Sins of the Father


eileen_icon.gif owain_icon.gif

Scene Title Sins of the Father
Synopsis Owain learns the truth.
Date May 25, 2018

Park Slope

The world on the edge of Park Slope is quiet. Peaceful, even, with the sounds of nature settling in for the night echoing through the streets and alleys near its boundaries. It makes for a very pleasant walk home in the evenings. Sure, one never knows what dangers could be lurking within, but it’s a worthy risk to take — especially when other routes from Sheepshead Bay to Bay Ridge are a little bit less scenic and a little bit more dangerous.

At least on this route, one can dive into the wilds and hope to escape any dangers on the streets — or one can hope.

After a long day of classwork, the son of Griffin Mihangle is finally slogging his way home. Granted, his day started closer to noon, but he’s still been at the books for a good seven hours or so. The tall young man carries his backpack, filled with books, over his left shoulder, his thumb looped in the shoulder strap for added stability. In his right hand, he carries two perfectly rounded copper balls, which he fidgets with not unlike one would play with Baoding balls, but without the charming jingle.

Boots crunch on the deteriorated pavement as he walks, intermittently going between looking down at the copper balls in his hand and the road ahead. Earbuds in his ears play low-volume music, just to make the walk home more interesting — though it’s certainly kept at a low enough volume that he’s (mostly) aware of his surroundings.

The music covers the sound of wingbeats and the low, mournful call of a crow as it soars overhead. The solitary shadow is soon joined by another, and then another, until it’s impossible for the youth to ignore the birds swarming in the air above his head.

When he stops to look, they begin to settle: on sagging telephone wires and the totem-like poles they’re attached to, crowding nearby fire escapes and squat stone stoops. Others find footholds in the trees or on the tops of chain-link fences. A restless energy roils in the flock, feathers rustling and wings shifting, smaller animals jostling with the larger ones for a better position from which to see.

But they do not attack.

Instead, he hears a voice say: Hello, Owain.

It comes from everywhere and nowhere all at once.

Brown eyes, inherited from his mother instead of his father, turn up as the crows make their presence known. He slows to a stop as suddenly, he’s got an entire flock of the birds, hanging out with him. This isn’t good — is it?

The young man reaches up, pulling the earbuds from his ears with his left hand, copper balls still held steady in his right. As he pockets the music devices, his eyes suddenly flash into a mirror-like chrome tint, obscuring those eyes he got from the mother he never met.

Probably a good idea, considering the voice that he hears, mirror eyes widening slightly. He goes completely still, his ability flowing around the two ball bearings that he almost always has in hand.

“Who…” He clears his throat. “Who’s there?”

Don’t you recognize me? asks the voice, which sounds prim, female, British. Familiar, too, although not something Owain can assign a name to.

One of the crows glides closer and lands on a forgotten parking sign only a few feet away. Glittering black eyes regard him with guarded curiosity, and although birds are incapable of smiling, Owain imagines this one would if it could.

That’s all right. I don’t expect you to remember me. You were so small.

The young metallokinetic blinks — the metallic shine over his eyes rather nicely conceals the fact that his gaze is darting about, searching for a possible source to the voice. That voice that sounds so familiar but so distant.

His gaze lands on the closest bird, a frown forming over his features. “I…” He glances about once, before turning back to Parking Sign Bird, squinting as he tries to remember. “No, I don’t recognize you…”

His hand returns to the backpack, one of the copper zippers slowly inching its way down of its own accord, leaving the pocket it once sealed hanging open.

The crow tilts its head, attention shifting from the teen to the zipper as it tick-tick-ticks along its track. That’s interesting.

I knew your father, the voice says. We fought together for the Ferrymen, a very long time ago.

The crows on the periphery of the circle surrounding Owain — because it is a circle — erupt into loud, raucous caws like screaming laughter. It’s echoed in the voice’s low tone, thick with mirth. My condolences, by the way.

Well that’s something. While Owain doesn’t relax, some of the tension drains from his frame. Those eyes still stay silver, and the zipper remains open. “You knew my dad,” he echoes, a melancholy tone tinging those words. It’s been nearly three years, but the way Griffin went out still sits a bit raw with him — it called to question a lot of Owain’s beliefs about his father. It was just so…uncharacteristic.

“Thanks,” is the reply, the young man frowning, breaking his attention from the closest crow to sweep his gaze around the circle of birds. His dad showed him that Hitchcock movie when he was twelve, and the current situation brings to mind a baser fear of being surrounded by things that could, in theory, peck and claw you to death.

He keeps his cool, though, looking back to the bird on the parking sign. It’s easier to look at one than all of them. “It was rough.”

My whole life, the voice says, I grew up thinking that my father walked out on our family. It wasn’t until years later that I discovered the truth, which was so much worse— but it set me free.

The crow lifts off the parking sign and takes that last leap, closing this distance between itself and Owain in two quick thrusts of its wings. It alights on his shoulder, careful not to clutch at his skin or clothes in a way that might pinch skin or cause him any discomfort.

The bird is simply a weight. That’s all.

I want you to be free, Owain. He owes you that much.

The crow leans in, and he feels its beak tracing along the edge of his ear, as if about to whisper something to him. Let me show you.

