In The Beginning...
The life of Grabthar Ironclaw began as so many in the land of Aegis did, in the dark. Born to a poor Halfling mother in a run down hut in the wild lands, there was no celebration or fanfare upon his entering the world. Only the smile of a mother, and the cries of a half Dwarven child.
Life was difficult during Grabthar's early years, he had no father in his home, so all the difficult work fell to his older brother Dranthul, who was only 6 when Grabthar was born. Though 6 was still considered a child, in this place it was old enough to scavenge for supplies and hunt for food. Dranthul being the "man" of the house at such a young age gave him a self entitlement that effected young Grabthar tremendously. Grabthar was forced to call his older brother sir at all times, creating a habit that sits with Grabthar to this day.
Just before Grabthar's 10th birthday, shadows came upon their hut in the night. Through the windows Grabthar watched as the garden turned to red stone and burst into flame. The windows of the hut exploded and the door was blown off it's hinges. In a swirl of darkness Grabthar's mother was gone, pulled from him, screaming, into the night. Left now only to his elder brother's devices, Grabthar became nothing more than a slave. Cleaning, cooking, farming, mending, Grabthar filled all the rolls of the house save hunting. He was left to himself many days as his brother disappeared into the woods to find live food, and during these times Grabthar was grateful. He began to imagine a better world, a world where he wasn't yelled at, where he wasn't looked down upon, where he wasn't hit.
Many years passed, the stress of this time was too much for young Grabthar's mind to handle and his perspective began to slip. He was no longer just Grabthar Ironclaw, he was also the cook... and the farmer... and the host... and the butler. "Fetch some water Mr Grabthar." "Tend the horses Mr Grabthar." "Sweep out the foyer Mr Grabthar." Referring to himself by name made him feel important, like he had a purpose in this world that seemed to hate him. Why did it hate him? Why was his brother so cruel? Why was his mother gone? Grabthar began to ask about his father. He had never known him... but his brother had.
"Shut it and bring me more food." Was always the response he would get from Dranthul, "I should leave you just like he did." Grabthar tried on many occasions over the years to coax any information from his brother, but never got anything of use. He knew he was a Dwarf, he knew he was from a far off land, but could gather nothing else with his questions. One day while mending some broken boards in the kitchen, he found a small chest hidden inside the floor. It was old and battered but had no lock. Grabthar slid back the top to find a large green helmet with the horns of some beast attached to the sides. It was far too large for Grabthar's head. Inside the helm were various small trinkets, a broken compass, flint & steel, and a note:
Grabthar's eyes filled with tears. All this time it had been right here. The answer to where his father was... to why he had left. Why was it kept from him? Did his brother put it here... or his mom? Why? In an instant Grabthar was out the door with the items in his hands and the helm upon his head. He ran at first, through trees and bushes, over rocks and streams, running as fast as his feet would carry him. For an hour he ran with no idea which direction he was going, but still he ran. Towards the sun... towards the closest road... towards his father.
For 3 days Grabthar ran, stopping to sleep only when the darkness made it impossible to see more than a few feet in front of him. Stopping for rest only when his mouth was so dry that he couldn't breath. He had passed many streams and rivers, but no roads. No people. On this day he realized just how hungry he was. He had not eaten since he left his home. His stomach rumbled and he nearly doubled over from it. He had forgotten to bring anything with him, no food, no tools, no supplies of any kind. He began to search the nearby trees and bushes for fruit but found none. He had not seen any animals for hours, though he wouldn't know what to do with them if he did find them. His brother was the hunter not him. Then he thought of his brother. What would Dranthul do when he returned home to find the door sitting open and Grabthar gone. Would he worry? No. He would be angry. Angry that Grabthar had wandered off. Angry that Grabthar didn't have dinner ready. Just angry.
Grabthar sat upon the bank of a nearby stream to steady himself and catch his breath. He heard the crack of a branch not too far off through the brush. As he crept through the trees, he spotted a patch of pink rush through the underbrush. He heard muttering. Then the skies opened up, and an arc of white hot lightning burst from the heavens and struck down the swine. Grabthar fell back from the blast but quickly regained his feet. Where once stood a pig, now lay a pile of charred meat. Through the trees then stepped a hooded figure. He descended upon the carcass and gathered up all that would fit in his satchel. Then just as quickly, disappeared back into the forest, leaving behind scorched earth and flaming trees. Though scared to make noise that would bring the man back, Grabthar hurried over to quell the fire. While doing so a single apple fell from the high boughs of the tree. Grabthar put out the flames and snatched up the fruit. At least it was food, and now he new he could at least find something to eat. Grabthar spent days doing this, running towards the sun, gathering fruit from trees, and resting near rivers, but not once did he encounter another person.
Days slipped into weeks, weeks into months, and Grabthar was slowly withering away. He was lost... always hungry... and losing hope that he would ever find the Dwarven capital. Then it happened. Just after twilight, as he climbed a tree to get some sleep for the night, the creature dropped from a branch above and attacked. Grabthar fell from the tree and landed with a thud on the ground below. He was hurt, hurt badly, and could not move his left leg. Creeping down the tree was a huge black mass, the largest spider Grabthar had ever seen, and it was coming right for him. Grabthar wanted to back away but was frozen with terror. Then it lunged.