Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Been Meaning to Post this for Awhile

Don't have time to say much about this now, but will soon: have been getting into D&D for the first time. 4th Edition. I recently wrote a back story for my first-ever character, a dwarven rogue named Gefn Silverbrow. It was the first creative writing I've done probably since middle school. Most of high school and college was paper writing, so my imagination muscles are a little out of shape. This was a good way to get them flexing again, though the end product isn't very good. I thought I would share it with you. Here it is...

"I am a female mountain dwarf, born of a people who live deep under the mountain Ralidor. My father was, of course, a miner and silver craftsman, thought to be one of the most skilled in the dwarven community. My mother, born and raised in the deepest parts of Ralidor and hardly ever away from it, gleaned no small knowledge of ancient dwarven magics from her proximity to their source. Together they crafted some of the finest weapons of the last age, my father’s hands shaping and perfecting the metal and my mother breathing life and enchantment into every facet. My father was away for much of my youth, calling upon heroes far and wide, bestowing these inimitable weapons upon new bearers.

When I was still a young thing, no more than twenty-one, a horrific tragedy befell my clan – a great cave in. As the earth trembled and shook, rock began to peel from the walls of our ancestral home. Great stones came crashing down and slid swiftly in great swaths down the mountain, taking with it tools, people, even entire homes. As I climbed for higher ground, trying to escape the menacing flow, I saw a handful of my fellow dwarves making the same attempt. The higher I got and the safer my position, the fewer clansman I saw around me. Eventually, I found myself totally alone. When I emerged from Ralidor and looked back, it stood stoic as ever, not betraying the chaos it had unleashed internally – a chaos that would shape my upbringing in dramatic and unforeseen ways.

I waited. Several hours passed. I saw no other survivors emerge. I hoped beyond hope that any minute I would see a figure, any figure, picking a path through the trees on the mountainside. Slight trembles continued throughout the night, but with each minute that passed my hope grew dimmer.

The next morning, when dawn began to break and the first rays of sunlight peeked over Ralidor’s shoulders, I reentered the mountain. Allowing myself one last hope that I might encounter another living being, I slowly wound my way back down to the remains of our settlement. About half way down I heard a strange scuffling. Resisting the urge to call out and find another voice in the darkness, I crept behind a boulder and peeked out. Before long my eyes picked out a shape in the darkness. A bulky, rounded mass, it towered over the pathway, moving slowly, but deliberatly. As it moved closer to me, I realized, horrified, that it was a spider – dragging the corpse of a young boy, one of my kinsman. I turned and ran. It was clear that Ralidor had awoken, and that evil, perhaps in more than one form, was now looming in the deep.

Not aware that I had been too scared to breathe, as I emerged from the mountain, my breath burst from my chest. Some of my fear began to break away too. I quickly resigned myself to the fact that I was alone, possibly the sole Silverbrow survivor. I was not too proud to admit I was too young to stay alone. Fighting my way through whatever dark enemies the earthquake had unleashed was out of the question. I had to find somewhere to go. I began to call up memories of my father’s journeys. He had friends in many places, of that I was sure. As I sorted through my mental files (no easy task for a dwarf!) one name kept coming back to me: Bungo Twofoot. My father had often spoken of this elder Halfling, of his generosity and wisdom. Many years ago they had shared an adventure (the full tale of which I was never privy to) and subsequently, my father paid a visit to Bungo with every journey westward. I knew that he dwelled in Bywater, a river town less than 50 leagues from Ralidor through the Alendar forest – probably a two day walk. I looked back on Ralidor, and realized I might never return.

When I arrived in Bywater I was easily directed to Bungo’s house. Though foreign to me (and probably I to them), the Halflings I encountered were affable and welcoming. Bungo was elated to see me, having heard much of me from his visits with my father. He introduced me to his prodigious family – four children, 13 grandchildren, and nearly 25 great-grandchildren, many of whom were far too energetic for my liking! He regaled me with tales of my father’s more recent stopovers. His charming wife Lalia cooked constantly, and it seemed my plate was an immense universe of tastes that reached out to infinity.

