It started like this: For as long as Rys could remember, he had been an outsider looking in on a perfect family. That wasn’t to say that his family didn’t love him, but his mother sure as hell hadn’t had him by choice. It was bad enough she had done it with an orc, even if it hadn’t looked as hideous as its brethren, but to get pregnant from it? That was about as low as she could get. On the other hand, it wasn’t as if she didn’t love him when he was born, she just hadn’t loved him while she was pregnant and was having nightmares about what he would look like.
But when he was nearing two thousand years of age, she loved him just as much as any mother loved their children.
So, it wasn’t as if he resented the rest of his family, his stepfather or his two younger siblings, even if they were fair skinned like elves were supposed to be. No, he felt just as accepted as anyone else in his family.
Still, for as long as he remembered, he had been looking in on a perfect family from the outside and wondered what he was doing there.
By the time Rys was nearing two millennia of being alive, he was used to it enough that it didn’t bother him when other elves turned away from him with disgust written plain on their faces to see or when he was forced to move from his seat in the library because someone of higher rank wanted to sit there. As a halfbreed, unless you were the child of a royal, you were automatically at the bottom of the ranks, no matter what rank the rest of your family had.
Rys’ family were in the lower nobilities, not high enough for anyone to play nice with him unless on official business, and no-one was going to do official business with a half-orc. Perhaps if he had been half-human or even half-dwarf (as much as elves disliked dwarves and dwarves disliked elves in return) it wouldn’t have been such a big deal. At the very least, eventually they would have gotten used to it. But orcs had been an enemy of the elves for as long as the elves had lived in Light Valley. For as long as they had lived on the continent.
So, long story short, they weren’t going to get used to him.
But still, that didn’t mean he was all alone. He had friends and people he spent time with. They just generally didn’t spend time together in public where people could scorn them. He didn’t want to cause them any more trouble than he was worth.
But yes, it began kind of like this: He was a halfbreed, half-elf and half-orc and it was a bad combination all around.
Rys half-heartily swatted away the annoying fly that was determined to bother him awake. With a groan, he forced his dark green eyes open and glared for all he was worth at the creature that surely had a death wish.
What he saw was the expanse of a giant forest all around him.
He sat up on the cold ground he had been laying on and rested his head in his hands as he remembered what had happened the day before.
He had been cast out by the elves for a stupid mistake.
He gave a loud groan as he peeked out through his hands and realized he had no idea where he was. He had never been very far away from Light Valley, as the elves had been too embarrassed about him to let other elves know he existed. And they didn’t trust him enough to let him leave on his own.
He fell back on the cold hard ground and closed his eyes while wondering if he could make his way back to Light Valley from where he was. But no, it was unlikely he would find his way back as the only map he had ever seen had been of only Light Valley and not anything around it, and even if he did find his way back, he wouldn’t be welcome. He knew well enough that even if he found his way to another elven civilization, he wouldn’t be welcomed there either.
Rys wasn’t useless, he knew how to hunt and survive on his own, it was mandatory training for all elves as other races had a tendency to try to kill them for all they were worth, and they were often scattered on long journeys by bandits and thieves. But he had never truly been alone before and he had the sinking suspicion that if an orc saw him, he would only get killed on sight. Orcs didn’t like elves either after all, and his pointed ears and slender build more suited for speed and agility then the typical bulky build of the orcs would give away what the other part of him was on sight. With grey skin and vicious elongated canines, there was no way he was ever going to pass for one race or the other.
Not that he particularly wanted to pass as an orc, but the popular opinion was that orcs were stupid and better left alone to their own self-destructive tendencies and he had never found anything that contradicted it.
If he had been half-human, he would maybe have looked enough like a full elf that he could have been accepted and not thrown out because he made the mistake to forge a dagger imbedded with runes that would light up when in the presence of hostile intentions.
How was he to know that weapons with magical runes imbedded in them eventually developed a sort of semi-sentience when it wasn’t written anywhere and no-one had told him. He was self-taught in the art of weapon smithing—as he needed some way to make money and no-one knew it was him as a friend sold it for him—and no-one had ever stopped him and explained why nobody made weapons with magical runes instead of just useless ones for decorative purpose.
So, he was cast out by the elves and had, in his rage, ran as far away as he could.
With a clear head not effected by the blinding rage that were something orcs had and what was usually what led to their ultimate defeat, he could clearly see that running away like that had been another mistake. At the very least, he hadn’t killed anyone in his rage and so couldn’t be charged with murder along with whatever charge he had already been slapped with. He’d stopped listening after they told him he was being banished and wouldn’t be welcomed back unless he did something extraordinary for the elves, after which all he had been able to hear was the blood pounding in his ears and his vision had gone hazy and red. It had taken everything he had not to attack them blindly and get killed for it. It was the first time in centuries he had reached that level of rage and bloodlust, as he could usually control it fairly well.
