Dawn of a New Age
At 6'10", 250 lbs, with a sickly green undertone, Shel is quite an intimidating figure. Looks can be deceiving though, she is enamored with woodland life and breaks out into song among her furry friends.
Shel used to be happy. She was born to her human mother Ana on a small farm far from just about anywhere. Ana adored her baby daughter, despite the trauma surrounding her conception. Shel grew fast on the farm, running around helping her mother and her grandmother do chores and harvest crops. The three women were poor, but happy to be together. She grew to be taller than the rest of her family by age ten, but was as sweet and good-natured as anyone could be.
But then, a sickness came. Young and strong, Shel recovered quickly, but Ana and her grandmother suffered for weeks. Shel had to do something. She packed a small back with the entire family’s savings, and followed the unkempt road where she had once seen a traveler pass by. She walked and walked for days, and just about when she could walk no more, she came to a large house outside of a small village. It was dark. Lights shown from the windows, and smoke rose from chimneys. Shel had never seen a village before. Before going to town to trade, her mother had warned her to stay put at the farm, “People will not think kindly of you, Grandma will take good care of you. Don’t go far from the house, I’ll be back soon .”
Her stomach turning, she went up to the door of the large house. She could not read the symbols scratched onto wood planks and posted by the road, and she assumed only someone smart and important could possibly have a home that large.
A woman opened the door, wearing plain dress and an apron. The sight of Shel caused her to gasp audibly and stumble back, but the girl’s wide eyes and desperate pleas convinced the servant woman to help. “Why yes, we have someone here who can help. He’s just finished helping someone else here. And he’s packing up inside the study. Follow me, and you can call me Bem.”
Bem ushered Shel into the library, using passages meant for servants. She did not want anyone to see that there was a half-orc inside the house. She could be fired on the spot.
The doctor was understandably startled by the sight of the Bem producing a tall half orc preteen from a shadowy doorway unannounced. After causing quite a fuss, shouting loudly about “that thing!” and nearly throwing some very heavy objects, the doctor composed himself and listened to the problem, and he agreed to help.
But his help came with a price, and Shel did not have enough. He took a paper from his case, and handed it to Shel. It was covered with weird symbols that meant nothing to here, but he refused to leave until Bem took a quill, placed it in Shel’s hand, and guided it onto the the paper, leaving a big, dark, X just over a horizontal line. As the doctor rode off down the road towards the little farm, the Bem had to explain to Shel that his price was so hefty that he had taken her into servitude, and would likely bring her far, far away to sell her. Her family would be okay, but she would never get to see them again. And Shel cried.
Shortly after the doctor returned that dark day, promising he had given Ana and Grandma medicine to ensure their recovery, he had collected Shel into a wagon, and they rode off for several weeks. During their uncomfortable trip together, She learned his name was Embago, but he refused to call her by anything. He barely spoke to her at all, except to bark orders, call her a “thing” or “abomination”, and to generally be a dick. He took her to a larger town, so far away that Shel could not remember how they had even gotten there. In a blur, she was sold to a huge farm that grew rice. She never even saw the family that owned her, but that didn’t matter. In her grief, she quietly tended the fields, following the orders of the men in charge, who joked about what a bargain she was. So big and efficient, she was a real bargain.
Two years later, Shel had had about enough. She had taken to running away to the woods in order to seclude herself in her misery. Even the other servants shunned her because of her orc blood. She had not a single friend. So she would sneak her food out into the woods to share it and make friends with the animals instead. They were her only comfort. Even squirrels, the little assholes. She learned to scavenge, comb the woods for sustenance, and hide her tracks in the leaves, to evade the masters. She even bribed a huntsman to teach her how to shoot a bow and arrows, using the last of her family’s money, once he stopped screaming from the sight of her. And so, one night, Shel decided to stay. There was no reason to go back to the farm, and she was too big now for anyone to stop her. So she left.
Staying out of sight, Shel followed roads, attempting to find the little farm where she was born. She asked startled travelers if they knew anyplace like it, if they knew the two women who raised a half-orc girl. They never did. Years passed, and finally, the landscape began to tickle her memory. There was the rock she had fallen off playing as a child after a picnic. And over there was her favorite tree, a broken swing hanging from a dead bough. Joy bubbled up in her, as she raced to the little house, swung open the door and shouted greetings for her long lost family. But they were not there.Upon closer inspection, Shel realized the little house had been empty for quite some time. No belongings were left anywhere, the furniture was gone, the animals missing, and the neat little rows of plants that had fed them were wildly growing unchecked. On the floor were some papers. But Shel could not read them. She picked them up, put them gently in her pack, and left the little farm. It was no place for her anymore. Gathering herself, she grit her teeth, and began combing the landscape for the town where a doctor once bought her. A town called Valden.
And she found it. She saw tame columns of smoke rising above the treetops. Desperate for information about her mother, she rushed forward, bursting out into the center of town. Everyone ran screaming. Except for one woman. Older now, but with a familiar face, she took a step toward the girl. Bem took Shel’s hands in her own and, with tears in her eyes, whispered “I’m sorry.”
Shel accompanied Bem to her small house at the edge of town, where Bem explained over a cup of tea that her family had indeed recovered, but had disappeared with all their belongings one night. The were never heard from again. “But, you are welcome to stay with me and try to find some information about them.” Shel told her that she appreciated Bem’s kindness, but was far more comfortable in the woods. “And maybe,” Shel said, “they’ll come back for me.” After tea, some supper, and some awkward conversation, Bem watched Shel disappear into the woods, while she stood in the doorway with guilt laying heavy in her heart.
From then on, Shel made a living selling herbal remedies that she formulated using her forraging skills and an herbalism kit purchased at the town store. She quizzed passersby and travelers about her family and the little farm outside of town, but to no avail. After some time, the townspeople grew used to her, and often bought soothing creams, pastes, and powders from her. She had a kickass witch hazel cream that did wonders for the complexion and healing minor cuts and scraps. And Shel was almost happy. But not quite.