Writing the beginnings of stories is my favorite part of writing stories, which is why I've never finished one. So don't expect this one to go anywhere, but I figured I'd share
He hated it, running down the side of his head and across his jaw bone. By all accounts, it was an awesome scar. The kind of scar that could earn a guy a reputation for the rest of his life. A wall to hide behind, the basis of excellent personal image, a well for future nicknames, an eternal conversation piece.
One of the local elders, Criden, had based his entire election campaign on the fact that he'd lost half of his body weight to raiders in the battle of Edelroy Island. Jeff didn't believe this, since Criden's head had to have been 50% of his body weight, even before he lost both of his arms and one of his legs at Edelroy. It's not that Jeff wanted to make fun of a cripple, but Criden was hardly worse off after the battle. Though he certainly didn't get around on his own, he had more wives, more slaves and more children to take care of him than anyone else in Cyphon. The loss of limbs had been good to him.
If it was on any face other than his own, he would have been jealous of his scar. But there it was, as he stared into the polished beaten bronze of his father's shield, just a blob of pink tissue that would never go away, where his beard would never grow, where new eyes would always spend a half a second before taking in the rest of him. He would never be just Jeffery, he'd always be "the guy with the scar."
He wanted to make up a fake awesome story to go along with it. About how a Djagon snatched him from the street while he was playing when he was a kid, or raiders sliced his face while he tried to protect his now-dead mother.
Unfortunately, his mother hadn't been killed by raiders. And, indeed, she was very much alive and loved telling the story of how he had fallen a whopping five feet out of a tree and snagged his head on the way down. He was six at the time, and he didn't remember it.
A five-foot fall and an eternity of "how did you get that scar?"
Now, clearly, Jeff didn't actually wish Raiders had killed his mom, his mom was great. But if only they could have had a little chat about his image.
See, Jeff had this idea that no one is anyone but the person who people thought that they were. Criden was the hero of Edelroy Island, even though no one really knew how hard he fought, he managed to be the guy who had the worst injuries without dying. That one fact defined everything about Criden's life afterward.
Criden's alarming physical image said "bravest man in Cyphon" while Jeff's said "can't even climb a tree without bashing his own head open." Which is why Jeff really had to have a talk with his mom about the way she was defining him in the hearts and heads of their people. Someday Jeff was going to inherit his father's legacy, which was not insignificant. Criden might get to yammer on from his seat in the Senate, but Jeff was, someday, going to have to attempt to control this brooding pile of disorganized humanity. As far as Jeff could tell, he was being well prepared for it in all respects but that of his reputation.
Jeff read, Jeff studied, Jeff Practiced, Jeff fought. His father had selected for him the finest teachers within two days flight for him. And Jeff did it all well, or at least, well enough. He might occasionally lose the grip on his sword and watch lamely as it spun wildly across the air, narrowly missing his teacher's most precious cargo, but for the most part he was strong in arm and even more so in mind.
The strange thing about image is, it doesn't matter how brave, strong or wise you are if half of your body hasn't been eaten by a hideous beast. OK, maybe the Djagon's weren't hideous, but there's no doubt that they'd never let Criden's flesh go to waste. They might not, like, love the taste of human flesh or anything, but if it's fresh, and squishy and separated from any potentially pointy, stabby bits, a Djagon is going to eat it.
Anyhow, there were stronger, braver, more ambitious and wiser men all across Cyphon that had less power and notoriety than Criden. But Criden's body said more about him than words or actions ever could. He'd come as close to dying at the hands of the Djagon protecting our people and our property as a guy could get. So despite the fact that he'd never been a good fighter or a good thinker, he was loved. How could you argue with that?
Which all comes back to why Jeff hated his scar. It sat there on his face, the first image in the heads when people thought of him and it did not save "brave" or "hard" or "powerful" or even "reckless" it said "clumsy." And Jeff could not deny, clumsy was among his attributes. But in Cyphon, where surnames are given by the community, Jeff was terribly close to becoming "Jeffery the Blunderous."
And as he stared at himself in the yellow beaten metal, it seemed as if that surname had already been tattooed down the side of his face. How was he going to lead these people with his mom breathing this image to life with her stories. It's not that the stories weren't true, of course. Jeff had broken dozens of his own bones (not to mention a few belonging to other children) in his admittedly blunderous youth.
How will he lead if he's a joke? How will he grow into a surname more befitting a leader? When will he be enough of a man to define his own self?
Funny thing is, as Jeff stares and pines and broods and plots and squirms, all I can think is how much none of it is going to matter in a week's time.