Grawnk grew up in one of the most powerful and well-known strongholds in the Orcish kingdom of Orsinium. Grawnk is the son of the Orc Chieftain of the stronghold, and his mother, the forge-wife of the chieftain. Grawnk’s mother’s name is Arliah gra-Uramel. Her father was an Orc and her mother was a Redguard, making Arliah a half-Orc. Arliah’s parents fell in love with each other over a common interest: the forge. Growing up, Arliah’s mother and father collectively taught their daughter everything they knew about smithing, and because of it, she would become one of the best blacksmiths in all of Orsinium.
By the age of ten, Arliah was already impressing Orsinium inhabitants with her smithing skills. Her parents were proud, of course, but Arliah’s mother wanted her to be educated as well, so began teaching her how to read and write, and to appreciate art and song, and the beauty in all things. Much like Grawnk, Arliah’s father was not a typical Orc, and he supported Arliah’s education, and was likewise proud of his daughter for being able to read and write: something he had never learned how to do himself.
By fifteen, Arliah was permitted to sell her own armor and weapons she had made in her parent’s shop. When she sold her first item, it was one of the happiest days in her life. Sadly, that happiness would not last. Not long before Arliah’s sixteenth birthday, her parents set out for a distant stronghold with a cart of some of their finest weapons and armor. The stronghold they were traveling to was on the edge of Orsinium, and was prone to raiding parties, and wild life attacks. Before they could get there, however, a group of bandits noticed the quality of the items in the cart, and became covetous.
They surrounded the two, and began attacking them. Arliah’s mother, who was not wearing any armor or weapons, was killed immediately, triggering her husband’s berserker rage. He was wearing light armor, but had no weapons on him, and could not access any on the cart, for it was blocked off by a wall of bandits. Outnumbered though he was, he was able to kill seven bandits with his bare hands by ripping their limbs and heads off in a blind fury, before finally being taken down. A silver lining, if there is one to be had here, is that the cart’s intended stronghold was close by, and they had heard the commotion.
Its contingent of warriors found the bodies of Arliah’s parents, and saw the cart tracks leading into the woods. They caught up with what was left of the bandits, and slaughtered them.
A month after her parent’s burial, Arliah began seeing an older Orc named Madrog gro-Baladrag. He was a kind, but very ambitious member of their stronghold, always talking about how one day he would kill the current chieftain, and claim leadership over the stronghold. He was very impressed with Arliah’s prowess at the forge, and would always brag about her to everyone. Over the course of the following year, they fell in love and were happy together.
Madrog, growing restless, and unable to quell his ambition, no matter how hard Arliah had tried, finally challenged the chieftain to a fight. The chieftain was overconfident that Madrog, being younger than the average challenger, would be easily defeated. This was not the case. Madrog was in excellent fitness, and eventually wore down the aging chieftain, before splitting his skull open with his axe. After Madrog’s rise to Chieftain, he married Arliah, but it wasn’t long before she began noticing subtle changes in her husband’s demeanor.
Eventually, all kindness that Madrog once possessed for his wife, disappeared. His main focus was power, and maintaining that power, and as far as he was concerned, Arliah’s main usefulness was providing him with sons: four total in the end. Madrog even went on to take two more wives, relegating Arliah as the forge-wife. All this was too much for Arliah; it was like she was losing her parents all over again. For a long period of time, she experienced nothing but great sadness.
All of her sons looked like their father except for one. The three that looked like Madrog all had spikes forming on their foreheads, were full-sized, and bore a rich, dark-green skin color. The child that did not, was certainly an Orc runt. A runt that Arliah came to love more than anything else. She named him Grawnk. Grawnk was the only child that seemed to get any of her mother’s Redguard blood. He had no spikes, his skin color was that of a light green, and he was not huge in stature.
Madrog was pleased with Arliah’s first three births, looking fondly upon each Orc baby’s face. When he first saw Grawnk, and how un-Orc-like he looked, he ordered Grawnk to be drowned. Arliah swore that she would never forge another piece of armor or weapon for him again, and Madrog relented, but renounced Grawnk as any son of his. Arliah was still considered one of the most talented blacksmiths in Orsinium, and he needed her skills to stay in power.
As Grawnk grew up, he learned to avoid his father. Madrog was quite fond of abusing Grawnk when he had been drinking. He wasn’t pleasant sober either. Because of this behavior, Grawnk never cared to venture outside of the longhouse much when he was growing up, except for the forge lessons his mother would give him. Otherwise, he would stay inside and let his mother educate him, showing him how to read and write, and how to appreciate the beauty in all things, just like Arliah’s mother had done for her.
And it was Arliah who inspired Grawnk to become a bard. She had made a passing comment to Grawnk of how greatly she missed music, and the sound of song. Grawnk worked in secret for a while, composing a song for his mother, and training his voice in order to sing it. When Grawnk finally surprised Arliah with his song, she burst into tears and thanked her beloved son for being so perfect. Grawnk did not stop with that song, though. He enjoyed the process, and began studying how to be a bard on his own, with some help from his mother.
Grawnk cared deeply for his mother, but as he got older, he could tell how sad she was. She had told him stories of how she and his father were so happy once, and that he shouldn’t hate him completely. After that, Grawnk made an effort to be more like an Orc, getting into occasional fights with his brothers, or other Orcs of a similar age. He never won, though, and soon gave up that brief phase of his life when he realized his father wouldn’t be proud of a loser.
Several months before Grawnk would depart on his voyage to Skyrim, things in the stronghold began to worsen. Madrog had become increasingly violent and treacherous, because there were rumors of a powerful Orc who supposedly was looking to become chieftain. When questioned, though, none of the Orcs would tell Madrog who it was, which only made him more enraged. Madrog was at a point where he stayed drunk on mead most hours of the day now, which made him unpredictable.
One night, he called for Arliah to join him in his bed. When Arliah walked in, she observed that Madrog was drunkenly laying in a pile of his own vomit, still insisting she join him. When she refused, Madrog grew furious, and stood up unbelievably fast for being as drunk as he was, and struck Arliah so hard in the face that he broke her jaw. She knew she had to leave the stronghold then. It was no longer safe for her there. As she was heading to get Grawnk, she was waylaid by several Orcs. Madrog had apparently ordered Arliah to be killed, and had made up a lie that she had tried to murder him while he was vulnerable.
Cornered and defenseless, Arliah had no choice but to run – her every step causing her jaw agony. She eluded the other Orcs, though, and slipped away into the night. The next day, when Grawnk found out what had happened, he was furious. He grabbed an axe he used for cutting wood, and went to confront his father. Well, his father had not ceased to be drunk, and the second Grawnk emerged into his sight, he screamed at Grawnk, calling him the son of a whore. He ran at Grawnk and punched him in the face with an armored gauntlet, leaving Grawnk with scars that he bears to this day, and tried to choke him to death. From working at the forge for so many years, Grawnk had developed very strong hands, so was able to break free of his father’s grip.
He knew he had to escape too. But to where, he had no idea. He grabbed a sack of potatoes on his way out as his only source of nutrients, and like his mother, he left the stronghold as well. Afterwards, Grawnk discreetly looked around Orsinium for his mother for a few days, but knew she was too smart to stay anywhere close by. Grawnk figured she would try and put as much distance between her and this stronghold as she could. Grawnk loved his mother, and wanted to see her again, but he also knew that he could look everywhere and still not find her.
He spent the next two weeks traveling to a port town, deciding that Skyrim, the neighboring province, might be a good place to start anew. On the boat ride over, Grawnk hoped that his mother had had the same idea, and that one day they would be reunited.
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