Dwarf on Back
Played by Tyson
Languages: Common, Elven
Powers: mostly psionic in nature
The water ran over his toes where he slept by the brook. His back nestled in the damp bank, one foot out in the cool stream. The wet smells were comforting, moldy leaves, moss, damp and decay. They banished the remembered smoke and ash which often choked his throat at night. His dreams were too frequently of fire.
His tough skin felt so little, but it had felt the heat as his home had burned. His mother had yelled for his father to get him out. And he had tried. Through the visions of flame and smoke, he remembered his father had struggled to reach him, yelling for him to get to the door. He had sat paralyzed with fear, watching the scene play out. Then the roof had collapsed, bringing silence.
Silence which had brought new sounds, laughter and hoarse shouts echoing outside. They had scared him more than the fire which had consumed his family.
Just a whiff of ash in the air could bring back those sounds, mocking him. Even now he would freeze when he smelled burning, usually making a fumbling attempt to hide his hesitation. But he wasn’t subtle, and people noticed.
He stretched his legs, coming fully awake. The second foot went into the water and he watched it flow around his ankles in the moonlight.
There were scars on his tough hide to show the truth of that night. People would notice and say nothing, afraid to awake the lumbering giant. He hid his fear in his anger. The silence was too often followed by a fury that kept most would-be friends at a distance.
He lay back, allowing his mind to remember the rest of that night. He no longer tried to suppress the memories. That only led to more dreams. He had to let the scenario play out, or he would be haunted for weeks.
He had been small still, a young creature with a bark-like skin, still not as tough as it would grow to be, but tough enough to help him survive the flames. He had huddled in a corner watching as the fire had advanced closer. The home was lightly constructed; they did not need much to provide comfort in the forest. But it had just been substantial enough to trap them when they were taken by surprise by the attack in the night.
His parents could have fled, easily saving themselves. The walls would not have held them if they had only been of a mind to survive. But they had had children, and their hesitation had cost them. The young wilden had come into his strength for the first time that night. He couldn’t even remember how he did it, but he kicked and clawed his way through the wall, and had stumbled into the woods. The nearby trees were all aflame, so he had staggered deeper until overcome with smoke and exhaustion he had fallen down a steep bank, lying where he landed.
When he had awakened in the morning, it was to the sounds of distant conversation. He had frozen at first until he noticed that the voices were not those he had heard while his home burned. They had seemed gentle and concerned. He had risen and looked about, his burns screaming, his head spinning.
It could have been the last decision he ever made, but he had been too tired, too empty to run. He had walked back to the charred remains of his village to face whatever had come to pick over its bones.
There had been several men walking around, searching the ashes and piling bodies in the village square. They had stopped and looked at him as he had walked into their midst.
“One survivor at least,” the eldest of the men had said. “Thank Silvanus for small miracles.”
The old man had introduced himself as Rochen, leader of these Druids. He had held out a hand which the wilden had numbly taken, following the druid back to their home because he had nowhere else to go.
As if summoned by a thought, Rochen approached him now where he still sat in the river bank. The druid stood by his side, placing a small hand on his shoulder.
“You are restless again.”
“ Your dreams are out of harmony with the reality you try to live. You will not find peace until they are one.”
“I know,” he said. He had studied at Rochen’s side for decades after joining this strange village of druids and their allies. He wasn’t the only non-human, simply another being with another story. Unique, but not unusual.
“You will leave us soon. You know this, too. It has been your destiny, I think, since we found you. I have raised you for this purpose, hoping one day you could use what you learned here to find peace. Your psionic powers are strong now. Few will be able to oppose you.”
“And yet…” the wilden began. He hesitated. He knew all this. Rochan was his friend and teacher. They had no secrets. Why couldn’t he leave?
“And yet you are scared," Rochen finished. "You have a right to be. I have seen many paths for you. Some of them lead to your death, your vengeance never even attempted. Others lead to your triumph. But the paths are so closely intertwined that I cannot give you much advice. The slightest nudge could move you astray. You will need to find your own way.”
“I will miss you, Rochen. I do not know if I will be able to find my way without you.”
“You will. But let me give you this one direction. Go to an inn named The Seven Eels in a small mining town named Scardale. There you will find a motley band of adventurers. Join them. You will need their help if you are to one day find the peace you seek.”
The wilden nodded once, staring away from his friend and at the cold dark water at his feet.
“Do not use your real name. It may lead some of the gnolls to realize there was a survivor. They burned your village for a reason. You must find that reason or your victory will be hollow. Take a false name. Neil Mennar will do. They will not be able to track your origins.”
“Neil Mennar,” he repeated. So would he lose his home and his name in one night? Again Rochen seemed to know his thoughts.
“You will find strength in your new friends when you meet them. They are a… strange crew, but you can trust them. Only don’t tell them your true name for now. You will know when it is time.”
Neil stood, shaking the earth and leaves off of him. For all his strength he was shorter than the frail druid at his side.
He turned to look at the old man, embracing him gently. “I will return,” he said. And without another word he walked off into the forest, still dark in the stillness before dawn.