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My mother was a whore.

This is what my grandfather told me every day of the ten years I lived with him at his home in Semok. She had been his sole heir, and I was her only child.

“Your mother was a whore, Twenty-Two. It is because of this that you exist at all. And you are the only heir to the Throckmorton family, the only one to carry on my line. It is because of this, and only this, that you were not killed the moment your mother died.”

My mother, the previous heir of Throckmorton, had once come upon a group of barbarian orcs camping on the family lands. Apparently not the brightest flower in the family garden, she had approached them instead of running away. For this act of graciousness in times of ethnic turmoil, she was attacked in a manner most foul. A month or so after she returned to the family manor broken and bruised, she found that she was with child. She refused to end the pregnancy, even though her father warned her that if she continued on she would be cast out of the family, and nine months later she died giving birth to me.

My grandfather had no choice; my mother had been an only child, and without a spare heir to Throckmorton, I was his only hope. So he kept me, and raised me to eventually take my place as the next Throckmorton. He also remarried when I was five, in the hopes of making his own new, more fully human heir.

From the beginning, it was clear that I was not meant to be the lord of a manor, especially one as prestigious and long-lived as Throckmorton. Though I learned to speak in a refined manner, I was unable to grasp the complexities of the written word. The sciences also eluded me, and I was completely incapable of understanding even the simplest of mathematical equations. My grandfather used to stand behind me in the classroom with a cane, while the teacher quizzed me on grammatical structures and botany. For every wrong answer I gave, I would receive a whack from the cane across my shoulders. For every right answer (of which there were very, very few), I received two whacks. My grandfather believed he was going to beat the information into me.

It never really worked.

I think it was around the age of four or five that we decided I was going to be a martial lord, and we began my training in all the many forms of combat. I was schooled in hand to hand fighting, as well as a plethora of weapons. Bows, daggers, greatswords, hook swords, pole-arms; if it had a pointy end, I could use it. I even spent some time learning the use of more unconventional weapons, such as table legs, tree limbs, and nettles.

Though I continued with my “gentler” education, it was apparent that I was never going to be a great thinker. My grandfather began to seek stewards of great character, men he could trust to oversee the intellectual aspects of land ownership. He also began to tentatively seek out a wife for me. He described me to the other landed members of society as “a good boy. He is unattractive, to be sure, but of a sound mind and body, with good morals and a gentle heart.” The latter half was basically true, though my orc heritage sometimes showed through in moments of rage. The unattractive bit, however, was a lie. I am considered by human standards to be hideous. By the age of seven I was already five and a half feet tall. My skin is grayish, my eyes a dull black, and my dusty black hair grows only in a single strip from my forehead to the base of my neck. My brow is prominent and my lower jaw has been described as “bullish”. My lower canines also protrude from my mouth a good half inch above my lips. There was a time when I could hide them by letting my lower jaw hang loose and pressing my lips together tightly. Sadly, this is no longer an option. At the age of eight was I betrothed to a young lady of seven years from a neighboring manor; Francesca of Mairne. I met her once, on the day of our betrothal. I gave her a flower I had picked myself from the garden: she hit me with a shovel she had gotten herself from the shed. I believed that we were in love.

My life changed forever when I was nine. My step-grandmother, the lady my grandfather had married to try to get a new heir on, had finally become pregnant. Upon receiving the happy news, my grandfather informed me that if this child lived, I was gone. He would allow me to live, but he wanted to never see me again. I would no longer be welcome on Throckmorton lands, or in its manor. I had always known that my grandfather disliked me; he didn’t really try to keep it a secret. The constant reminders of my whorish mother and my half-human (not human enough) nature, the canings, the disappointed glares. These were all things I had come to expect from him. I had known that if my step-grandmother ever had a child, I was gone. Now that the moment was upon me, however, I was afraid. The servants and other members of society had had to accept me due to my family name, but was that going to be enough in the real world? Or was I just going to be another stupid, half-orc brute to be shunned?

On the day of my tenth birthday, my step-grandmother gave birth to a healthy baby boy, quickly named heir to the family. I was given an hour to pack a bag, then bundled into a carriage with my grandfather and driven to the closest town. He handed me a bag of assorted coins as I was hustled out of the carriage.

“Try not to die too quickly.” He said as the driver urged the horses forward. They were the nicest words he had ever spoken to me. Town life wasn’t as bad as I had feared. I was large and strong, so even though I was young getting work was no problem. I had money, and with that quickly acquired a room to sleep in. Though I was half orc, I had a cultured way of speaking, which made people less wary of me. I was mostly left alone.

I worked many jobs over the next seven years; I was a street paver and a brick layer. I dug refuse pits outside of town, and planted decorative trees and flowers in the gardens of the more wealthy townsfolk. When I was fifteen, I was approached by a shady looking man who asked if I had any experience with fighting.

Thus began my career as a cage fighter. I continued my public works during the day, but by night I was a super star. By this point in my life, I was six foot four, two hundred fifty pounds. I was known by my stage name, Gnok the Terrible. I specialized mostly in big groups and gangs. Watching a monster beat up a single person was not something most people would stand for. However, watching a monster beat up ten or twelve people was something you could get behind. Cheer for. Make a few wagers on the side. It was probably one of the best times of my life. Instead of being shunned and disliked by the people around me, I was welcomed. Men would buy me drinks in bars, women would ask me to show them feats of strength. I was welcomed, and I was happy. Then, one night, after a particularly impressive fight, I was approached yet again by the shady man who had first introduced me to the world of cage fighting. I was informed that I had outgrown my welcome; I always won, and it made the betting too easy. He wasn’t making any money anymore. I was to leave at once, and he made it clear I should probably just vacate the town altogether. Once again I had an hour to pack my belongings into a rough brown satchel. I grabbed my coin bag and my cudgel, my brick apron and my trowel, and set out. I left the last week’s rent on my pillow. I decided to stop off in the last pub out of town for a drink, to remember the life I had lived here and prepare for my new one somewhere else.

It was upon entering the bar that I saw the strangest assortment of travelers I had ever seen… My name is Rothgar Throckmorton XXII, and this is my story.