Orsik was not the biggest of his clan, or the smartest, or even the most handsome. His beard had yet to even really grow in properly, something others of his age made a point to tease him about. Most of his life had been spent behind the others, taking him twice as long to grasp things. He made sure he worked twice as hard as the others, but none took notice. Even his father, Thorfin, was dismissive of him. Not openly, but when they were alone or just with the company of his mother and siblings, Thorfin made his disappointment known.
Their clan was a small community located in the wild and uncivilized mountains southwest of the Nentir Vale. Nestled in a small network of caves and caverns they thrived, but dared not venture out too far into the nearby hills and mountains unless needed. There was still a number of giants that had yet to be defeated and subjugated many dwarves nearby. Orsik’s clan had managed to break those chains long ago, carve out a place to grow strong, healthy and happy, but the elders always warned that they had yet to be numerous enough to defeat the remaining giants and help free their brothers and sisters in slavery. It was very important that they not discover the clans home or hiding place at this point, lest they be destroyed.
Feeling like an outcast, Orsik frequently snuck out at night. He thought to himself that he could probably walk straight out, seeing how he was barely missed anyway. He would roam the hill and countryside, enjoying being free of the pressures and taunts. When he was certain of his solitude, he would sometimes practice his fighting techniques. However one late night, when the moon over head was full and bright as he had ever seen it, he came across another dwarf. He did not recognize her, but could not help himself but stare at her beauty as she collected water from a stream. As he approached he saw the shackles at her wrists and ankles as well as the collar around her throat and Orsik realized she must have been from one of the nearby slave camps that the giants kept. What he failed to notice was the fallen tree at his feet and tripped over it. The woman turned to him quickly but did not run away. Rather she approached him, smiled down at him and said “Well this is a first, never had anyone fall over at the sight of me”. She told Orsik that she had noticed him staring at her from afar. As she helped him off his feet, she smiled and introduced herself as Kathra. He smiled back, but quickly caught himself. He had been warned by the elders not to associate or mingle with those still subjugated for they were tainted and still loyal to their oppressors. However, Orsik reasoned, she was nice and didn’t seem at all dangerous. What would be the harm?
He and Kathra were roughly the same age and became fast friends. They met nightly to talk and play, becoming closer over the years until they eventually became lovers. Orsik was done with sneaking around and seeing her only once a night. He wanted her to be with him, to come back and join his clan. He was sure that he could convince the others to let her in. One night before meeting her, he brought it up to his father and told him everything. Thorfin struck Orsik with a furious anger, nearly knocking him unconscious. “How could you be so foolish? You have not only brought shame upon our family name, but risked the safety of our entire clan.” The shouts echoed out of their family home and out in the main cavern. Others stirred and emerged from there home. Thorfin father handed him his great axe, handed down through the men in his family for generations. “Take this instrument of you ancestors and destroy what you have wrought, before she can reveal our location to those bastards she calls master. This is your only chance at redemption, boy.”
Orsik ran out with the ancient weapon, but he was not going to kill the woman he loved. In all the years they had known each other, she had never done him wrong. She would never betray him. He ran as fast as he could formulating a new plan in his head. He would take her away and the two of them would run far away from it all, from Orsik’s clan and the giants keeping Kathra a slave. However, when Orsik arrived she was nowhere to be found. In all the time he’d known her, she had always been there. Panic and fear filled him and gathered his strength and ran as far as his stubby legs would carry him to the giant’s camp. But the camp was strangely empty. There were no guards and no slaves. Just a few tattered tents, low fires, and empty pens. It appeared as if everyone last soul had left in a great hurry. Then Orsik saw Kathra, strapped to a tree, bleeding, and barely alive. Orsik was at her side in moment, but Kathra was hardly breathing. He cut her down and tend to her wounds, but it was too little, too late.
She looked up at him, blood streaming from the corners of her mouth. “I am sorry my love, my dear sweet Orsik..” He hushed her and begged for her forgiveness for not having arrived sooner. She spoke again, barely a whisper. “No, Orsik, the giants, they know about us, about you. They had other slaves watching me, wondering why it always took me so long to collect water. When they found out about us, they sent those same slaves to follow you and find out where you were hiding. After I refused to tell them anything… They’ve gone after your home, you must hurry before…” Kathra’s words trailed off and her eyes stared sightlessly into the night sky. Orsik want to do more for her, to hold her one last time and give her a proper burial, but there was no time. The giants were out for blood and he had to warn his clan.
Paying no mind to the pain in his heart or how tired he was, Orsik set off at a run. He passed through the forest and back up to the mountain to his home cave. His heart sunk as he smelled smoke in the air. When he stepped through the demolished hidden entrance, he found his entire clan slaughtered. murdered at the hands of his kind’s greatest enemy and it was entirely his fault. He was broken, his spirit crushed. Orsik had lost his love, and now his home, family, and clan. Then he heard something in the caverns. The giants were still there with their broken slaves, gloating over their victory. Rage reinvigorated his soul. Orsik marshalled his strength and combined with his anger and heartache, then threw himself against the giants and their slaves with a earthshaking roar. Taken completely by surprise and unable to defend against the pure primal power Orsik channeled, they all soon fell after a brutal struggle. Covered in the blood of friend and enemy alike, Orsik walked through the wreckage to gather the clan’s hidden supplies of lantern oil. Soon all the bodies and the only home had ever known was ablaze, hiding any evidence of his shame to the outside world.
Just a day after leaving the mountain, Orsik ran across a small group of people in grey cloaks who asked him if he had any information about a group of giants that had been terrorizing the region for many years. With difficulty, Orsik explained bare bones of the situation, telling the strangers that the giants had been killed in battle with his clan and he was the only survivor. The leader of the grey-clad group, an old half-elf named Kasdan, listened in silence. Kasdan then explained to Orsik about the Wolves of Maldeen, how tragedy was a common thread for much of their membership, and how the Wolves could always use someone like Orsik among their ranks. With few other options available to him and his heart still heavy in his chest, Orsik decided that maybe the Wolves would be his chance for real redemption. He nodded at Kasdan’s offer and began a new phase of his life.