The last time, he had been out on a hunt with his friends when they had been attacked by bandits and his best friend had gotten injured. He’d lost it and slaughtered every single one of them. It was only luck that he hadn’t turned his rage on his friends. Regardless, after that he and his best friend had drifted apart and he hadn’t spoken to him in over a century. They couldn’t even be called friends anymore.
His head fell back on the hard ground and he stared up at the clear sky through the dense treetops and tried to imagine what his life would be like now. He couldn’t come up with any answer.
Everything he knew about the world outside of Light Valley were vague and useless trivia.
Rys briefly closed his eyes with a sigh and regretfully climbed to his feet.
He swayed for a moment before he caught his balance and frowned when he couldn’t see his backpack anywhere near him. He almost never went anywhere without it and although it was possible he had dropped it on his rage-filled run away from the only home he had ever known, he had a feeling that wasn’t what had happened. When he said that the older elves had never liked him, he wasn’t lying. More often than not, it seemed like they despised his very existence. Rys wasn’t bothered by it as he almost never met them, he was far too unimportant to meet any high-ranking elves without having done anything wrong. He had never even seen the king.
But still, without his backpack, the only weapon he had was a dagger hanging on his belt.
It was the first dagger he had ever made, so it wasn’t even particularly useful nor very pretty. It was uneven and although the edge was sharp, the balance was on the verge of being horrible.
In a situation like this, it wasn’t exactly something he would have brought on his own. Unfortunately, the Royal Guard hadn’t given him any time to get better things, he had gone from relaxing in the sunshine on a courtyard, to being dragged before the Captain of the Royal Guard to given the sentence of banishment. Honestly speaking, it wouldn’t surprise him if they had moved so fast when he knew for a fact that usually the criminal spent at least a night in a cell while they decided what they were going to do with them because they wanted him to die. After all, he was a blight on the proud race that were elves.
He glanced around the clearing he had found himself in and decided after a couple of minutes of futilely trying to figure out which direction he had come from to just go in the direction that the sun set in.
Rys straightened up from where he had been slouching against a tree and started walking.
The thing about walking in a giant forest with treetops high and dense enough that it was hard to see the sun that you had never been in before was that it was remarkably easy to get lost. After walking for what Rys could only guess to be hours, he hadn’t made any progress to get out of the forest nor had he found any evidence that he had passed this way before. If he was walking in a circle, it was a really big one. For a while he was tempted to just...stop. Rys was never one for long adventures, he had heard tales of course, but they always seemed exaggerated and almost silly. Maybe that had only served to alienate him as well.
But he also knew that it was night soon, and he had no idea what kind of predators lived in the forest. What would start hunting him when night fell.
And he had no desire to find out.
The forest got darker as the sun went lower and Rys couldn’t shake the anxious feeling that he was being watched. That he was being studied. It was unsettling and as the forest seemed to get more and more eerie, Rys sped up more and more. If he couldn’t get out of the forest than he damn well wasn’t going to stick around out in the open. That would be the very height of stupidity.
And he had done enough stupid things in his life, thank you very much.
Rys shivered and had to stop himself from looking around to see if he could spot what it was that was observing him. He had been going uphill slowly for a while now and if he was lucky, there would be a cave somewhere close by where he could hide for the night and maybe get a couple hours of sleep in if he could get a fire going. It was getting colder as it was the start of autumn. Some leaves on the trees were already beginning to change colors.
He felt as the terrain changed from grass to rock and almost smiled in relief as he let his eyes glance over the forest in front of him. A cave had to be close by.
After almost an hour more of searching, during which the sun went so low he couldn’t see it anymore, Rys finally found the entrance to a cave big enough for him to crawl into and hidden enough for him to feel somewhat safe. It wasn’t big enough for him to be able to safely get a fire started but he could bundle up the cloak he was wearing around himself and hope for the best. He pulled his leather boots off before he crawled in, careful not to left his bare feet touch the cold ground and crammed himself in as good as he could get. His hood became a make-shift pillow as he let his head rest on the rock ground and tried to ignore the smell of damp water and general unpleasant feel of it. Still it was better than being out in the open.
He curled together and with the feeling of hopelessness (because he had no idea where he was and the only home he had ever known had thrown him out) he fell into a fretful sleep.
He woke up with a curse already on his lips and a snarl ready to be unleashed. There was something curled together next to him, something soft enough that he knew it was an animal but hard enough that he knew it was deadly.
