The Story of Tuso

by Gaunter

Tags: Fiction,

Desc: Fantasy Story: Character background for a halfling bard character I created for a Pathfinder(c) game. All references to any materials and names that may be copyrighted are used under the OGL (Open Gaming License).

Who we now know as Tuso, was born into a loving and happy extended family of bards and minstrels. Known as the Bombarri Troup, they were known far and wide for their wonderful minstrel shows, singing, entertaining feats of acrobatics, and showmanship. He was in fact, the great grandson of Uther Bombarri, the leader of the Bombarri family and troupe. As was the custom, the oldest female of the family, with the help of several different intoxicants, foretold the name of the youngest male of the Bombarri lineage. The old woman was somewhat flummoxed by the images she perceived. She saw and felt a young man who appeared charming to those he wanted to charm, but also quick to anger and due violence to those who stood in his way. Violence and anger were not traits that Halflings tended to have, nor tolerate, as such tended to make them noticeable to the "big" people who the Halflings were always living in the shadow of. In an effort to give meaning to what she saw, she pronounced the new born boy as Kellem, in the ancient language. To most, this meant that that the boy was going to be a great charmer, someone they could look forward to as able to gain advantage in negotiations and diplomacy, (which was always in need for Halflings). To a few, however, the name also included the warning that he could tend toward being a forceful scoundrel, ready to do whatever it took to get his way.

In his pre-ordained path to follow in his family's footsteps, he was raised singing, dancing and learning how to do tumbling and acrobatics at the same time he was learning to walk and talk. Not long after came instruments to play and props to master. Juggling, knife throwing, bow and sling practice, wrestling, self defense, ropes to swing on and climb, all were part of his play. He also learned to ride and take care of animals, as the Troup employed a great number to pull their large wagons to and from the cities where they would set up their stages and tents. As he grew, he became a favorite amongst the Troup. Always with a smile upon his face, and a willingness to help out with anything that needed doing. He learned all of his lessons well and was progressing steadily toward becoming a bard like his father before him. Then tragedy struck.

While the Troup was moving through disputed lands between Cheliax and Anduran, his family's wagon suffered a breakdown. His father told the others to continue on their way while he and Kellem fixed the wheel. While they were fixing it, a group of Cheliaxian soldiers came upon them. While they tried to barter and beg their way out of being taken prisoner, it was to no avail. They were taken to the infernal city of Senara, and put on trial as "spies". Their trial consisted of the prosecutor reading the charges against them, and the winged demon sitting as their judge, pronouncing them guilty. Their punishment was a lifetime of indebted servitude, otherwise known as slaves.

Kellem tried to keep up his happy demeanor, but the conditions he and his family were forced to live under, were simply unbearable. Not only was there never enough to eat, but Kellem was deeply disturbed by all that he saw. The cruel guards took every opportunity to heap added pain and humiliation upon he and his family. Halflings were something of a novelty in Senara, but their small size and physical weakness put them at risk of harm from almost everyone. His father's good voice and bardic ability at first kept them out of the worst of it. However, when one of the overseers decided to see if having sex with his mother was as much fun as having sex with a child, (which she was similarly sized as), his father's protest cost him his life as he was slowly bled while forced to watch his wife raped to death. Kellem, also tried to come to his parent's defense, but was literally held in place just inches from his mother and father as they were cruelly tortured and killed. When Kellem could take no more, and tried to close his eyes, his eyelids were sewn open, though soon after it did not matter as he passed out.

When he awoke, he was in great pain and discomfort, but could close his eyes again. Upon trying to sit up, and failing, he saw the face of an old gnome come over him and say, "Ah, so you have decided to live, how unfortunate for you". The old gnome introduced himself as Begvat. He told Kellem that he had been tasked with "cleaning up the mess" his parents had caused, and upon doing so, came upon him unconscious. So he hauled him back to his little niche, and cut the stitches holding his eyes open to see if he might awaken. Kellem was in no mood for talk, however, as he fell into an inconsolable bout of crying. He felt completely bereft, and wanted only to die as nothing in his life had prepared him for this kind of hell.

