My love for the character of Suraya Hawthorne grows with every reddit post or comment I see making fun of her infamous Clan Engram speech.
I wrote this little in-character story as a kind of meta jab at all the complaints about how her dialogue never changes. But how often do people really listen to what the NPCs say to you, anyway? The Drifter adds his perspective.
A Clandestine Meeting
“Hey,” said the Drifter, drawing something from the breast of his robes, “this doesn’t happen to belong to you… does it?”
Suraya Hawthorne froze on the top step, gripping the railing. She checked over her shoulder. There was no one else the Drifter could have been talking to. She was suddenly, as it happened when she was around Guardians sometimes, acutely aware that she had nothing to defend herself with.
But the Drifter’s hand cannon was tucked away at his waist, and what he actually withdrew surprised her far more than if he’d pulled a weapon on her. It was a journal. Thick paper stitched together with red thread, and a ribbon bookmark on the spine. The cover was leather, pressed with a simple little design of a falcon in flight.
“Oh! …You found it.”
Once a pretty gift from Marc and Dev, she’d only recently managed to get some use out of the journal—until it had gone missing from her perch. She assumed she’d just misplaced it, maybe on her way to go meet up with Amanda for lunch. Now, seeing it in the Drifter’s hands, she couldn’t help but wonder if he’d been the one to take it.
She bustled back down to the landing between the Annex and the Bazaar. The Drifter made no effort to meet her even part of the way. He held the little book out to her, that creepy smile not touching his lightless eyes. As she grabbed for it, he jerked it, every so slightly, out of reach.
“I had a look over what was inside,” he said. “Hope you don’t mind.”
Hawthorne grit her teeth. Of course you did, creep. She snatched it out of his hand, feeling the heat rise on the back of her neck. The Drifter just chuckled.
“Relax, kid! Just curious, that’s all. I take it you’re not looking for any feedback?”
Hawthorne scoffed. “Got no shortage of that. Anyway, thanks again.”
“That why you wrote what you did, huh?”
Hawthorne blinked. Was the Drifter… making conversation with her?
“Well, I figure I’ve been making the same pitch for the past two years or so.” God, had it really been that long? “Maybe it’s time for something new.”
“Heh. Tryin’ to please the masses, huh? New focus for clan recruitment? Cute.” He gave her a condescending little nod. “But take it from me—all that effort? Ain’t worth it.”
Hawthorne thinned her eyes.
“These Guardians,” he went on, “running around invincible, wielding the powers of gods… You think they give a damn about what you have to say?”
Hawthorne crossed her arms, suddenly defensive. “All I’ve heard are complaints that they’re tired of hearing the same thing from me. They wouldn’t be saying that if they didn’t care.”
Drifter waved her words away with a scowl. “I’m not talking about that. I mean, you’ve got all these platitudes about hope and symbols,” he said. “You think they listen to that shit? I mean, really listen. You think they hear you—like you hear me, right now?” He shook his head. “They don’t care. They take your accolades, and your rewards—but they don’t care what you’re saying to them. They don’t listen. Bank those motes, Guardian! Incoming hostiles at the Trees!” Hawthorne started as his voice took a sudden upward turn. He mimed digging something out of his ear with his pinky finger. “Ol’ Drifter’s coming in loud and clear, right? Portal’s up! Go look ‘em in the eyes! You’re being invaded! Better find them before they find you!” He took a step closer, and Hawthorne took one back, stumbling painfully against the steps. “You’re nearly there! Fill the bank! Get that Primeval up! Get those motes to the bank! It’s time for a Primeval!” He was screaming now, his eyes glittering as his smile turned into a snarl. “BANK THOSE MOTES! YOU CAN SUMMON A PRIMEVAL! YOU WANNA WIN?! THAT’S HOW!”
His face was inches from hers. Hawthorne held the journal between them like a shield. Drifter’s eyes landed on it, and he seemed to settle, all at once, patting it reassuringly to her chest. He fondly swiped the shoulders of her poncho, dusting her off. She might have been reassured—if it weren’t for Drifter’s steady, low chuckle under his breath.
“You’re crazy,” Hawthorne breathed, before she could stop herself.
The Drifter shrugged. “Maybe you should tell someone. See who listens.” He started back toward the Annex, adopting his usual swagger. He tapped a finger to the side of his head. “Somethin’ to think about, anyway.”
Back up on her perch, Suraya Hawthorne flipped through the untidy scrawl in her journal. Maybe she should just get on comms with Devrim. See if he could spare her some peace of mind. Tell her it was all worth it. But on the other hand—she wasn’t about to allow herself to be rattled by the Drifter, was she?
Louis perked up. Someone—a Guardian—hurried up. One who had a handful of packages waiting for them. Hawthorne handed them off. She’d never been good at forcing a smile, but it dropped from her face as the Guardian looked through what they’d gotten and let out a long, disappointed sigh.
The Guardian was already walking away.
Hawthorne’s tone was lifeless. “You just never quit, do you?