. They’re… evil.”
“True, but that isn’t what I meant. I meant the other part. Jared and his crew aren’t people. They’re monsters.”
Eric assumed Sylvester was being poetic, but the deadpan, neutral way he said it made him wonder. He sounded like he meant exactly what he said. “Monsters? What, like vampires?”
Eric didn’t know how to respond to that, which curled Sylvester’s lips into a wickedly smug smile.
“I bet that was about the last thing you expected me to say, wasn’t it?”
“Giants?” Eric finally managed. “You honestly expect me to believe that?”
“You do already,” Sylvester said in an irritating singsong voice. “You don’t know why, but what I’m saying makes sense to you, deep down in your heart of hearts. It can’t be the weirdest thing you’ve ever heard of.”
An image of two ravens standing over his grandfather’s shoulders flashed unbidden through Eric’s mind, followed by a reprise of that night in the attic with Randall’s ghost and the sight of a deep puncture wound in his own side sealing up unaided. The sound of Craig smashing through a plate-glass window echoed in his ears.
“Maybe not,” he conceded. “Still, a giant…”
“It’s a subjective term, believe me. I doubt Jared’s actually over 10 feet.” Sylvester stopped and shook his head. “Anyway, what he is isn’t as important as what he’s doing. He’s got those poor dwarves enslaved down there with nobody to stand up for them.”
“They got me.”
“Somehow I knew you’d feel that way,” Sylvester said, leaving his perch with a big grin and coming to stand directly in front of Eric. “You’re strong and tough—probably more than you even realize. You’re special, man, and these little guys need help from somebody like you.”
“Special how?” Sylvester laughed and playfully punched Eric in the shoulder. “I could explain it, but if you don’t believe Jared’s a giant I doubt you’d believe me about that. For now, just take my word for it.”
“How about this…” Eric said. “I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt that the little folks in the mines are being exploited and need help. As for the rest, I’m not going to believe it unless I see it.”
“Now you’re talking,” Sylvester said. “I thought you’d never ask.”
“Ask me to take you to the mine and show you in person.”
“Now wait, I—”
“Okay, go ahead and get your shoes and stuff on. I’ll meet you at your car.” He opened the door and went outside, giving Eric a thumbs-up before the door shut behind him.
Baffled and off balance, but undeniably curious, Eric pulled on his socks and boots to follow Sylvester outside.
Scion: Hero for Scion’s First Edition is available in PDF and print from DriveThruRPG. If you missed out on our Kickstarter for Scion 2nd Edition, you can still preorder the new Scion: Origin and Scion: Hero via BackerKit.