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A Monk Who is a Half Giant
I could not take to the easy brutality that comes to many half-giants; their offhand disregard for others was not something I enjoyed. As a youth I was shunned for not taking part in the traditional games of half-giant children. While bear baiting and similar past-times were enjoyed by all, I couldn't bear to see needless pain. After many beatings by the others for being what could basically be called 'gentle' I left home or was exiled depending on who you speak to at the age of but eleven and started my wanderings.
Whenever I entered 'civilisation' I was harried, beaten and stoned. Farming people would not trust a half-giant, even a single one so young, and this taught me a very healthy distrust of strangers. After each encounter I would return up to the mountains dejected and depressed, wondering if I had chosen wrongly. Even so young, I felt strongly that I was right. As time passed, my nature craft improved and I felt at home on the lower mountainsides, amongst the trees. I felt in tune with the great wilderness. Though I was able to survive, I simply did not have the right skills to excel in that environment, my size counting against me even out here. Occasionally while resting, I would come across humans travelling but not stopping. I envied them for their assurance and abilities to be parts of a group. Whenever I tried to contact them things went wrong. A ragged looking half-giant appearing from nowhere would send them into a defensive position from which they refused to talk. One group, dressed in robes of black and red, even tried to capture me using magic. Only by the sheerest good luck did I escape, and I then started to avoid even these few encounters.
From all my encounters though, I had learnt a few things. I built a logcabin, secluded and hidden from all - it only took three attempts to get right. As I was growing, I was also getting stronger. I didn't know the first thing about weaponry though, relying on hands, heavy branches and stones to catch my meals. A little experiment showed me that rough and ready spears were a good way to catch fish. Now I had a home and food and was starting to feel secure. I was filling out and finally learnt to cure hides, which meant my sense of smell was returning too. The future, while hopeful, was one of solitude, and this weighed on me mightily. A fourteen year old should not so early be contemplating a life alone. It was the thought of the loneliness that then drove me. I ranged far and wide, still avoiding others, though watching when I was able to be sure of not being spotted.
In my fifteenth and sixteenth years the pattern continued fairly much unchanged, but I blundered into a war between dwarven and gnoll tribes. Both thought I was allied to the other side, and both tried to kill or to capture me. Neither seemed the slightest inclined to talk. To this day I have a jaundiced view of both races, liking both very little. My home was continually improved, and I learnt much about living in the wilds alone. The area around my home was as well known to me as a street would be to cityfolk. I had caches and concealed items all around should an accident befall me. I was becoming the master of my environment, but it was a quiet mastery. Even my log cabin was now disguised, covered with grass sods and looking like an ancient landslide against a small cliff long settled and overgrown. I started ranging further again, drawn by the possibility of companionship. At the edge of the area I was prepared to go I discovered a road, and watching it, I saw that travellers were using it. After that, I would often come secretly to the road and simply sit and watch from a concealed vantage point. I would listen to the voices and they seemed like a melody. Safe by a pool near a cabin, I started practising speech to my reflection. At first my voice sounded like gravel being trod underfoot, but soon I was speaking clearly again for the first time in over six years. I had not forgotten either my own tribes' tongue or the common language.
One day while watching the road, nearing the end of my sixteenth year, I saw a group of merchants being waylaid by bandits. I didn't know what to do. I didn't understand what was happening. Confused and uncertain, all I could do was watch while the merchants were killed and the bandits looted the bodies. That day I made my way home with extra care, much subdued. As I lay on my bed, the laughter of the bandits as they robbed the corpses drifted back into the sounds of the other half-giant kids tormenting the young bear. There was little difference between the two. This decided me that the bandits were my enemies not my friends. I continued to go and watch the road, but thankfully the bandits had gone and things slowly returned to normal for me.
One day I was watching three old men, lightly robed and unarmed, walking down the road with a certain grace. Suddenly, one keeled over with an arrow in his heart and a second with an arrow in the leg. The bandits charged the old men fiercly, and I could not understand their haste until they met. The unharmed man was easily fighting the bandits nearest him - three were down in the blink of an eye, and the wounded man had felled another. Then a stone from a sling hit the old man in the back of the head, dropping him down. The wounded man could not match the odds and was killed. In my shock, I realised that barely a minute had passed. The old man was still alive, as the bandits had slung him over a horse and carried him away. Once they had moved off I came down and checked the bodies. The dead bandits were hardly marked but the man that had had an arrow in the leg had been butchered. The sound of the young bear crying was echoing in my ears as I wondered what sounds the old man would make. I decided to rescue him.
The trail was easy to follow, and I watched the bandit camp. They left the old man tied up. He had not stirred. It was late, and soon, after a sloppy meal, the bandits bedded down. I waited an hour and then ambushed the guard. Surprise was mine, and he was easily knocked unconscious. I circled the camp and found the second guard. Again, he was not expecting anything, and a heavy stone robbed him of his senses. I stole into the camp and prodded the old man. He slept on. Picking him up, I crept out of the camp and then ran as hard as I could. I took him back to my home, unbound him and cleaned his wounds. He still had not woken so I sat by the bed half dozing. Suddenly, he exploded into action and my lights to the world went out.
