This is the first chapter of Grogg Hammerfist’s Adventures through the Multiverse. You can read the prologue here.
Chapter One: Humble Beginnings
The forest of the Old Gods is a long way from Forest Peak where I grew up. Even now, as I sit in this room recording old memories, I cannot fathom the many separations between the boy I was and the man who strode into this humble inn with a warrior’s confidence. And though casual observers might discern no great distinction between these poor lodgings and the house I lived in as a boy, a chasm of experience separates the two. Yet my thoughts are not on the place where I lay my head tonight, but on the road to here. And all the way from the gnolls til I reached this wayside hamlet, my mind and my heart were full with thoughts of home, and of people long past.
I still can’t believe I am doing this – actually putting quill to parchment to write about my many adventures. My mother, Rowina Hammerfist, rest her soul, taught me to write down my thoughts and experiences from a young age. It was her solution for her troubled child. She would prefer I express my feelings and thoughts by writing them down instead of resorting to physical means – like when I beat up the local bully for his taunts about my being different. It did feel satisfying, though, punching him and seeing him run home crying with his tail between his legs.
Forest Peak was your run-of-the-mill small rural settlement. It even had an actual mill. It was so named because there was a forest outside the town and it was overshadowed by a tall peak known as Crow’s Beak. And no – not the most creative name for a village.
Those who chose to call this place home could be seen tending livestock, collecting firewood in the Murkvale Woods, or running a family business – a sterling example being the local blacksmith. (More about him later.) The village had its rustic charm. It was the perfect place to settle down for a quiet life – that is, if you want to settle, emphasis on the “settle” and on the “quiet”. None of these appealed to me, though.
I noticed early on that I was different from most of the other young men in the village – in quite a few ways. One of them was my ever-growing need to leave village life behind me. The other is that I am gay. At the time I was still very young and had not come to terms with who I am. These feelings I had were new, scary and at the same time exhilarating.
Most of these feelings were directed at Renvir, the local blacksmith’s son. Only, the town bully realised this before Renvir or I did. Did I mention that the bully decided to make this known while I was walking home with Renvir as we were returning from the market? He thoroughly earned his broken nose. I still wonder what betrayed my overwhelming, deep-seated puppy love that was waiting to burst from my chest and smother Renvir like gravy over mashed potatoes – it couldn’t have been anything obvious, right?
I could spend hours watching Renvir work at the forge; his muscles rippling, sweat dripping from his brow and that steely blue gaze – I have to catch my breath whenever I think about it. In an attempt to be closer to Renvir, I asked his father, Oldman Gyram, if I could help around the smithy. Despite his reluctance at first, he finally agreed to my request – I can be extremely charming when I need to be. I thought he would have me pick up the scraps of metal, sweep the yard or slate Renvir’s thirst by bringing him water. I was sadly mistaken…
He made me work – no, work is not the right word for it. From dusk till dawn, I was inundated. I hardly had time to admire Renvir. I hold no grudge against Gyram, though. If it wasn’t for the intense physical labour over the months that I worked there, my swarthy six foot, two inch frame would not have become so muscular. To finish of this new manly look, I decided to grow stubble and had my raven locks cut short and brushed back – I thought I looked quite dashing. Even dear Renvir commented on it. He called me “handsome” – that made my day.
Alas, things never went anywhere with Renvir. He later on courted a local lass, Heima. I bear no ill will towards her for being with the man of my dreams. She was friendly and helpful, just an all-round lovely person. She helped out at the orphanage and baked cakes for the elderly – heck, how could I possibly hate her? I even wished them well on their wedding day. Not that I think I deserve a prize for that, but I would never stand in the way of someone else’s happiness, especially not those I care about. That was another life lesson I learned from my mother.
The realisation that Forest Peak was becoming too small for me became more acute. The cobblestone streets, tree-lined lanes, and modest but homely thatch-roofed houses had no appeal to me.
My mother could sense my restlessness. One evening after a hearty meal, she asked me join her outside to look at the night sky – staring at the stars gave her endless joy. On my way to meet her, I grabbed her woollen shawl; nights near the forest could get rather chilly. She looked up at me and smiled when I draped the shawl over her shoulders.
“I can see in those grey eyes of yours that something is weighing on you, my son,” she said with the warmth, tenderness and insight that only a mother could. I could not hide anything from my mother. She single-handedly raised me after my father, Gorham Senior, passed away.
(Yes, you guessed right; my name is not actually Grogg. That was a nickname given to me by the village folk after a heavy night of dancing and drinking copious amounts of ale, which saw me passed out in the fields afterwards. The name stuck.)
I did not want to meet her gaze when she said it, so I kept staring up at the night sky. “Yes, you are right,” I said, and slowly exhaled. “I feel like a square peg in a round hole here. It feels like my dreams are too big for this village. I want to experience new things, see things other than what Forest Peak has to offer.” I finally met her gaze and I could feel a lump grow in my throat. She didn’t say anything at that moment; instead she took my hands in hers and held them gently. Her hands were dwarfed by mine.
When at last she spoke, her words buried themselves deep in my heart, where they remain to this day. “You are my son and I love you with everything that I am. Your happiness is what’s important to me as a mother. I have raised you to be the man you are today, but you need to find your path to become the man you are destined to be. If that means that you will have to leave Forest Peak, then you have my blessing”. We embraced, cried till we could not cry any longer, and then laughed.
And with my mother’s words still lingering in my heart and in my mind, I packed my bags the following day and set off to see the world beyond Forest Peak. I would return there one day, but that I will tell you about much later.