Saturday, 5 January 2019

D&D: Pfisten Goblin Monk Back Story

This is the back story my son recently wrote for his new Goblin Monk character, Pfisten, I liked it so much I decided to include it here.

Pfisten: Back Story

Born into a small tribe of mountain-dwelling goblinoids, Pfisten was a source of disappointment and bewilderment to his already low-status family. His obvious distaste for such traditional goblin pursuits as kidnapping, torturing, enslaving and devouring people from nearby valley settlements was a mystery to his parents, Tungle and Spenk, and an irritation to Kar'nith Drax, his tribe's hobgoblin general, who struggled to find a use for him. His racially uncharacteristic ethical streak and tendency towards mercy would have been easy to dismiss as softness, were it not for the fact that there could be no doubts as to his capacity to take a beating. Many of his peers, confused by his moral quirks, responded to them with bullying, derision, and violence. No matter how many there were, or how vicious the beating, Pfisten always got back up.

 One day, whilst carrying out his duty of foraging for toadstools for Ruurgul Drax, the tribe's hobgoblin wizard, Pfisten came upon a hidden monastery, tucked away in the mountain range. Intrigued, he crept to the windows and peered inside. There, he saw a large, ornately carved hall, filled with pinkskins. One in particular seemed to be instructing the others in some curious dance, and Pfisten was transfixed. He stayed for hours, not leaving until the class was over, even attempting to imitate the moves himself. That night, Ruurgul beat him savagely for taking too long to gather toadstools. Nevertheless, Pfisten said nothing of the monastery; knowing full well that if the hobgoblins learned of its existence, they would want to raid it for slaves and riches.

Over the years that followed, Pfisten grabbed every opportunity to return to the monastery, taking great care each time not to be seen by its inhabitants. He learned that the teacher was Sister Penelo, and that she was instructing her students in martial arts. However, there was no mention of any plans to use them to raid or subjugate other tribes. The men and women of the monastery were of a peaceful inclination, and seemed only interested in being able to protect their mountain sanctuary, and those unable to protect themselves. These alien philosophies appealed to the young goblin, who diligently imitated, practiced and remembered everything Sister Penelo said and did. He was struck by the kindness with which she treated her subordinates, and how their willingness to fulfil her instructions stemmed from respect, not from fear. It was a style of leadership he had not encountered until now. Fascinated, Pfisten spent longer and longer at the windows of the monastery, even digging a small burrow on the grounds in which he could sleep if he stayed too late. Ruurgul seemed content for his charge to take two and even three-day foraging trips, provided he got his toadstools.

 One day, perhaps two years after Pfisten's chance discovery of the monastery, he arrived to find a ceremony taking place in the great hall. Sister Penelo was calling her students to her, one by one. Each would approach her, bow, and receive a white sash identical to the one that she wore at her waist. When every student was freshly adorned with the symbol of their achievement, Sister Penelo still held one in her hands. "My brave students," she announced, smiling; "You have worked hard, every one of you, and you all have grown so strong, so wise, so large of heart. I am proud to have known you. But there is one among you who has yet to receive his honours." At this, she turned to face the window, and looked directly at Pfisten. "Come, little greenskin. You have worked as hard as any here. I have seen. This is for you." Shocked, and embarrassed to learn that his efforts to remain unseen had been in vain, Pfisten at first found himself rooted to the spot. Drawing a deep breath, he steeled himself, and with heavy boots and trembling hands, he climbed in through the window.

Inside the monastery, the air was cool and still. He felt his classmate's eyes on him, but it was not unpleasant. Some seemed surprised to see him, others less so, but none of them looked on him with distrust or malice. The atmosphere as he crossed the stone floor was a new one to him; one of recognition, and of acceptance. Sister Penelo smiled broadly at him as she held out the final white sash for him to take. Hesitantly, he reached out a green little hand, and as his fingers closed around the silken fabric, Sister Penelo said, barely louder than a whisper; "I know you will do it justice." At that moment, her smile froze, and an arrowhead emerged from her right eye. A small spatter of blood flecked the sash in Pfisten's hands, and Sister Penelo tumbled soundlessly to the ground. Seconds later, the large doors of the hall burst open, and a slew of hobgoblin raiders mounted on wolves barrelled in, brandishing blades and howling war-cries, as scouts with bows and vicious curved hunting knives climbed in through the windows. Instantly, Pfisten understood that he had been followed. Of course. Ruurgul had grown suspicious of his lengthy foraging excursions, and had had him tracked. The freshly anointed students fought bravely, but they were outnumbered, caught off-guard, and demoralised by the sudden death of their master. They were slaughtered.

 Pfisten escaped the massacre, fleeing to his burrow. He hoped the raiding party would leave without him once they'd plundered the monastery. He had no such luck. They squatted in the trashed hall; looting anything not nailed down, drinking the mead brewed by the monks, and cooking and devouring the dead. They quickly found his hiding place, but were unable to come in and get him due to their larger size. So, they built an enormous bonfire next to his burrow, on which they burned anything they deemed unworthy of stealing, and roasted the bodies of Sister Penelo and her students. For five days they taunted him, blowing smoke into his tiny, overheating burrow, and occasionally tossing scraps of the charred flesh of his classmates into the hole, for the 'ground goblin'. To his shame, on the fourth day, he eventually ate.

On the eve of the fifth day, deciding the hobgoblins had no plans to leave him to mourn in peace, Pfisten made to escape. He waited until they were drunk on mead and fast asleep, and crept from his burrow; delirious, starving and bereft. He barely made it beyond the light of the campfire's embers before the hobgoblin on night watch spotted and seized him, waking the others. They beat him senseless for an hour. He thought they would beat him to death, and, indeed, he eventually blacked out, fading gladly into oblivion for, he thought, the last time.

He awoke at dawn. His knuckles smarting, he lifted his hands to inspect them and to block out the sun, and found them swollen, bruised, and slathered with blood. More blood than he himself could possibly afford to have lost. He sat up in the charred grass, and gazed at the scene of fresh carnage that surrounded him. The grounds were littered with dead hobgoblins. He explored, and found more inside. None of them bore stab wounds, all seemed to have been killed by sustained blunt force trauma. Confused, and reeling from the implications of what he was seeing, Pfisten gathered what provisions he could and made to leave. At the edge of the monastery's grounds, movement in the grass caught his eye. One of the hobgoblins whom he had presumed dead was breathing shallow but steady breaths. Pfisten recognised him as Gnarl'ath Drax, a low-ranking raider. As Pfisten approached, a look of terror passed over Gnarl'ath's face, and he attempted to push himself away, over the bloodied grass. His yellow eyes fixed on Pfisten's, he opened his mouth, but all he seemed able to utter was: "G... ground goblin!" In a blind panic, Pfisten ran; from the monastery, from the mountain range he had never left, and from his old life.

 Desperate to put as much distance as possible between himself and his past, he travelled quickly, quietly, and alone; stopping only to beg or steal enough food to keep him walking. In the towns and villages where his kind were less welcome, he wore his dark hood up, and used the bloodied white sash Sister Penelo gave him to cover his face. Within a week, he reached the coast, where he said his goodbyes to his homeland, and stowed away on the first ship he saw.

Tom Hunt