Rys didn’t have a lot of good experiences with animals, he usually only met horses, but they didn’t seem to like him at all and the few other animals he had met had either attacked him or ran away from him. He guessed it had to do with his orc blood as the other elves had an easy time with animals. Elves generally excluded that feeling of safety and protection that animals liked and even deadly predators could be tamed easily enough if you were an experienced elf. Unfortunately, that was never how it had been for Rys.
So why an animal, alive if he was guessing correctly considering it hadn’t been there when he fell asleep, was curled up together with him was a mystery. He supposed it was possible he had intruded in its den, but he was pretty sure it would have killed him if that was the case. So why was he laying in a cave with a strange animal?
Rys gulped slightly as he slowly pried his eyes open. He was scared of what he was going to see but he couldn’t not look. If he was going to need to make a run for it, he needed to know before the animal woke up as he was pretty sure it was asleep. Hopefully.
There wasn’t enough light in the cave for him to see what kind of animal he was trapped in a small space with, but he could see that it was big and had powerful muscles. It was really big. The small bit of fur he could see that wasn’t enclosed in darkness was a dark grey and Rys almost scooted back when he noticed just how close to him the creature was. It had crawled in after him, because he didn’t think it could stand straight in the small cave either, and had climbed as close to him as it could get.
He carefully pushed himself up on his knees as he slowly turned around. If he wanted to get out of the cave, he would need to climb over the unknown creature and hope he didn’t wake it up. He gingerly untangled the dark cloak from his body and pushed himself up as far as he could. He was still doing some weird crawling thing on his hands and feet, but he couldn’t climb on the creature, what if it woke up? What if he hurt it and it awoke and killed him?
He was not ready to die yet.
Rys nudged himself forwards, but he was close enough to the creature that it was touching him anyway. He carefully lifted a hand and slowly bent over the creature to put it down on the other side of it. He glanced behind him before he lifted his other hand and moved it over the creature as well. Once both his hands were on the ground just inside the low entrance to the cave, he scooted up a little more and slowly started to lift his left leg.
He grimaced as he misjudged and his foot touched the animal (was it normal for animals to be that big?) and breathed a sigh of relief when the creature didn’t stir.
He continued with his other leg and once he was fully on the other side of the creature, he let a smile slide across his face before he frowned in thought and slowly and as stealthily as possible crawled forwards. He almost caused when his foot got caught on a rock and made a sound and started to crawl faster. Once he was entirely out of the cave he stood up and made his way to a nearby tree as quietly as he could where he dragged his boots on over his feet. There was enough light from the rising sun for him to half-see where he was going and he kept his eyes on the ground in order to not trip as he slowly made his way down the low mountain side.
Rys concentrated on putting one foot in front of the other as he tried to walk as quietly as possible. He just hoped that whatever nocturnal animals lived in the forest had gone to sleep by now. He had no desire to go from one deadly creature to the next.
As he climbed down, the sun rose higher and the temperature with it. Rys almost sighed when the suns rays washed over him. Sleeping in a cold stone cave had perhaps not been one of his best decisions, but it had been the only option he could think of. As stated, Rys wasn’t an adventure kind of person, he preferred to be lazy and take things as they come. The longest he had ever been away from Light Valley before was three weeks. And even then, it had been in the summer with half a dozen other elves.
Now he was alone with no-one to watch his back, even if they only did so because they had been ordered too.
He let a frown flash across his face before he turned his face blank and in the partly dark forest, his eyes were cold.
Rys finally sat down at the base of a large tree with big green leaves where only a few were starting to change colors and let his eyes drop. The ground was covered in dark moss with some grass here and there and roots stuck up everywhere. So far, he hadn’t found a definite road, but had wandered aimlessly, trying to continue in the direction he went the day before.
But it had been hours now and he was hungry enough that he could no longer ignore it.
That was another thing that set him apart from ordinary elves, most of them never ate meat. And even when they did, it was only when they had to, like when they ran out of packed food on a journey. Rys on the other hand, had no problems with, in fact he liked it. If he had to, he could eat it raw. He didn’t exactly like the flavor of blood but he could also ignore it and just eat. It helped that raw meat didn’t make him sick. His parents had made him hide it, because that would be like shoving the fact that he was half-orc in the other elves’ faces. It wouldn’t do him any good.
He grabbed the crappy dagger from his belt and frowned at it. It was the only weapon he had and he needed to eat. Hell he needed to drink, but he hadn’t come across a single body of water in this damn forest and thanks to the Royal Guard he had nothing with him.
