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HEART OF STONE:
The Story of the Hero Known as The Human Mountain
by Theodore Foss




 PART ONE:

 UPHEAVAL




                    Foreword

Like so many Heroes before him, The Human Mountain began his career
reluctantly, a pawn in a war centuries old, the victim of forces far beyond
his control.  Like a novice swimmer, he was thrown into the deep end of the
battle between Good and Evil.

Until his eighteenth birthday, Vic Grant knew nothing of Paragon City, save
its reputation as the city of Heroes and world shaking events like the Rikti
Invasion.  He knew nothing of the vile descendants of fabled Mu, diabolical
sorcerers who called themselves the Circle of Thorns, manipulators of arcane
power, plotters of the downfall and enslavement of the human race.  And he
certainly did not know of their plans to murder him.

After his motorcycle was struck and his month-long recuperation in a
hospital bed was over, Vic wondered daily if his life would return to
normal, but in his heart he knew it would not.  How could it?  His left hip
and several bones in his legs and arms were shattered by the “accident”.  He
was out of the hospital, yes, but he was still confined to a special bed in
his parents’ home for 20 hours a day.  He didn’t have to stay in bed, but
his attempts to rise and move around were met with such pain he was reduced
to only minutes of standing per hour.  Walking was nearly impossible.

What happened to Vic Grant on that day was tragic, but, as he would later
discover, unavoidable.  Vic would ask himself many times over what would
have happened had he not gone to that party.  Would he have been able to
avoid the violent event that ended his promising football career?  Would he
have escaped all the pain, loneliness and misery of being seen as a
horrifying monster conjured from the depths of human fear?  Would he have
known the stomach-turning paranoia of being hunted like an animal?  Would he
have been able to have a normal life?  And he would slowly accept that he
could not have.  Normal lives are for normal people and though he did not
want to admit it to himself at first, Vic Grant was definitely not normal.

He considered ending his life.  Anything to stop the pain, he told me.  The
drugs weren’t enough.  They helped his physical pain, but sadness and
depression were another matter.  Sometimes his anguish was so great he could
barely breathe.

But Vic Grant was also a fighter.  Football player or no, he understood what
it meant to get hit and get up again.  He knew what it meant to hit back.  
So that’s what he did.  For the next 6 years, the young man called The Human
Mountain (a name he hated), delivered hit after hit on his quest for the
source of his pain.  And when he found it he made perhaps the most
surprising decision of his life.  This is his story.


Theo Foss
Paragon City 2009




Chapter One:

The Hand of Fire


In the early morning hours the man came to him.  At first Vic thought he was
dreaming, for seemingly out of the very air a stranger appeared standing at
the foot of his bed.

“Victor Grant,” came the oddly sonorous voice.  It was a statement, not a
question.

“Who are you?  How did you get in here?”

The man ignored him.  “I have heard your pleas.  I have come to grant your
wish.  I have come to right the wrong that was done to you.”

“My pleas?  Right the wrong?  What are you talking about?  Who are you?”

“I have come to take away your pain.  I have come to give you a chance at a
normal life.  Is this not what you have wished?  Is this not what you have
been silently hoping for since the attempt on your life?”

“Attempt on my life?  It was an accident, a car accident.  Mom!  Dad!  Call
the cops!”

The man only shook his head.  His amber eyes glowed in the dimness like a
cat’s.
“Your parents are in a very deep sleep.  They cannot hear you,” he said.  
“And it was no accident, Victor Grant.  For you have great power inside you,
power that waits to be released.  Power that can undo much that has been
done.  Some have seen this power.  They have communed with the stone and
seen it.  Far away in their caverns deep under Paragon City they have seen
you waiting in the shadow of the Mountain.  They know what harm you could do
to them and their plans.  They have already tried twice to kill you.”

“Look, mister, I don’t know what you’re talking about and I don’t care.  I
want you to get out of here!”

But the man continued.  “You doubt who I am.  That is good.  You must
question everything from now on.  Nothing is as it seems.  Shall I prove to
you I mean to help you?  Very well.  When you were a boy you were on a trip
with your family to the Salido Caves.  You were drawn to them, were you not?
  It was like the pull of a giant magnet.  You walked away from your
campsite without even so much as a backward glance toward your parents.  
Like a moth to the flame, you ignored the danger signs posted there.  You
had to walk inside.  You became lost while exploring them.  Alone in the
dark you heard a deep humming sound that seemed to come from the very walls.
  Uuhmmm—uhuummm—uuhmmmmm.  Like so, yes?  Somehow you knew which
direction to turn, which of the many dark tunnels to take.  You followed the
humming sounds through the labyrinth and came out into the sunlight once
again.  You parents never discovered you were gone.  Is this not correct?”

