Ficlet: “H_ngm_n”

So one thing I’ve found useful for developing OCs is actually taking some time to write a few scenes from their lives. It helps me work out how the character thinks and establishes parts of their lives that I hadn’t thought of yet – including a bunch of other characters.

So that’s what I’ve done for Eris. The below text is the first of likely several such ficlets. The premise was simple: show Eris in action against members of a certain group of villains I hadn’t developed at all, but concepted all the way back in Arc 4. Then I just started writing and saw what happened.

Please keep in mind that nothing here is final. It’s first-and-a-halfth draft material involving characters I had not developed very much (or at all in the cases of the antagonists) before writing this. Things about the characters are liable to not mesh that well with later ficlets about them, though I do try to keep things consistent.

Also, I’m really not a writer. Even if this wasn’t a first draft, you should not expect anywhere near Wildbow quality.

All that said, here we go!


H_ngm_n

“Hey, Potence, lend me your rope.”

“Why? It’s mine,” Potence replied, one hand settled on the long, coiled rope hanging at his waist. The sternly confident, rumbling voice always sounded strange coming from him, a lanky, long-haired ghoul of a man. His costume resembled that of a medieval executioner, but he hadn’t bothered to wear his usual black hood tonight. His smooth face clashed with the costume almost as much as his stature did.

No man who looks like that has any right to sound so hot, Eris thought.

She followed her targets closely along Lord Street, only barely bothering to hide. In theory, she was in plain view most of the time, but… it was relatively easy for her to steal things, even from Tinkers. Eris adjusted her crimson imperceptibility cloak slightly and turned her attention back to Potence and his companion.

‘Why’?” Shear repeated after Potence. The blonde, sharp-jawed woman, wearing suspenders and a toolbelt full of scissors, was quite average in height. She was clearly in her late 30’s, but next to Potence’s tall form, she looked like a child. Whenever Eris had seen her without Potence around, Shear had only sounded like a petulant ten-year-old. “Ascendant put me in charge of this mission, that’s why. You do as I say. Give me the rope.”

“The rope,” Potence stressed, “is mine.” He kept his voice cool and firm, but the grip on his rope tightened.

“What’s gotten into you today, Po? Just give me the damn rope!”

“No. Just tell me what to use it on and I will, but you’re not getting my rope.”

Shear gave Potence a considering look, then groaned. Apparently she hadn’t actually considered what she would do with the rope, which didn’t surprise Eris at all.

Eris blinked, and suddenly Potence was backed up against the wall. Directed towards his throat were three floating pairs of scissors, and a fourth pair hovered uncomfortably close to his crotch.

“It seems I didn’t make myself clear enough, Potence,” Shear said sweetly through a strained smile, “I want that rope.”

“It’s–” Potence leaned his head back to put his throat a little farther from the scissors, but the scissors followed. “It’s just a rope, when I’m not using my power. Completely worthless. I’ve got plenty you can have back at the base.” The way his hand still clutched the rope told Eris he would rather get snipped by the lowest pair of scissors than give up the rope right now.

Excellent.

“I don’t care about your other shitty ropes,” Shear snarled, “I want that one. And you’re going to give it to me now or I will cut it from your cold dead fingers!”

“You always did like fingers,” Potence murmured. “Alright, fine, you can have it.”

That caught Eris off-guard. Was he really giving up the tattered old rope that easily? Was the effect of her power wearing off already?

A few minutes ago, Eris had snuck up behind Potence and touched the rope hanging from his waist. It had been brief – she couldn’t afford to hold on to it long, because the cloak that hid her from his and Shear’s perceptions was not perfect – but it had been enough to imbue the rope with the essence of desirability that flowed through her veins. For a short time, anyone who was aware of the rope would want it, crave it, need it.

Which was why Potence, while appearing to give the rope to Shear, used his power of controlling ropes to turn the tables on her. One end of the rope whacked the scissors out of the air in one fell swoop, while the rest threw itself onto Shear, knocking her down and tying her up.