One evening, after I had already been in Bywater two days, I craved a talk with Bungo. We ambled away from his house, bursting at the seams with boisterous family members. That there had been no questions thus far about my presence in their town or my father’s whereabouts was astounding to me, though I admit I was right glad of it. I can only attribute it to Bungo’s many dealings with my father and his understanding of our inherently private nature as dwarves. In any event, I slowly laid out the tale of what had happened at Ralidor, my assumption that my parents were dead, my uncertainty over what to do next. Once his shock had subsided, Bungo seemed to move straight into a military-like strategizing. He dismissed outright the notion that I should travel to another dwarf settlement (which I had considered), especially with so little experience journeying and at such a young age. “First off, you’re welcome at my house as long as you like. To boot, we’ve long been in need of a decent smith in these parts. In no time you’d build a decent store of gold, think over what way you’d like to set out, and in the meanwhile learn a thing or two from an old adventurer,” he said, with a twinkle in his eye. Having arrived at the local tavern, we shared a tankard in silence as I thought about what he had said. It was true that I had very little experience with travel or adventure. Most of my youth was dedicated to learning my parents’ craft of silversmithing. In addition, though I had developed a good deal of physical strength through mining, I had never really needed to fight or defend myself. And I had no desire to return to my home with its threatening aura still lingering. The world was full of dark places, and my knowledge of them was slim.

And so it was that I came to settle in Bywater. Though I never really got used to most of the raucous Twofeet, one of them, a woman of my same age named Pansy, soon befriended me. Pansy, though one of the quieter of her kin, would often sit by my forge and talk to me of her latest achievements. Too smart and too energetic for such a lackadaisical gossipy village, she amused herself with petty crime – pick-pocketing, burglary, vandalism. In excited whispers (and an occasional, accidental exclamation) she would explain to me exactly how she had sneaked into this place, fooled that person, or discovered such-and-such secret entrance to so-and-so’s house. And eventually, as fewer and fewer residents of Bywater needed weapons, locks or tools, my hours at the forge became few, and I began to accompany Pansy on her expeditions. She encouraged me, even goaded me at times – “C’mon Gefn – you can get down in there, you’re as short as me!” she piped (while playfully murmuring “Though you could fit three of me side to side!” just after.) Our delinquency was insignificant but exhilarating. Eventually we both desired to learn more than just shrewdness and began practicing with weapons of my making, hitting targets in the wood, or taking down wild turkeys for suppers we would share in satisfaction.

When I had been in Bywater about 15 years, it came to pass that Bungo fell sick. At 98 years, he was already one of the oldest Halflings around. It was clear that his illness would be fatal. I sat with him often as his health declined. Having long desired to hear from him the one thing my father withheld, I worked up the courage one day to ask him about the adventure they had shared so many years before. “Though I’ve grown quite fond of you, m’dear, it is not mine to tell,” he said sadly. “I assure you that one day, in time, you will know.” Puzzled I asked, “But if neither you nor my father are around to tell it, how can I?” He looked right into my eyes, held my gaze, and said, “I believe it’s about time you left Bywater. You’ve been here nearly as long as you lived in Ralidor, and you’ve done well for yourself. But your life is not one to be lived at a standstill, especially if you’re cut from the same cloth as your parents. I believe there are many adventures, and many stories, in your future.” Having said that, he closed his eyes, and sighed, as though it tired him to think about my life to come. “I guess I’ll let you rest,” I said, adding, “Thank you for your advice, and for your kindness these past years.” Without opening his eyes, he nodded, and I turned and left. Later that evening, Bungo Twofeet died. A few days later, after his death had been fully and properly commemorated (in the typical Halfling way – parties galore), I packed my things and said my goodbyes. Pansy didn’t show up, anticipating the sadness of our parting, but I later found a single turkey feather in my supposedly locked travel bag. It was her little way of saying goodbye, of sending me off with a memory of our friendship. I took a little piece of spare leather and tied it into one of my braids. I was off to find adventure and see the world, and I’d never be truly alone."

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