When I woke up, our roles had been reversed. He was placing a wet cloth on my head which was very very sore. After knocking me out (with disturbing ease), he had looked around and decided that I had rescued him from the bandits and was not an enemy. We talked, me telling him of my life and all I hoped for, and then he telling me but a fraction of what he had done. He told me that he was a monk, and about the precepts of monkhood and all that was done by the brotherhood. During his descriptions he collapsed again, the wound to his head more serious than I had realised. I put him back on the bed and tended him as best I could and waited. He fell into hallucinations, and for five days he was fevered. Finally the fever broke, and he slept a healing sleep. After this, he was much weakened and needed several weeks rest before he could finish his journey. In this time we talked much and he said that I had the soul of a monk and should come to the dojo in the city of Highport. He could see I had doubts, so he wrote a letter for me which would allow me to be assessed if I presented it there. I couldn't read it but kept it safe. When healed, I took him to the road, past where the bandits would ambush. I walked with him for a while, going further from my home than ever before. We stood together at the top of a tall hill, and he pointed to the west explaining that in that direction, on the sea, stood Highport. He then waved goodbye, going down the hill. I watched then turned around and went home.
A Second Decision
Returning home, things were now quieter, and emptier. I missed my friends presence and had not realised how the loneliness would seem stronger, more hollow. I continued to watch at the road, but now I had been given a new perspective. I knew my actions against the bandits had been right and that excessive evil was a dangerous thing, but then excessive good could also be seen in the same light. I started searching for a balance in all I did, but could not find that balance in myself. The winter was hard and long that year, the snow deep and treacherous. I had much time to myself in my cabin with my thoughts and dreams. As the winter progressed, I was able to see that my desire to be part of a group was being countered by all the bad encounters in my past and also that of my younger childhood. The loneliness was becoming overpowering, and in the darkest nights I would wake up straining as if to hear a voice which simply wasn't there. I knew then I could not continue as I was and that a risk was necessary. The letter was still safe, so I decided at last to make the journey to Highport.
The Journey to Hope
When spring again came around, I stocked up on all the provisions I would need and then sealed up the cabin. Avoiding the bandits, I travelled the the road and finally reached the point where I had bidden fairwell to my friend. As I started to follow the route he had taken, I felt curiously light as if full of hope. As I travelled I slept in haystacks and tried to avoid farms, buildings, and people, as I was still too wary to present myself. The journey itself, for the most part, was quiet, but while in a village, Kenner by name, I was nearly killed by children! Though they looked human, they were not. They smelled different, and they reminded me of the half-giant children in their chaotic play. I was only just able to escape alive, but escape I did. I avoided all settlements from then on until I crossed the bridge into Highport. I was lucky there. I came across the dojo almost immediately. Had I not, things may have gone badly for me. The monks were cautious and wary, but I handed over the priceless letter. When asked, I said I could neither read nor write and then asked after my friend. I was told he had gone on to another dojo but they would let him know I had arrived. Apparently he had forecast my coming. It seemed he knew my mind better than myself.
For years I dedicated myself to attempting to restore balance in areas of which I had knowledge and my power grew. I rose high in the ranks of the brotherhood and sadly with it grew my pride in my abilities. Where once I would ask, I had started to demand. Where I would listen I now forcibly pushed my views and opinions. Though I was able to find the warring dwarves who caused me so much trouble in my earlier life, I could not find and confront the gnolls. I had searched far and wide to no avail and this infuriated me. Over years I lost perspective and balance. I could defeat any warrior I chose and I would demand of the dwarves they reveal where the gnolls came from. They simply did not know but I would not listen to that, a bully and a fool I was becoming.
One fine day I travelled down to Sigil to confront the dwarven elders there, again they could not answer my demands but this time I would not stop or accept. I challenged all their warriors to combat and forced them to fight. This was wrong and the first I knew of my mistake was when my focus would no longer come. Then my monks meditation failed me and the warriors were able to pummel me and extract revenge for all the beatings I had given out. A beating was not enough and some had gone berserk, one of these drew a sword and ran me through, killing me dead. My body was left to rot outside the south gate of Sigil.
A New Rise
The brothers of the dojo found my broken carcass and with the aid of the clerics in the New Papal Fortress were able to resurrect me. The surprise to find myself alive was soon followed by the shock that I had lost all my skills and abilities. I had the memories of my skills and all the knowledge gained, but no way to use it. It was clear that I had been resurrected as an example, a very painful one. I was told not to feel shame as my fall had shocked many brothers and some were looking at their lives and assessing the state of their souls. For me though this was a chance to live again by the code I once thought I had lost. This time I prayed I would make my mentor proud for I knew that I owed him a mighty debt for my failure.
*** The End ***