He pushed himself up from the ground and stared at it. There had to be some smaller animal he could hunt. If he couldn’t get a fire starting he would just eat it raw, he was too hungry to be picky. After some time of searching, he found some tracks of a smaller animal. He would guess that it was a rabbit, but he hadn’t hunted enough to be sure. He had always figured that he was never going to really leave Light Valley and hadn’t put as much effort as he could into learning to track. Thankfully, the tracks were obvious enough that he could follow them even with his limited knowledge.
He walked on the heels of his feet to be as quiet as he could as he followed the tracks.
For over an hour, he followed them until he found his way to a hole in the ground. He hid behind a tree as he figured whatever animal was there would need to come out eventually. The wind would keep his scent away from the den and then it was only a matter of waiting.
It took minutes for him to start hearing the sound of thumping as the animal living in the hole made its way out. He breathed out in relief when he saw that it really was a rabbit and not something else, something dangerous, that he had been hunting. A while back, the feeling of being watched had resurfaced, but he was too concentrated to bother with the feeling. He needed food before he collapsed of hunger. It was getting to the point where his stomach was starting to hurt and he didn’t know if he was strong enough to find food while so hungry.
Rys was aware that he seemed pathetic, he wasn’t much of an elf much less an orc, but he had never been in a situation resembling this before. His parents may have been wary of him and the man he called father sometimes couldn’t look at him, but they had always made sure he was well fed. Even if it was only in pity.
Once the rabbit was far enough away from the hole that he thought he could catch it before it burrowed its way back in he made quick work of crossing the small distance and breaking the rabbits neck. He cringed slightly from the sound but shook of his unease, as he normally didn’t kill the animals he ate, and made his way backwards for a while. It would be disrespectful to eat the animal so near its home.
Once he was a decent distance away he worked quietly for a few minutes until he got a fire going and smiled in relief. He prepared the rabbit as best as he could and after it had been cooked enough he started eating it. It was slightly dry at the start but he could taste blood and had apparently not cooked it long enough for as he got closer to the middle, the taste was stronger.
Not that it mattered to him.
Rys ate and then spread out his cloak on the forest floor as he laid down on his back. He had spent the entire day running around the forest and although the rabbit had eased his hunger, he still hadn’t drunk any water in almost two days. The problem was that even with his good hearing, he couldn’t hear any trickling of water anywhere near him.
He closed his eyes as he tried to figure out what to do. If he didn’t find something to drink soon he was going to die of dehydration.
It was as he laid on the ground and tried to dream himself away that he heard it. The snapping of a branch just a few meters away from him. For a moment, he thought it was elves, that they had followed him to kill him away from the Royal Guards eyes, or that they were the Royal Guard, but then he realized that he would have heard them a lot sooner, not to mention that the forest had a scary atmosphere sometimes and he couldn’t see an elf willingly entering it.
He opened his eyes and turned his head to see what had done it, still laying on the ground. For a moment, he wanted to laugh.
Of course, he wouldn’t be able to get it away from it, it had probably lived its entire life in this forest!
He wondered why he ever thought he could, as he preferred working on his weapons and reading to spending time in the woods that surrounded Light Valley.
Obviously, a beast such as this would find him again.
The creature was big, bigger then he had thought now that it was standing. It looked like a wolf, though the canines were bigger, its eyes were a fiery red and it was big enough for its head to reach his shoulders. Its fur was a dark grey with patches of lighter grey here and there.
It looked terrifying.
The beast prowled towards him and Rys sat up only to freeze in fear when the giant creature took a giant leap towards him. He held his breath as the creature’s face was suddenly only centimeters away from his own, close enough that he could see that the red eyes had some gold streaks in them.
He drew in a breath when he felt his lungs start to hurt and watched as the creature’s eyes seemed to follow the action.
Just as he thought the creature was going to kill him, it sat down on its hunches and its eyes lost that vicious edge they had had and looked softer. Rys watched, stunned, as it laid down next to him and put its head on his lap, snorting slightly as if laughing at him at the same time. He watched as the eyes slipped closed and noted, still frozen in fear that he was going to get eaten, that the animal seemed to have fallen asleep on him.
He couldn’t resist commenting, “Well, aren’t you... terrifying.”
The red eyes opened slightly in response but closed again soon after. So, it wasn’t asleep? It was just...laying on him?
This was getting more terrifying by the minute.
Rys didn’t think his heart had ever beat so fast before. He let out a breath when the creature didn’t make any move to attack him and Rys leaned back on his hands. This was the craziest days of his life. First, he gets cast out by the elves (for a stupid mistake), then he gets lost in a giant forest without any supplies that he still hadn’t found a way out of and a giant wolf-like creature apparently considered him its pillow. It was enough to make his head spin. If this was what people normally experienced on adventures of exile and banishment, he didn’t think his heart could take it much longer.
He liked books much better than the real deal, thank you very much.