“Fuck y–!” Shear’s cursing of her supposed teammate was cut off as he telekinetically gagged her with the rope she so desired.

The scissors that had been knocked down by the rope were flying again, and more pairs joined them from her tool belt. They started snipping in Potence’s general direction. Some were knocked away by the rope, but most got past it and attacked Potence’s skin and costume.

None of the scissors tried to free Shear herself from her compromised position, hogtied on the ground. Normally, the power to control scissors and shears would have a very distinct advantage over the power to control ropes, but Shear couldn’t very well destroy the rope she was fighting to keep, could she? And even as she inflicted scratch upon scratch on her teammate, and even almost blinded him with a pair of scissors aimed at the eyes, the rope coiled around her neck.

Eris grinned. This was exactly why she had chosen the rope as the thing to enchant, and it was working perfectly.

Potence continued fending off scissors with his own body as the rope slowly pulled a furious Shear in the direction of the nearest lamp post. It was a low post with a ninety degree bend.

Eris knew what would happen next. She looked away just in time to hear the clatter of scissors falling limp onto the asphalt. The string of curses and cutting words from Shear had stopped for good.

Silence reigned for a few long moments.

“Thank you, Eris,” Potence suddenly said, startling Eris. He knew she was there? “I’ve been looking for an excuse to do that for years.”

Eris turned to look at Potence. The man was calmly coiling up his rope, starting from the end that didn’t have a corpse hanging from it. He did it by hand instead of with his power, giving him ample time to talk.

But if he knew she was there, why hadn’t he attacked her yet?

He looked straight at her, confirming her suspicions. He seemed almost unaware of the bleeding cuts that covered every inch of his face. Maybe it would fit his executioner aesthetic better now.

“Not saying anything, huh? Right, you probably think I’m bluffing to get you to reveal yourself, don’t you.”

The thought hadn’t crossed her mind, but seemed obvious in retrospect.

“Funny thing about that cloak you’re wearing,” Potence went on, looking back down at the rope he was spooling, “is that being hard to notice doesn’t work if someone already knows you’re there. I’ve been able to see you since the moment I realized why I was feeling more possessive of this old rope than usual.” As he spoke, he finally used his power on the rope, remotely untying the noose. Shear fell unceremoniously to the ground, and Potence looked at the corpse dispassionately. “I don’t think she realized.”

“If you knew I was here, why–” Eris began, but Potence cut her off.

“I told you,” he said matter-of-factly. “I don’t like you coming in and making us all fight each other over old pony dolls or whatever, but Shear was a scissor in my side for years. Might as well play along and have someone to blame for me finally killing her.”

Sickening. But then, she couldn’t claim innocence herself – this had gone more or less the way she had hoped.

“Are you going to… attack me?” Eris asked hesitantly. She wasn’t sure why she hadn’t turned tail yet, though she had a nasty feeling she wouldn’t get away until Potence allowed it.

Potence began dragging Shear’s corpse into an alleyway. Why wasn’t he using his rope like he had done while she was still alive? “Do you want me to?”

“No.”

“Then I don’t care to. I like you, lady, even if you do keep killing my friends. You got spunk. Could use someone like you in the Awakened.”

Eris was unable to keep the disgust out of her voice. “Like I’d ever join you bastards.”

“Why didn’t you just shoot us?” Potence asked.

Eris wondered if his proficiency in breaking necks extended to giving her conversational whiplash. “What?”

“The cloak. If you’d used it with a gun, you could have killed both of us before we knew what was happening.”

Eris didn’t know what to say. Why hadn’t she brought a gun?

“You don’t like to take the easy way out, do you?” Potence continued without giving her time to answer, “I saw your expression while you watched the fight. You find some sort of perverse joy in it, right? Twisting people’s minds and causing strife, watching your enemies tear themselves apart from the inside? You’re not coming after us to end the Awakened, really. You just want some fun.”

