Character Name: Osborn
The Autobiography Of Osborn
Ah, Skara Brae: the docks, the rat and stray infested alleys, the adventurers seeking escorts, the inattentive shop keepers…
Home sweet home.
My name is Osborn. Dad was a transient who I only saw every once in a great while. But I admired him, loving the way he came and went as he pleased and seemed to do whatever he felt like, not beholden to anyone or anything. Mom was honest, but poor. That didn't appeal to me. Growing up poor was hard on the mean streets of Skara's less than affluent southern quarter. (The incessant mewling of all the stray cats alone could drive one mad. I've never liked cats.) And I didn't mean to poor forever.
I had a plan: steal things. After all, you can only stare at all that food brimming out of the barrels in the provisioner for so long before you just have to do something about it. So, on that most fateful day of my youth I steeled my nerves and marched into the Sundry Supplies, determined to do more with my life than beg in the streets. I browsed the goods, trying not to sweat, trying to look casual. I waited for the right moment, when the shopkeepers, busy with their bookkeeping and other costumers, would no longer notice me. I tried to will them into looking the other way. I'm not here, I whispered in my mind, you can't see me. Thus hidden in plain sight, I waited until I was sure no one would notice me. And then I waited some more, sweat tickling my brow. And then I snatched a slab of bacon and ran out of the store, so suddenly that I took myself by surprise as much as the shopkeeper. I ran into the streets, bypassing a beggar, an adventurer, a clearly lost nobleman, and even a guard, none of whom knew I was clutching stolen goods to my chest. Panting, I hid behind a building on an unpopulated street and beheld my prize. It was thrilling. Numerous rats attended me, interested in the food, I suppose. I didn't share.
Soon I was eating like a king, dining on only the finest imported fare - pumpkins from Yew, dates from Nujel'm, coconuts from Serpent's Hold, bananas from Jhelom, lemons and limes from Trinsic, tasty bacon from mainland Saka. I also found a lucrative black market for such rare delicacies, and put some money in my pocket as well. Some of Skara's citizens also put money in my pocket as I became a more accomplished thief. Of course, the town guards, ever eager to keep someone from making a living, never missed a chance to brutalize me. But I scarcely held it against them; it was a game we played, and I usually won. Yet I grew restless, wishing to travel, see the world, steal from new people. My dear old mom, knowing I was my father's son, let me go.
I traveled north on the road out of Skara, thinking perhaps to go to Britain, see the big city. But I didn't get far before ominous tales filled my ears. The locals feared evil from the north, where a powerful nation of soulless orcs was rampaging unchecked through the wilderness, claiming human lands as their own. I had never considered myself a crusader, but the thought of those grimy apes conquering our land enraged me. They would not need to spread much farther south before they could threaten my home. Visions of my mom, the provisioner, and those saintly healers, always willing to give me a second chance after the guards beat me - my beloved Skara Brae - filled my mind. So when I came to the crossroads with the rickety sign pointing east to Britain, south to Skara, and north to Yew, I turned north.
The forest crawled with evil, and the road was treacherous, with a few guarded way stations providing the only respite for harried travelers. Soon I reached their borders in the forest at the eastern foot of the Shame Mountains. Their main encampment was comprised of a primitive fortress and a small thatched-roof cottage. I remained hidden, observing the orcs as they carried out their cruel mockery of civilization - strength their only virtue, war their only art. I could not hope to take the brutes by force of arms, so I resolved instead to do what I did best and rob them blind. I would take their ill-gotten treasure for myself, thus weakening their cause while I grew stronger. However, I could not remain hidden forever, and one of their patrols soon discovered me.
"Wut ju doin' 'ere?" demanded one.
"Tribute!" called another, speaking of the unlawful toll they required of all who would pass through "their" forest.
I smugly refused their tribute, and instead proclaimed, "I am Osborn, the magnificent thief, and I have come to relieve you of your possessions!"
I might still have a few bruises from that particular beating.
The Orcs of Kor proved to be formidable adversaries. What they lacked in intelligence they more than made up for with strong arms and blunt objects. Yet I was a thorn in their side, harassing them at every opportunity, waging a one man war of thievery against them. I would casually work my way into their camp, trading jibes with the few of them that proved to be surprisingly amiable (ah, good old Tog…) and generally playing it cool, until, when they least expected it, I would dip my hand into one of their flea-ridden backpacks and make off with an item. Howling in rage, the savages never failed to give chase as I sprinted for the safety of Yew. I dodged through the trees and undergrowth, slinging insults at them as I ran. I hoped that making them as mad as possible might make them clumsier, and give me an edge. In particular, disparaging their pagan god, Da'Nogra, infuriated them almost beyond their limited capacity for speech. Sometimes I made it to the bank. Sometimes… well, I don't like to think about it. Either way, on the morrow they would tolerate me within their came once more, their memories as short as their tempers, and the game would begin anew.
