Rodrik Firehammer

*whump, whump, whump, whump* The chain swung in leisurely, lazy arcs, cutting through the air. A hypnotic twirl that stirred the smoke and calmed the mind. The fire, the fatigue, the rage, the impatience, all of it melted out of Rodrik's frame and eyes as the chain spun, just barely clearing the ground. Rodrick lost himself in the incense, in the routine, in the memories.

Almost half a decade has passed since Rodrik was torn out into the world, his mother dead upon the stone slab, the gash in her womb the forced exit created by the knife. Spite filled the baby, not so much a baby's screams to gasp for air emerged, but the enraged howling of a creature pushed out of the warmth into the cold. As unhappy as Rodrik was, his father could only thank Moradin that at least a son was begotten out of this bittersweet birth. However, while the father easily recognized that no daughter could be raised by him without the mother's presence., he never realized the calming effects of a mother on a son. Once his skin grew accustomed to the cold, and grew toughened against environment, Rodrik's eyes focused on his surroundings, and then just as quickly unfocused and moved onto the next interesting thing. Back and forth, bouncing here and there. The baby grew, and crawled, and toddled, and ran. Adventure filled his every waking moment, unsupervised wanderings as the father hammered away the hours in the forge. As much as the father loved the son, the son appeared plenty capable of taking care of himself, letting the father do his work uninterrupted, and the child was neglected, though neither of them realized it.
At the young and tender age of fourteen there was an upheaval in Rodrik's life. Smatterings of yelling, blood, the clanging of steel on steel, or even more disturbing, the mild thud of steel on flesh. Rodrik stumbled out of the smoke and chaos, blood spatters tattooing his face in a ribald pattern, war paint made from the father. On the verge of society, Rodrik's life went on rather unchanged, with the main difference being that his meals were scavenged or stolen. Meandering through life without focus, without purpose, without any guidance, Rodrik did what he wanted, when he wanted, moving from one interesting activity to the next. Playing with the colorful birds, watching dragonflies for hours on end, collecting metal scraps. Every once in a while Rodrik would be captured by those who wanted to do him “good”, they tried to educate him and care for him, but the moment they sat him down and tried to mold his mind, he fidgeted and stared, letting out little bursts of energy, and when the benefactor's vigilance slipped for any more than a moment, Rodrik was gone.
Running through alleys and caves, Rodrik grew up. From his wild childhood he gained strength, speed, a particular robustness, and even a tad bit of cunning. Soon he was too old to be an orphan, and was simply an outsider. Pity was no longer a common feeling held toward Rodrick, it had been replaced with contempt for the wild thing he had grown up to be. Acting like a child with no responsibility should be left behind with childhood, but when brought with you into adulthood, it can tend to piss others off in quite a fashion.

