Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Grimslade, Vermin-Hunter

His earliest memories were of watching the vermin.  The rats, with their opportunistic ability to survive, to make almost anything into food or shelter.  The cats, with their propensity for climbing and stealth, and their solitary, thieving ways.  The dogs, with their gangs and their territorial hierarchies.  He wasn’t one of them, but he became of them.  They were his unacknowledged teachers and competition.

There were humans, too, though he had none of his own.  They were his acknowledged competition, although none he remembered were his teachers.  Humans meant violence, confinement, and pursuit.  They built the shelters he hid in and made the food he stole, but none offered it freely.  He knew other humans his age who were given to freely when they begged on the streets, but investigation revealed they always had adult masters who were worse than the elements or starvation.  They offered to make him one of them, but the price was too high.

Instead, he lived on the fringes of society, learning what he could through careful observation and circumspect, vigilant interactions.  Parents must have created him and someone must have nursed him out of infancy and early childhood, but those memories were lost to him.  All he knew were back alleys, rooftops, sewers, and the hidden sides of the city.  Of course, he used the streets and markets, learned how crowds could provide better concealment than isolation at times, and explored the urban landscape widely, but anonymity and absolute lack of attachment to people were his strategies for safety.

Over time, he made acquaintances—a network, even—and learned to operate through give and take for mutual gain.  He never left himself vulnerable if he could help it, but he realized he needed things only willing others could provide.  Information, warnings, education.  If he was to prey on human society, he needed to know how it functioned; how to communicate, what behaviors to expect, what patterns to predict, how to spot trouble.  Through the years, he learned reading, psychology, group interactions, commerce, and more.

He learned about organizations, too.  There were the official ones like the city guard and military that should be avoided at all costs, bribed in a pinch.  Churches, too, with dangerous generosity that might be carefully manipulated.  The wizards had their clubs devoted to magic, as did most other professions.  And there were unofficial ones like the beggars and thieves guilds, who viewed him as an adversarial maverick.

As it’s much harder for adults to remain inconspicuously invisible than children, it eventually became too dangerous for him to remain the perpetual outsider.  He decided he needed an official profession to give cover to his covert activities.  That’s where his early mentors became once again useful.  He had not only learned all their tricks through careful study, he had become intimately familiar with their ways and habits.  With his adult size and resources, he knew how to best them.  He became a vermin hunter.

Officially, anyway: Grimslade, official vermin hunter, unofficial rogue-of-all-trades, master isolationist and individualist, urban ruffian, social gruffian.

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