Let's Get It Strahded
Ranger Hill Dwarf with an awkward social presence and a strong connection to animals
Torkk was born in the small hill settlement of Charlotte, to a family with a black smithery. His father and mother both taking turns running the front of shop and making the tools. They were good at their work, and they appreciated it. As such, they raised Torkk in their footsteps, though unlike them he did not take to it. While their hammers hit hard and true, his would fall without vigor. He simply wasn’t interested. As he began to hit the steel his mind would wander to the woods outside of the village and it’s creatures. The hammer would miss it’s mark in his daydreams and a flurry of ashes would rise, scarring his arms. As he approached the age of official apprenticeship he would hang his apron by the back door every day when the hunters would come back into town and sneak off to watch them as they emerged from the woods. To listen to them joking and talking to each other about what they had encountered. He would duck behind barrels near the entrance as they came into the village, not knowing what to do with his interest, and not wanting to be discovered less his parents realize he was skipping out on work. And he thought he did so unnoticed.
Unbeknownst to him, he was not- while the larger swath of the crowd walked past him unknowingly, one eye picked him out, and did so as he traveled past every day. Until a period of weeks had gone by, when he lingered behind the group of hunters until they had gone past.
“You know you don’t have to just watch.”
Torkk cringed from his hiding spot, and stayed there silent, hoping that maybe there was someone else the older dwarf might be referring to.
“You there. The smith’s boy, right? Come on out.”
He was brusque and direct, but there was a support in his tone that made Torkk feel less afraid around him, and he came out of the shadows.
“You want to be a hunter, lad?”
Torkk stuttered a bit, trying to find the answer. Of course he did, he wanted nothing more. A bunch of words spilled out- about not wanting to be a blacksmith, his interests in the woods, in the creatures, in…
“Alright, alright. I get it. Calm down.”
The dwarf introduced himself as Brottor and asked him if he wanted to be trained in the ways of hunting, stealth and battle. “Maybe you’ll actually be able to hide from a keen eye after this” he said with a wink at the end, ruffling Torkk’s hair.
“I can’t… miss work.”
“We’ll work around that until you’re ready.”
And they did! A high octane soundtrack played, and a montage began, showing scenes of him practicing with wooden swords, losing to Brottor over and over, sneaking out of his home early in the morning, returning to bed just in time, for his parents to come wake him up. Falling asleep at the forge, eating so much more food than usual. The entire time it’s clear that he has a knack for it. He takes instinctively to the skills involved, like they were part of him. When they hit the bridge of the song, he starts to improve, and suddenly he’s winning some of the battles against Brottor. The song doesn’t end, it slow fades into a conversation between Torkk and Brottor about how he’s ready to go out with the crew.
Terrified, he goes to his parents and they have a rough conversation about how he doesn’t want to be a blacksmith. He tells them about his training and explains what he wants. His mother is supportive, though hurt he felt he had to hide it. His father is stubborn and upset and cold about it, but the day he is to go out for the first time, next to his rucksacks are two handaxes, made custom for him. He goes to leave his house, and neither of them say anything to each other, but as he leaves, he puts his forehead against his fathers for just a moment, then exits.
He takes to his new role in society instantly. He can find creatures, hide easily, the woods are everything he wanted them to be and he feels more at ease there than he has anywhere else. He only kills what he knows the village needs, and confronts those who do otherwise. He can see in the others a confused look as they wonder how his connection is so immediate. He hears the whispers that echo through them here and there. “frul” – dwarvish for “animal”. It makes him feel a bit different and outsider-ish, but animal doesn’t feel wrong. His best friend in the group Tonga, doesn’t use it. She calls him Torkk. He has an atmosphere of genuine joy when he is out in the woods, and jokes and laughs. He follows his impulses, but there is a sense that he doesn’t know exactly how to interact with people.
Life continues in this thread for a while, until one day, on an expedition, he and 4 others are simply exploring a new area with few weapons, and they come across a giant mountain lion. It is too big for them to survive a battle with and it is agitated. Pacing and growling. Torkk feels something slip away and his human consciousness drifts. He feels something more primal inside, and he connects to the mountain lion. Their eyes connect, and it’s as if they have an innate understanding. Moments pass, and his travel party drops silent, watching as the mountain lion which was clearly ready to attack calms. Torkk mouths “Go.” to it, and it seems to nod, turning and padding through the woods. With a touch of pain, Torkk’s full consciousness returns and he feels slightly foggy. He turns to those with him, and finds them all agape. Tonga opens her mouth, and whispers it: “Frul” and in that moment Torkk for the first time feels different and out of place.
They walk back to the larger party, and what occurred is explained. Brottor butts his head against his, and congratulates him on saving the party. But as he walks toward home, the group parts to let him through and he leads them back. The attention feels uncomfortable. When they return to camp, Tonga pulls him aside and they discuss what occurred.
“What was that?”
“I don’t know, something.. came over me? I felt the Mountain Lion. I felt- a connection. I felt primal.”
“That was scary. I mean. That was really uncomfortable. I just. I’m grateful for you saving me, but … don’t you think you need to figure out what that kind of connection is?”
He nods, and begins to wander off.
“Good night…” lingers Tonga, the space making it clear she’s unsure what to say. “…frul” she finally finishes.
That night he has a conversation with his parents and explains what happened. “Do you… know of anyone in our family that has… had this happen?”
A knowing glance between his father and mother occur, and his mother tells him that his grandfather had a similar connection to animals, and that he left town to figure it out and become a ranger.
That night, Torkk can’t sleep. His mind is pre-occupied with questions about what and who he is. What he should become what he has become what he can be what who why… after hours of unrest he moves to the forge and starts a fire. While the heat is increasing, he works with wire to make a brand. A symbol made to symbolize the word those have used to describe him. His eyes a bit cold, he stuck it into the heat, then, put a wax candle in his mouth, pressed it against the side of his head, heaving breaths through the pain and finally bringing it down when he knew the scar would be permanent. As he put some ointment on, he looked up to see his father standing silently near the forge. A bit of a sad grin on his face. “If you need to go, go. I’m proud of you.” Before Torkk could reply, he turned and wandered back to his room.
Torkk went out with the hunters the next day, but was spoken to by nobody but Brottor and Tonga. “Lean in, eh?” said Brottor with a laugh. Tonga joined in. “Looks good Torkk.” When they returned he told them what he had decided on- he was going to travel to learn to be a ranger.
He thanked Tonga for her friendship, and she kissed his cheek and sent him on his way. He thanked Brottor for his mentorship and guidance, and he bumped his forehead against Torkk’s and wished him well. When he got to his home, two new handaxes sat on his bed. With the symbol he had created fashioned into the sides of their blades. A final dinner with his parents, his mother holding back tears, his father somber and quiet but approving, he rested one last time in Charlotte, and set out the next morning to figure out who and what he was…