“How --, how could you have known that?  I never told anybody.”

“The sounds you heard were creatures of stone, servants of the Elder Gods.  
They are called Pumicites by some, but their real name is the Auhua, the
Minions of Igneous.  They live deep beneath the roots of the world.  They
sensed you as I have sensed you.  They knew who you were, what you were.  
They spoke to you, in their way, and you understood.  They heard the beating
of your stone heart and guided you out.  They saved your young life.”

“But I never felt like I was in danger,” replied Vic.  “I felt --, I felt
--.”

“Safe?  Secure?  As if you were among your family?  Yes, I’m sure you did.  
But something evil lured you to the caves.  Something evil made you want to
enter, despite all warnings.  Something wanted to see you starve to death
alone in the darkness.”

“But why?  I haven’t done anything to anybody,” replied Vic.

“Oh, but don’t you see?” replied the man.  “You were born with tremendous
power, and that is a threat in itself, to some.”

“Even if I was born with this power, so what?  I don’t want any of this.  I
could’ve had a normal life.  Why wasn’t I left alone?”

“Those who wished to kill you were struggling against those who wished to
protect you.  In such a conflict innocents are never left unscathed.  We
knew we would have to reveal the truth to you eventually, but we still held
hope for you to have your normal life.  We hesitated and now you are here,
like this.  We have failed you.”

“And who is ‘we’?”

“I am a mage.  That is to say, I use my knowledge of the occult to
manipulate the natural forces all around us.  You would call me a wizard.  I
am one of a few of my kind who have rejected the dark plans of the Circle of
Thorns and lived to fight against them.  I have done terrible things in my
life, Victor Grant.  In my all-consuming evil I have even taken the life of
my only son.  But I come to you now an agent of a group called the Order of
the Rose.  I am no longer a Hierarch of the Circle.  I am a fugitive, hunted
for my treachery.  Some day they will find me, but until then I have time,
precious time.  And hope for the redemption of my past transgressions.  I
have come to end your pain and my own.  I have come to prepare you for the
path ahead, and by so doing attempt to further redeem myself.”

At that instant there came a bloodcurdling scream from outside.  The man’s
head snapped around.  “Great Iaia!” he exclaimed.  “A hordeling!  They have
found me!”  When he turned back, the man’s eyes burned even fiercer than
before.  “There is no more time, Victor Grant.  Whatever happens to me, when
you are able, RUN!”

The man threw up his hands, uttering a guttural incantation in a language
Vic could not understand.  The room began to pulse with energy.  There was a
dull roar in Vic’s ears like the thunder of an approaching train.  Then the
man announced, “Gaea, All-Mother, look upon this boy!  See that he is your
son.  Bestow upon him your protection!  In your wisdom let him be rooted to
the earth.  Armor him with a shield of purest marble.  Lend him your
strength!  Put the earthquake in his right hand.  And also this I ask: give
to him the Heart of Stone!  Make him once and forever a Child of the
Mountain.  If it be done, let it be done now.  If he be changed, let him be
then forever unchanging.  If it be so now, let it be so until the Mountain
cracks and the Heavens fall!”

Suddenly the man was at Vic’s side.  He raised a hand glowing red-white with
heat and light and placed it on Vic’s chest.  Instantly, Vic’s t-shirt was
ablaze with arcane fire.  Vic cried out from the burning pain.  The world
became a chaos of thunder, light and heat.  The roar in Vic’s head was
deafening.  The man was screaming something above the roar, something about
being formed in the Forge of the Earth.  He realized he couldn’t breathe.  
His lungs filled with smoke and his mouth filled with the sharp cold taste
of metal.  The last thing he remembered was falling to the floor, the mage’s
hand, now a nimbus of searing white heat, still pressed to his chest.

When he awoke it was on the floor of his room.  The man was gone, but the
heat of the spell remained.  Vic’s chest burned where the man had touched
it.  His eyes roamed the ceiling of the room.  It was black, as with the
soot of a fire.  Tentatively, he tried to move.  To his surprise he was on
his feet almost immediately.  But that surprise soon turned to confusion,
then to horror as Vic saw in his broken mirror what he had become.

From outside there came another piercing shriek, closer than the first.  Vic
began to run.


TO CHAPTER 2 >



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