No. No, that wasn’t it. The Awakened were a pest that had to be eradicated, and she had to do it. For the sake of everyone they might hurt, and for the sake of everyone they already had.

So why had she taken the difficult approach to killing one when she could easily have killed two?

“I…”

Why had she enjoyed every moment of the deadly fight she had caused, like it was some kind of show?

“Or maybe,” Potence smiled at her. It looked far too genuine. “It’s the mundane way you don’t like? Your power sets you above the sheep, Eris. You know that, and so you use your power even when mundane tools seem more effective.”

“I am not above–” Eris began, anger welling up. She knew what he was doing now.

“We both are,” Potence cut her off, “and there’s no point in denying it. We are the gods of this world, and we deserve to rule!”

“Gods? The Awakened are not gods. If anything, you’re demons!”

“Gods, demons, what’s the difference? They’re still more powerful than everyone else. And so are you. Hell, which one of us actually named herself after a goddess?”

“She’s relevant to my power!” Eris shouted up at Potence’s smug face. Realizing she was a lot closer to his chest than she had been a few moments ago, she stepped back, blushing slightly. Arguing with people who were taller than her – in other words, most people – made her feel like a child, and Potence was half again her height.

“That’s right,” Potence said, unfazed, “You have the power of a goddess.”

“That’s not what I said,” Eris grumbled. “I’m no better than everyone else, and neither are you. That’s why I’m doing this. To help those who can’t help themselves–”

“Because they’re weak and inferior.”

“–and stop assholes like you from preying on them.”

Potence made an expression of mock offense. It looked odd on his face. “Preying? Oh, but you have it all backwards!”

Eris sighed. Here came the spiel.

“If anyone’s preying on people, it’s you. We do what we do to help people! There are many of our kind – my kind, your kind – out there who haven’t opened their eyes to their true power yet, living blind among the sheep. So we travel around and help them wake up. Is that so bad?”

“It is when ‘waking people up’ means subjecting large crowds to traumas and horrors, and killing everyone who doesn’t get powers!”

“We only do that last thing a few times a month,” Potence said casually. Eris couldn’t tell whether or not he meant it as a joke until he added, “Killing loved ones is a good way to wake up a couple more people. What’s a few animals sacrificed in exchange for a new god seeing the truth of what they are?”

Eris took a few more steps backwards and examined the tall figure. Looking at him almost made her want to barf, and it had nothing to do with his appearance.

“Do… you even realize? How horrible you are?” Eris asked in a low voice. She was surprised to realize that her tone held more wonder than disgust.

“You really should think about it,” he said calmly, ignoring her question. “We could use someone like you on our side, and not just because you’d stop killing us. Despite everything, I’m sure Ascendant would be okay with you joining when you’ve seen the light.”

“Fuck you.”

“Fuck you too,” he replied. There was a strange tone of fondness in it. “Now,” he picked up a bloody pair of scissors from the ground and held it up for her to see, “I’d better go report your latest kill to Ascendant. Don’t follow me, okay?”

Eris said nothing. She simply stood there as Potence wandered off into the alleyway, past Shear’s barely hidden corpse. It didn’t seem like he cared whether or not it would be found.

The alleyway was a short dead end from either side, a small pathway between buildings that had since been cut in half by a brick wall a little taller than Potence himself. Potence stopped in front of the wall, and turned back to her with a smile. “Oh, and Eris?”

All she could say was, “Yes?”

“You should probably ditch that cloak somewhere. I don’t know how much longer I can keep Minus from remotely detonating it.”

He had the gall to give her a little wave before using his rope to jump the wall and disappear into the night.

Shit.

Why the everloving fuck was her heart beating like that?