Time passed, and little by little, Kellem cried less, and became more angry. When he finally started talking to Begvat, it was to learn what he knew of this place, this city, their "masters" and this dungeon. One of the first lessons Begvat taught him was to guard the use of his "real name", for the infernal ones could use such knowledge to bind you to their infernal magic. For a while he just went as "kid", as trying to come up with another name seemed like too much trouble. Then Begvat, upon seeing him able to get out of the clutches of a much larger and stronger slave as they fought for food named him, Tuso, which he said meant "slippery". After that Begvat started teaching him how to be a master thief, (as Begvet claimed he had been before becoming too old and stiff to assure his success). While Tuso was not overly enthusiastic at first, he finally decided that some of the skills Begvet was trying to teach him might help him escape one day, so he dedicated himself to the training fully.

In the fight or starve mentality of the dungeon, Tuso learned that aggression and tenacity could often times save the day. Begvat was of great help. While old and seemingly infirm, Begvat held quite a bit of respect amongst the other slaves, as anyone who fought with him generally regretted it later from the wounds that he would inflict. He was a master at dirty fighting. Sand in the face, knee to the groin, and his favorite, stick in the eye. It was he that taught Tuso his first lessons in real fighting. That a good defense was nice, but aggressive, disorienting, painful, and unrelenting attacks would generally convince an opponent to drop the matter, no matter what it was. So it was that Tuso started being a bully. The smallest guy in the dungeon, but someone the others were afraid of. Tuso had developed a reputation, "Attack me, and I will cut out your eyes and your balls and make you eat them". A few tried to raise there own reputation by taking Tuso on, but no one could match his unrestrained furry nor his penchant for taking out eyes and other sensitive areas with his shivs.

As one can imagine, slaves in the dungeon are not supposed to be armed. One day, as Tuso was hacking off the finger of an unfortunate opponent who tried to take some food out of his hand, he was seen by one of the overseers. The overseer had the guards strip Tuso of the rags he was wearing, and upon searching, they found 5 different shivs on his person. The overseer decided that since Tuso apparently liked to fight, he should be sent to the pits to earn his keep as a fighter. So began another chapter of Tuso's young life.

When Tuso arrived at the dungeon for the pit fighters, the battle for respect began anew. He was low man on the totem pole, and seemed an easy target to those looking to move up the social ladder. Though such new arrivals are supposed to be brought in without any possessions, the guards had missed two of the shivs that he had hid, (don't ask). As such, the first brute trying to pick on Tuso lost both an eye and a ball, and later his life to the infection that developed. There were hard and bitter men, though, and Tuso recognized that his lack of size and strength were really going to put him at a disadvantage.

Tuso's first couple of pit fights were not as bad as he was expecting. Due to his small size, his opponents were selected not to kill him, but to hurt and belittle him. First there was the crazed house cat that immediately tried to shred him. Then came the dog that was supposed to terrorize him. The audience thought both were hilarious, even though Tuso won them both, as he was quite bloodied from the fights.

Then he graduated up to fighting gnomes, (there are lots of them in Cheliax), and a few go missing every month. Tuso knew it was wrong to revel in his opponent's defeat, as they were all forced to fight. But he also knew he was starting to like inflicting pain, and he was afraid of that. When he faced his first full-size opponent, it was a human who was missing his left arm. The pit announcer called it a "fair" fight. It wasn't. Tuso almost died that fight. While he only had one arm, the man could kick like a mule. Every time Tuso tried to close with him, those feet would pound him. So he finally devised a plan using his old acrobatic tricks, and literally bounced off the wall of the pit gaining enough height to fall on the man from above, where he sunk his dagger into the man's back and into his heart, killing him. While Tuso felt utterly exhausted and was wobbly on his feet, the sound of the cheering and the smell of the dead man's blood, mixed with the realization that he had bested the man, made Tuso shiver in delight.

.... There is more of this story ...

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