Rodrick ran through the tunnels, the infrared vision clearly showing him the escaped boar he was chasing. His bare feet padded softly on the earthen floor, as he steadily gained ground on the pig. Chuckling to himself, Rodrik realized that his speed wasn't winning the day, but simply the fact that the boar was getting too tired to continue on. Rodrik would not go hungry this night. The pig rounded a corner ahead of him, the cool cave walls blocking its heat from Rodrik's sight. An astounding squeal rebounded off the walls into Rodrik's sensitive ears. Turning the corner himself, Rodrik's vision was flooded with warmth, his darkvision suddenly reversed as he could only make out the creature ahead by the fact that it was cooler than its surroundings. The pig lay dead on the floor in two pieces, its still warm blood painting the walls and floor. In the midst of the blood, with its thick shell containing its body heat was a terror from the deep. Something that should never be so close to the surface, but had come anyways, and come hungry. Standing before Rodrick was a hook horror, vague memories of tales of boys who strayed too far swirled through Rodrick's mind. Rodrick shoved those memories deep down, growled at the monster, and charged straight ahead. What seemed almost an attempt at martyrdom, soon proved to simply be the desperation of the hungry. For Rodrik was not so foolish as to charge a hook horror head on with no weapons or armor, his goal was the pig carcass, and then escape. The hook horror seemed quite surprised by these going ons and its attempt to stop the dwarf was a very clumsy, unsure swing.
Rodrik, with bloody pig in hands, booked it back down the tunnel, the heavy tread of the hook horror behind him. The confidence that Rodrik had before in his ability to outrun the heavily shelled beast, was quickly evaporating as his feet grew slick with blood and he stumbled as much as he ran. The *ka-thunk* of the steps grew heavier and louder, until Rodrik found to his complete horror that his legs were suddenly entangled in pig intestine. In a moment of perfect clarity, Rodrick felt his feet leave the ground, and his face meet it, with the inharmonious squelch of crushed pig in between. Looking behind him, he saw the hook horror approaching, a brilliance radiating behind it as if the very fires of the abyss propelled it forward. Oddly enough the hook horror pitched forward in a strange pantomime of Rodrik's own unfortunate fall. Standing behind it was two humans, one holding a long blade and a torch, smirking at the hook horrors attempts to push itself up, while the other held a long chain with one end wrapped around the hook horror's feet. The man with the long blade calmly walked forward and embedded his blade into what passes for a hook horror's brain, ending the conflict there and then. The grizzled man with the chain chuckled deeply. “That one was too easy, we could of done this without this crazy dwarf distracting the thing.” The man with the torch replied with a simple shrug, and wiped his blade clean of hook horror jelly. The chain man scowled at his companion's customary silence, and went over to help Rodrick to his feet. “I can honestly say that I've never seen a hook horror charged at to steal its left overs, much less in a cave that's clearly marked as dangerous, filled with hungry beasts, many likely attracted by the smell of pig's blood.”
Rodrik scratched his head, now soaked entirely in pig juice, and responded, “I don't rightly know what those signs say, never bothered to figure out what those scratchings meant.”
The grizzled man guffawed. “You don't know how to read lad? How did you get through you're schooling managing that feat?”
As Rodrik and the man continued their conversation, with more and more of Rodrik's past dragged out, the silent man pulled out a series of hammers, pliers, and saw toothed knives, and to Rodrik's amazement, completely separated the hook horror from its shell, a lengthy process of a couple of hours, just enough time for the grizzled man to worm out the basics of Rodrik's past, the most important being that he was a clean slate ready to be molded.
“Since you distracted the beastie for us, if you help us drag it out of here, you'll get a cut of the profits, which…*looks Rodrick over* you might want to spend on some new clothes…”, the grizzled man explained.

Some time later, the grizzled man decided that he liked the young dwarf, even if he was closer to a wild dog than any, and made him an offer, “Well boy-o, you seem like you have some capability, and nothing to tie you down, how about you come join me and my company, you'll get a sleeping bag, clothes, a job, and most importantly, no more running down pigs in caves, heh,”

Rodrik quickly became a student of the grizzled man, a hunter of beasts, a mercenary, an all around proficient fighter, The lessons were rough at first for Rodrik, his focus was shot, his attention lasting hardly a moment to any of the lessons that the grizzled man imparted. The grizzled man's weapons of choice was the spiked chain, and a weapon like that required discipline, and if Rodrik couldn't pay any damned attention, then he would have to try a slightly more subtle approach to garnering his attention. The grizzled man's response was to pull out a pendant, and twirl it in front of Rodrik's face, and Rodrik fell deep into its charm, and calmed, and learned. After he left the man who trained him, the only man to have even begun to raise him, Rodrik lived much the same as he did before, with new found skills and fighting ability, but the same outlook on life, his only peace and quiet being when he swung his chain in those hypnotizing circles. After returning to his old home, and finding his father's armor buried in the rubble, Rodrik was able, and most importantly felt ready, to enter the world of responsibility, his self control just gathered together enough for him to do his jobs, and take care of his dogs.

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