Ficlet: “Wounded Trees”

It’s Eris time again!

During this last month and a half, I’ve been getting back into fic writing, specifically MLP fanfics, so now I decided it was time to get back to my Worm writings for a moment. Two and a half months ago, after the first Eris ficlet, I wrote 600-ish words of this follow-up, then kind of left it hanging (Potence would be proud) until now.

It’s a fair bit shorter than H_ngm_n was, but I’m pleased with it. I hope you enjoy it too!


Wounded Trees

A frustrated and confused Eris stormed into the relatively spacious camping van that had been her home for the last year or so.

Not even stopping to shake the water off her shoes – it hadn’t rained, but she still couldn’t seem to find a dry spot in Brockton Bay – she quickly grabbed her painting brushes from beside the simple sink, her paints from the cupboard, and her canvas from underneath the lounge seats. She awkwardly set the canvas up between the seats, its tripod legs barely fitting between them even in a van on the spacious end of the scale. Normally she would do this outside, but it was the middle of the night and she really just wanted to get started.

She felt calmer the moment the first black-tipped brush hit the canvas. She even laughed, almost, when she pictured someone peeking in through the camping van’s door and seeing a short woman in full cape getup – a cheap but effective leather costume covered by an ornate golden dress and completed by a vaguely apple-shaped face mask – standing in-between camping van furniture at three in the morning, beating the devil out of a paintbrush.

At least she had ditched the cloak. How had she not realized Minus would put something in the cloak that would allow him track or remotely destroy it? Just because she couldn’t see any explosives or trackers in the cloth didn’t mean a skilled Tinker couldn’t put them there. It was downright embarrassing that she had needed Potence to–

No. She loosened her grip on the paintbrush in her hand, to avoid snapping it in half. No thinking about him right now.

Minus was irritating enough for the two of them. The man, if she could call him that yet, was a very powerful Tinker who kept showing up with equipment that was effective enough to practically have powers of its own, and it was very versatile. Much of her frustration with him stemmed from the fact that she still couldn’t figure out what his specialty was. Maybe if she could put that together, he wouldn’t give her such a hard time in combat anymore.

Maybe she should’ve kept the glowing crystal that had hung by the clasp of the cloak. That was the only common thread she had noticed in all of Minus’ equipment – they all had such a crystal in them somewhere, seemingly perpetually glowing. But she had been in a hurry, so it was lying with the rest of the cloak in a storm drain along what the locals called the Boardwalk.

It wasn’t much of a Boardwalk, these days, but she supposed old naming habits stuck. And she couldn’t fault any of them for clinging to old normalcy.

Argh. What were the Ascended even doing in this shithole city? Normally they would seek out large crowds that could be triggered. But over the last few months, Brockton Bay had in short order been hit by large-scale tinkertech terrorism, gang wars, a rampaging white supremacist who melted buildings, Leviathan, a local druggie gang that had grown big and plagued civilians and heroes alike, and the Slaughterhouse Nine. Surely most people here with the potential to have trigger events had already had them, right?

As her brush mixed two colors into a third, her mind uncaring as to which colors they were, frustration and confusion flowed into each other, feeding each other and creating a third emotion she couldn’t name, a fact which only made her more… whatever that emotion was. Her brush hit the canvas wherever it felt like it belonged while she tried to figure out where everything else in her life belonged.

It wasn’t until she began to feel too exhausted to stay angry that she even realized what she was painting.

Staring back at her was the face of a man, a smooth man whose long, blond hair framed a face that had once been the only thing about him that matched his personality. Smooth and horrible, pretty on the surface but hiding something awful beneath.

Now, the pretty-boy face on the canvas was scarred almost beyond recognition. The painted scars were still open, but not bleeding – rather, they were passively showing the horrible flesh below the surface, like cracks in the illusion.

She hated the fact that he looked better like that. She had never been one to go for the pretty boys, but surely the horrible scars should be all the more reason to turn away? Yet she couldn’t deny that the man staring back at her was attractive in a way he had never been before, and that scared her.

If this was how she looked at his open wounds, what might she find under her own skin?

She should burn this painting, but she was too exhausted to do anything but sit down and think.

A beep from her phone drew her out of her stupor. A new message from the Tracker.

Asc on move, sw, 3 cars. Gd job w Shear.

She shivered. It was always unnerving to be reminded of how much the Tracker could tell about her activities. But that was why she employed their services in the first place. The mysterious cape’s power to keep track of the locations of anybody in the world was invaluable for her pursuit of the Ascended. It took a chunk out of her already strained budget, but without the Tracker, the bastards would gain a lead.

Before she could follow them in her van, she had to get out of her costume. But while it was a tired Lilah Georgiou Kellis who sat down behind the wheel, it would be a determined Eris who drove the van out of Brockton Bay.


Commentary

  • The cut-off point between early June and mid-August is the paragraph break before “As her brush mixed two colors into a third”.
  • Of course I couldn’t show Eris painting without making at least one Bob Ross reference.
  • It’s a testament to how good of a painter Lilah is that she was able to make a good-looking painting of Potence while so distracted by her thoughts that she didn’t even realize she was painting him.
  • Alternate title: “Fauskr”. It’s an Old Norse word meaning “rotten tree”.
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