I even once stole from their almighty king, Kor himself. Yet there were now others to oppose the orcs, and as my wounds multiplied my wanderlust stirred again. I desired a quiet vacation, a more peaceful, wholesome pastime - something that carried a significantly lower day to day risk of being clubbed to death. Thus, I took my leave of the orcs, used my pilfered funds to purchase a small boat, a fishing pole and a floppy hat, and set sail on the wide waters of Britannia.
Hours became days became weeks became I know not how long as I bobbed endlessly beneath the scorching sun. If I wanted peace and quiet, I certainly got it. With nothing but the incessant plunk of my lure hitting the water (oh how it rings in my head even now!) some smelly fish and a growing collection of salty footwear to keep me company, I began to consider the merits of going insane as a means of escaping the endless monotony and loneliness of my life on the briny deep. No, Osborn, a glassy eyed fish said to me, You've got to keep you wits about you, man! What you need is a plan, something to occupy your mind with. Take that boot you just fished up, for instance…
The fish was right. I had to keep my sanity intact. So, I crafted a plan, and set my mind to it. I called it "Fisherman's Revenge". I would become a grandmaster fisherman, and in the meantime I would meticulously collect every piece of barnacled footwear that I dredged out of the ocean, every sandal, every boot, every thigh boot, every shoe. Then, when I finally reached a grandmaster level of skill, I would head for land and shower a major metropolitan area in its own discarded footwear. The idea was that when the populace was forced to confront the massive volume of shoes, they would have to consider how long it must have taken to fish up all those shoes, and then, then, they would painfully realize some small measure of my deep, profound suffering on the lonely sea. The accompanying smell of all the rotting critters that had taken up residence on those shoes would only drive the point home.
Everything went according to plan. Vesper happened to be the nearest port, so there I disembarked and headed for the bank, returning the landlubbers litter to them and shouting hurtful phrases all the way. It was there, as I raved about thigh boots and talking fish for all the bank patrons to hear, that a man with a lot more hair than me strode up and took me by the arm. "Osborn?" he said, "Did you say your name is Osborn? You're not from Skara Brae, are you?"
The guy was named Feral, a half-elven Trinsicite now living near Vesper who claimed to be my half brother. He said his father, an itinerant man whom he barely knew, had visited him some time ago and informed him of his relation to one Osborn of Skara Brae, whom even he had lost track of after his disappearance from the orc camp. Of course, I'd rather not believe that I'm related to a half-breed elf, and I saw no family resemblance (I, frankly, am much better looking) but the description he gave of my - our - father was uncanny. So, never one to turn down a free lunch, I let him escort me to his home on the road just north of Vesper and nurse me back to physical and mental health.
I stayed with my half brother for a long time, and it was comfortable, but boring. I even took to stealing from the local provisioner, but something still tugged at me. I was convinced at this point that I would never know what that something was, so I kept looting here and there and tried to push it out of my mind. Yet that something grew within me until I felt physically ill. I dreamed of animals and forests, and woke confused, prowling through my brother's study on all fours. I wandered outside, dizzy and thinking I would be sick. The world sparkled and spun around me and suddenly looked very different and quite a bit larger. I looked now upon a long, whiskered nose, small, sharp claws, a furry, round body and a long, naked tail. All the times the guards back home had ever referred to me as a little rat came back, and I laughed, conceding that my waterborne plan to preserve my sanity may have failed indeed.
Then I remembered something long forgotten, a story Mom used to tell me when I was young. There were people in the deep forests of the world, she said, a secret people from long ago. No one knew about them, because they could change shape, becoming different animals to blend in with their surroundings. They could even look human, and visited towns from time to time, not revealing their true nature. You might even know one without realizing it. Yet they were free spirits, and could not be tamed even by those who loved them. It never occurred to me that she might be talking about my own father.
Excited but still unsure of my mental soundness, I ventured into town to test others' reactions to me. They either ignored me or tried to stomp on me - not too different from normal, but enough to convince me that my rat shape was for real. Luckily, I found that with concentration I could change back, and with practice new forms came to me as well. Poor Feral never could figure out what the skittering on the roof was that kept interrupting his studies. Finally knowing what drove me, I decided to leave again, to hone my new abilities and follow the whimsy inherent to us shapeshifters.
Of course, I don't know if there's actually a race of shapeshifters spread throughout the land. My mom's story could just be coincidence. But maybe there are others like me (poor Feral doesn't seem to have the gift.) So I wander the land, not knowing who, or what, I'll meet next.