Commentary

Hope you liked it! Alright, bullet point time:

  • Let’s leave Eris for last.
  • I’m not sure about setting this scene in Brockton Bay. At least Lord Street is a generic enough name that I can believably pass it off as a different city’s Lord Street if I need to, but that was not the intention. A straight retcon might be better.
  • I really didn’t expect to like Potence as much as I do.
  • Potence’s core visual design principle was that he’s a jarring presence who doesn’t look like what he is: a cool, confident bastard.
  • I think, to some extent, his personality and voice was inspired by the way some of the male Forsaken sound in the Wheel of Time audiobooks, which means my headcanon voice actor for him is Michael Kramer.
  • Potence’s name is the French word for gallows, though he pronounces it as though it were English.
  • There’s not much to say about Shear, really. She was kind of a basic evil bitch, who apparently was irritating enough for Potence to be okay with getting rid of her despite the reduced cape firepower for his group. She liked to cut off fingers, though, so that’s a thing.
  • I say “group” rather than “team” because the Ascended are numerous. They’re closer to a gang than a team, but too organized for that term. I’d say they’re about as big as Empire 88’s cape population was early in the story, maybe.
  • The Ascended, while the name and characters in it are new, are the oldest original concept here. Ever since I learned about trigger events in Arc 4, I’ve been headcanoning the existence of at least one group with their point of view and agenda in the world of Worm. In short, they’re parahuman supremacists who believe that those with the potential to trigger should, and thus they terrorize civilians in the hopes of causing trigger events.
  • Ascendant is the leader of the Ascended. That’s pretty much all I know about him so far, besides the obvious things the position implies.
  • The imperceptibility cloak was something I gave Eris because I needed her to be close but unnoticed.
  • With it came the Ascended Tinker she stole it from, Minus. At the beginning, his specialty was in perception-altering tech, but as I continued writing, I came up with an idea that makes the cloak way less of a convenient thing for Eris in particular to come across. I mean, her power and the cloak complement each other really well.
  • I think I’m going to hold off on elaborating further on Minus’ actual specialty – I’d like to hear your guesses!
  • (Y’know, the ones that are worded in such a way that they neither imply there are nor that there aren’t similar Tinkers in Worm.)
  • This ficlet doesn’t have a single Homestuck reference in it, yet it still spontaneously generated Homestuckish elements by the end? Sheesh.
  • It does, however, contain an MLP reference, but at least it’s one that is specifically related to Eris and why she exists.
  • Alright, let’s talk about Eris.
  • So far, Eris is developing into a character who means well, but has a ruthless side she’s afraid of indulging. If Tattletale were up against her, she might say something similar to Potence’s first theory of why Eris does what she does.
  • You may notice that this description of Eris sounds a lot like a fusion of Taylor and Amy, and maybe even a bit of Lisa. As much as that was unplanned, I am aggressively unsurprised that she’s developing in a direction like that, mixing traits from some of my favorite characters in the source material. One of the other OCs I’ve done ficlets like this to develop, the sky-born(e) unicorn Enterprise, similarly ended up feeling somewhat like a mix of Starlight Glimmer (Best Pony) and Scootaloo (Best Crusader – I wouldn’t call her a fave overall but definitely have feels about her flying situation, and something similar to that is a major part of Enterprise’s character).
  • That said, I feel like this direction also works well as a compromise between basing her on the goddess she’s named after and giving her characterization I actually like.
  • One fun thing about writing these ficlets is that spontaneous side comments can turn into important character traits and relations. With Enterprise, a single parenthetical aside about her confiding to the moon at night as a filly led to one of my favorite ficlets I’ve written about her, exploring her really complicated feelings about Princess Luna after discovering that the Mare in the Moon had wings.
  • For an example on this end, I realized while thinking about what to write in this commentary that the bit about Eris feeling like a child when arguing with tall people might have something to do with her childhood, and thus it provides an in for me to actually develop something on that front.

So yeah, this was fun to do. I hope to do more of these, especially if you guys like it too. 🙂

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