Less than Good
Stern and Stoic half-orc ranger
Grendahl would vanish into a crowd, but his height of 8 span, and green apish face make the quiet half-orc stand out. His body is lankier than most half-orcs. His long, muscled arms look oafish and slow. They are practiced in drawing a blade or knocking an arrow. His hawk-eyes take in all he can see.
What is most noticeable though is his sound. His body is calm and his mouth is quiet. Most don’t notice this at first, but he barely speaks. But when he does, he speaks with purpose, as if buying every word he utters with a silver coin.
He has no identifying marks save for the symbol of Waukeen on his belt pouch and a wild boar pinioned with arrows, stitched on his quiver. The small-folk know him by these markings, but most of all by how he carries himself, requests to sleep in a hay-filled barn, and always tips a ten-penny to a tavern storyteller.
Have you heard the story of Grendahl Dire?
They say he keeps the wilds in its place that the roads stay free and that Waukeen’s gold may flow, to hell with tariff or law that may impede. He may not look like one of us, and he certainly isn’t friendly on the eyes, but be assured of my tellin’ tonight. This is his story, and that’s for true…
One gray night, when the moon was but a sliver in the sky, a knock woke farmers Gretilda and Cole Simsworth. Wary, they opened the door. There, standing in the dark was her sister, Brigitta Boldest, clad in armor, cradling a swaddling babe. Without speaking she entered the farmhouse and was soon sipping a warm cider. Her sister asked many questions, but she said nothing. They say she’d been north to the Spine of the World, and was going right back. They begged her stay, for the sake of the child. She just sat in silence, sipping away staring into the infant’s sleeping eyes. Her expression unreadable. When the last dregs were drained from her cup she handed the child to Gretilda, and walked out the door pausing for only a breath to raise he gloved in parting.
As Gretilda pulled the swattling from the child she beheld the ugly face of a beast. A half-orc child. She wept for her sister and for herself.
They raised him right, as right as you can raise a black-blooded child. He worked the land, tilled the soil, and tended the animals. He slept in the barn, for his own protection, but Aunt “Gertie” as he called her always brought sewed him the finest shirts, always sat with him at late dinner and always told him the best stories.
The surrounding farms and villages never cared for the boy much. Sheltered, though he was, Gertilda feared the constable would take him and sell him to slavers, poachers would kill him and stuff him like a trophy or that he’d break a playmate’s neck. It all became too much for her and she died one evening carryin’ him a stale loaf of bread. Grendahl, like his mother, did not weep.
Uncle Cole loved his dear wife. He did not hate the boy, but he blamed him. The boy could have begged. But he knew no price could be paid to change his uncle’s mind. He took him to Triboar, and sold him to an huntsman,* Enden Tambor*, in need of a kennel boy. He never complained. Not once. Words have worth, and there was no one worthwhile anymore to spend them on.
He learnt all there is to know about arching, tracking and surviving. He tended to the dogs, big mastiffs, bred with wolf stock in them. Hard to train but mean hunters. The old merchant never saw those dogs so playful, so happy as they were with quiet Grendahl. Eventually old Tambor retired. Settled down with some widow farmwife, raising sheep. But Grendahl kept hunting bounties for all sorts of wild beasts along the Triboar trail and Neverwinter. Hard life, but he was never alone. He had his dogs and occasionally a guide or poacher.
He’d have kept living that life, and we weren’t be the wiser, if not for that one fateful day. Ya see, there was a bounty put on a dire boar by a bunch a poor farmers near Neverwinter. Quiet humble folk, with not a lot of coin. See the beast was digging up their fields, raiding cropland, scaring and killing oxen and livestock. So, Grendahl took up the bounty. Farm folk always pay what’s due. He tracked it for many days, just him and a whole pack of dogs. He followed it into Neverwinter Wood. He hunted the beast to the last arrow and to the last dog. He collected the hide and tusks and made his way back.
Little did he know the boar had been making its home in a bit of wood owned by Jervus Hawkwood, a pompous lordling from Neverwinter. When word came that a half-orc was poaching his forest, the fat little bastard took insult, and sent men to collect.
They met him out by the Holistan farmstead. Upon approach they demanded surrender of his contraband and surrender to their charge. Grendahl, said not a word. He stood there, fingering his bow, weighing the situation. They kept right on talking. If you don’t know nothing about Grendahl is that he hates lots of big talk, and lots of empty words.
“You have poached on Hawkwood, sir and must come with us.” they said. But still he stood there staring, body tight as a bowstring. Hawkwood’s men got real flustered I tell you what. finally one of them drew his club and started walking towards the half-orc. They were done talking.
Before he could even lay a finger on Grendahl, the last dog, the oldest and strongest of the pack leapt on the guard, biting out his throat. The others scrambled, drawing weapons. Things sure escalated quickly. But Grendahl didn’t move a muscle until the first man shot his dog dead with an arrow. Before the dog’s body touched the ground, his last arrow found its way into the guard’s neck. Both guard and dog were shot dead. The last guard, charged straight at him, but Grendahl, out of arrows, swung his bow like a club and brought the man down, then strangled him to death.
Once the black deed was done, the half-orc strode to farmhouse to collect his bounty. He dropped the pelt, but kept the tusk. Old farmer Haliston was mighty scared, but he asked, “You’re a wanted man now… why didn’t you give up to those goons?”
Grendahl didn’t even look at him. “Because no man can rob the gold of your work. No one. Remember that good farmer.”
Like that he left, but not before leaving a single gold coin on the table.
“He’s fair. And fair ain’t pretty or easy. It’s downright bloody and hard you know. We small-folk know how hard it is and we what we gotta do to get by. He knows who he is and what is he is. Ain’t no pretending. Grendahl Dire knows the price of butter and the true cost of a shooting arrow. If you’re looking for a man for your company sir, this Broken Band. I assure you, you can count on him to honor his word and get the job done, no question no complaint. You see sir, Grendahl does not mince words. Words have value and you should spend them wisely.”