Characterization – Pogranax

Written by . Posted at 10:18 pm on March 5th, 2012

The following is the background story I wrote for a Pathfinder Societies character, a Half-Orc Fighter that wields a two-handed greatsword. In a nutshell, his specialty is cutting things in half.

Pogranax was born a bastard in the harsh landscapes of Kellid. His mother was a victim of a brutal attack from an Orc tribe, in which her husband was killed and she was forced to conceive at the hands of one of the strongest warriors in the raiding party. While she was not the only woman subjected to this brutality that day, she was the only one to carry her child full term and give birth.

As a boy, Pogranax (or “Pog,” as he was called) was never entirely accepted around the village, much because he was a constant reminder of the atrocities that many there had suffered through. He was prone to fighting with other kids, which he typically won, even when outnumbered.

Instead of choosing to focus on the negative circumstances of his conception, his mother Alais focused on the fact that he was her son. Her husband had ever been able to give her a child in their brief years of marriage. Knowing that many of her neighbors would struggle to accept him, she worked to help the boy establish his identity and accept himself, even going so far as to give him a name which she felt reflected his strong Orc heritage.

Pogranax was quick to volunteer for the village watch, eager to prove himself loyal to his human family. Due to his larger stature, he had learned to fight using blunted broadswords before the other boys his age could even pick one up. Granted, he used both hands, but to him the use of a powerful blow from the shoulders felt natural.

Years had passed since the last major attack on the village, since a wall of raw lumber poles reinforced with stones had been erected to keep the majority of the attacks out. When the large attack finally did come, the second since Pogranax had been born, it was a fierce battle.

In the middle of the fighting, Pogranax spotted a large orc warrior swinging a hammer at several defending villagers. The head of the weapon was larger than a melon, and tended to explode the heads of the villagers like melons when it made contact. He fought with fury and passion like Pogranax had never seen, and despite loathing him as an enemy, he respected him as a warrior. Despite facing his own enemies, the young half-orc kept an eye on the situation as he made his way into the town square, where the large orc warrior roared and smashed. As armored men kept their distance, bolts from several crossbows pierced the orc’s arm and side. Still, he fought on, but as the blood continued to pour, it was obvious that the barbarian was getting weaker. His swings came slower and slower as the wounds fatigued him. Pogranax finally reached the edge of the circle around the orc, keeping his own large weapon up defensively in front of him.

The orc in the middle turned, keeping the village soldiers at bay. As his gaze fell on Pogranax, the half-orc got his first good look at the blood-thirsty brute, and the ground seemed to drop out from beneath his feet. Above the orc’s right eye was a large, crescent-shaped scar, his left cheek also scarred by four thin parallel lines. Growing up, his mother had been honest about his lineage.

*******

“Pogranax, I want you to know where you come from,” she had told him. “You cannot hide who you are, but I want you to feel comfortable in your own skin. I do not know who your real father is.”

“They attacked at night. We heard the fighting outside. I told Habastad to join the other men, but he stayed to protect me. It wasn’t long before he—your real father—burst in the door, letting out a terrible roar. I screamed, and I think it encouraged him. I could see the bodies of dead village guards through the open door behind the orc warrior.”

“Habastad, may the Lord in Iron favor him, did his best to defend me, but he was no match. He threw the blow from his axe right at the orc’s head, using both hands. While the blade cut through the skin, it bounced off his thick skull, leaving a gaping wound in the shape of the crescent moon. I could see the bone beneath the hanging skin, but the orc just wiped the blood out of his eye, licking it off his own hand. As Habastad brought his axe up for a second attack, the orc swung his own large weapon.”

Her eyes, staring off in the distances of memory, always began tearing up at this point. “Many things about that night still give me bad dreams and invite the night hag to whisper in my ear, but the sound—that gut-wrenching sound—still haunts me. It was like breaking a bundle of twigs over your knee, but instead, they were bones. Habastad’s ribs, actually, as his body was slammed into the wall. He fell to the ground, unable to breathe, unable to get up, but he was still alive.”

At this point, she was typically sobbing. “I’ll never forget Habastad’s eyes, wide and watching as the orc warrior forced me to the floor and cut at my clothing with a filthy knife. They were full of despair, despair and regret, as if he’d failed me. He had done his best, he had to have known that, but the orc was just too massive. The orc had forced himself on me then. I screamed again, but he only laughed. I was able to get my right arm free at one point, and struck at his left eye with all of my fury. He flinched, but I still managed to get him with my fingernails, leaving trails of blood down the left side of his face.” Alais’ voice would harden with resolve as she told this part, but would eventually fade off as she concluded. “That finally did it. I thought he was going to kill me, and at that point, I welcomed it. I saw him lean back, but that was the last thing I remember. He must have punched me, and very hard, because it was close to mid-day by the time I awoke. Habastad was dead. The orcs had left before the morning sun had come up. I was left alone, a widow.”

*******

As recognition filled Pog’s eyes, the large full-blooded orc in front of him narrowed his own, regarding the young half-orc carefully. The men in the circle looked at each other in confusion as the orc began to shake, a low grating sound. The orc was laughing.

Pog watched as the orc lowered his weapon slightly, extending his arms toward Pog, his head tilted to one side as he said one word, the last word Pog wanted to hear at that moment. “Son.”

Pog was not entirely certain what happened next. He was a talented fighter, above average for his age, still not as skilled as a seasoned veteran. But at that moment, he seemed to move like one. With a short but efficient strike, Pog’s greatsword was suddenly wedged deep into the orc’s thick neck, stopping when it hit the spine. It was not a powerful blow, but it had been quick and precise.

The large orc, Pog’s hereditary father, dropped to his knees, gasping for air with a half-severed wind pipe. All the pain, all the rage, of growing up in a community that barely accepted him for the humanity he possessed had come to the surface in a new way. The additional emotions he had been cursed with from his mother boiled up as well, the vivid image of her crying every time she told of this orc’s depravity flashing through Pog’s mind. His face betrayed it all like a banner in the wind, and the orc drank it in like mead. He resumed laughing, a deep belly laugh, and grabbed Pog’s sword firmly, sliding it out of his throat even as it cut deep into his fingers.

“What’s the matter, human? Do you need a hug?” The orc gurgled out blood as he spoke, his words barely intelligible.

Pog stepped up to the large orc, looking him straight in the eye. “You may have contributed to my existence years ago, but you are not my father,” he spat.

A thick arm wrapped around the orc’s head, digging his fingers deep into the bloody wound on the neck. Grasping his own wrists, Pog flexed his arms, then threw his entire weight into turning with his hips.

A moment later, something large fell to the ground with a hollow clanking. Pog looked at the gruesome trophy in his hands. The face of his progenitor stared back at him, chuckling again once before the light faded from the eyes.

After the battle was over, the village had finally accepted Pogranax as one of their own. Not only had he fought in their defense against orc kind, he had allegedly destroyed the orc that sired him. It may have been the new found respect, but suddenly the village no longer felt like home.

His mother had been wounded in the attack. She listened to the tales from the other villagers of the encounter in the square—Pog refused to talk about it—and in some sense, she found relief, but also sorrow. While Pog had now confronted his past and where he had come from, he had opened himself up for a new range of personal conflict. A few days later, after Alais had succumbed to her wounds and was buried next to her husband Habastad, Pogranax had bid an emotionless farewell to the village and set off on his own.

He traveled to the largest city in the region and quickly found a merchant caravan willing to hire him as a body guard, which began his journey that would take him to Absalom, and the Grand Lodge.

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