A gentle nip, and then—

Owain is somewhere else entirely.

It’s snowing. The battlements of Pollepel Island are blanketed in white. He can see through the frosted windows two shapes circling one another in the castle’s darkened hallway. One is large, the other small, and when he looks closer he recognizes his father’s tall, lanky silhouette. The other shape belongs to a woman with a tangle of dark hair and wild eyes, wearing only a sheer silk slip.

Griffin Mihangle rotates a hunting knife in his hand. The stranger hefts what looks like a sword with a grip in the shape of a snarling wolf’s head.

Abruptly, metal cracks against metal. It happens so fast that Owain has difficulty tracking their movements, which are snake-quick and as precise as one strikes.

The night Pollepel Island fell, the voice tells Owain, your father betrayed the people he’d sworn to protect. Colonel Heller offered him a settlement in exchange for his loyalty, and it’s because of him so many innocent lives were lost.

The woman makes a mistake. Or maybe it’s intentional. Owain can’t be sure, but she gets too cocky, too close, and his father pulls her into him, driving his knife into her breast at the same time her swordpoint slides under his arm and finds his lungs.

Your father was a murderer, says the voice, who killed his own people in cold blood.

And if Owain had any doubt about his father’s intentions, they’re swept away in the explosion of glass as Griffin hurls the woman out the window and down to the courtyard below, where her body breaks on the stone and stains the snow red.

He blinks, once, and he’s back in the Safe Zone, crow delicately preening its feathers at his ear.

Owain can’t help but flinch as the crow lands on his shoulder, turning to peer at it out of the corner of his eye. He doesn’t speak yet, confusion scrunching his features up slightly when she speaks of the story about her own father.

His features briefly go blank as the bird takes him into the memory, silver eyes squinting at the sudden change of scenery — that familiar castle that he went to after listening to his Aunt Marjorie, the woman who raised him during his formative years, being murder by Colonel Heller.

That name…it brings back horrific sounds, terror as he heard the gunshots. Hiding in the secret compartment she made for him in his closet. Listening to that man introduce himself, talk to her about his father…and then murder her in cold blood. And then, being carried out of his home under a blanket, never to see that woman again.

As he watches the scene unfold, his knuckles turn white, hand clenching the copper ball bearings tightly. His eyes fade back to the brown, his grasp on his ability forgotten as he watches his father, killing a woman. That wound…the collapsed lung that he fought to heal from when they left…he never spoke of it.

The little boy always assumed he got it fighting the bad people on his way back to him and Nadira and Jori, fighting his way back so he could save them from the terror of New York City. The little boy never asked questions, he only ever assumed the best of his father.

It’s too good. It’s too perfect. The sword enters exactly where that painful scar was, the scar that, combined with his father’s chain smoking, made it impossible to fully kill the cancer. It’s too correct to be a fabrication.

He doesn’t want it to be the truth, but it’s there, glaring right at him.

He flinches as he watches the scene before him, the woman crashing out of the window. And then, as the scene disappears, he stands there, silent, no longer flinching away from the bird on his shoulder.

Tears somehow claw their way out of his eyes, dripping down his cheeks and sliding down his leather jacket in droplets. “This…you’re not lying,” he responds, not so much asking a question as confirming what he knows to be true.

All parents eventually disappoint their children, the voice murmurs, some more than others.

One by one, the crows begin to disperse, abandoning their perches for the sky, and the gaps between buildings, vanishing into the night with a flutter of inky black wings. Some pair off. Others are swallowed alone. They leave behind nothing, no sign that the flock was ever there, not even a solitary feather lost on the pavement.

Eventually, only the crow perched on Owain’s shoulder remains, and he feels its weight shift as it prepares to leave him, too.

Your father’s sins are not yours to bear, it says, but you can still atone for them, if that’s what you want to do.

Brown eyes, eyes that he’s thankful didn’t come from his father, watch, lids fluttering, as the birds slowly filter away. The tears still come as he slowly comes to grip with what he was just shown. A single sniff, and he turns his gaze to the bird.

“How do I atone for that?” He swallows. “He…did he start the war?” He remembers the fall of Pollepel, seeing the news coverage at gas stations along the way to Devil’s Lake, eating shitty gas station food and not quite understanding what was going on. But that was always kind of the shifting point, the straw that broke the camel’s back.

It’s difficult, having your entire world view shattered. For so long, Owain has idolized his father, viewed him as the tortured war hero. He always thought that the cancer was a horrible end, anticlimactic for such a wonderful man to suffer such a pitiful whimper of a death. But now…his father didn’t even suffer his karmic rewards for betraying his own kind — he offed himself, took the coward’s way out.

After a moment, Owain turns on his heel, not even waiting for the bird to leave his shoulder — it can come along with, for all he cares, as he turns Northwards. Did Nadira know? Did she cooperate in all of this? That question will have to remain unanswered, for now.

Owain won’t be going back home tonight.

As he turns to go, the crow springs from his shoulder and spirals up, up, up in a slow but deliberate ascent.

How to atone?

That’s easy, says the voice, the bird, the dead woman, Eileen Ruskin. The last thing Owain sees is a flash of moonlight reflected off its back, and it’s gone, leaving him with just a suggestion:

Tell the truth.

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