Hugh

The Story of Hugh/Hew/Hū

"Hey, you!" soon became Hugh, or Hew, or Hū, as words spoken in a rush have a tendency to do, especially for those who can't spell and never knew the name their mother gave them, if she ever did give one. But that didn't matter, as all anyone ever called the scrawny kid that was always underfoot was Hey, you! anyways, and when the growth spurt hit and scrawny turned to brawny and it became easier to take by force than to steal with stealth, Hey, you! was often accompanied by Get 'em! The 'em was thanks to the layers of grime and sartorial indifference that accompanied the urchin, along with the choice early in life to go bald, as hair was too easily tugged and yanked in the ubiquitous scrums that made up leisure time for the street ruffians. But technically, for those who were interested (and no one ever was), the bits underneath were female. So far as Hugh knew or cared, that made no difference and by the time physiology made some of those differences plain, well, metal could be pounded to fit any shape and she was washing off the blood of others every day, so what was a little more every month?

At a young age, Hugh'd learned to survive. In the back alleys of North Aereolus City, surviving meant fighting. She'd been a member of nearly all the gangs for a while, and in the formal chronicling of their exploits she could be found toward the bottom of the list as Henchman #38 or similar. By rights, she should have been dead ten times over by now, but what she lacked in brains and charm, she made up with strength and agility, not to mention a whole lot of luck. To be sure, she made her own luck. Those same chronicles would also be bound to note that Henchmen #37 and #39 always seemed to take a fortuitous stumble (for Hugh) right into the oncoming path of a blade or bolt intended for #38, who would then step out from behind her fallen shield comrade to slay her opponent.

Life in the gangs was good. There was always room there for one more like her, and the city offered plenty in terms of drinking, fighting, torture, revenge — everything anyone could want. Money enough for a bed and food and no end of excitement.

Then everything changed.

It started simply enough. A brothel had hired her gang to pick up some new girls. It was the sort of job that kept commerce alive and like all things needful, such as sausages and sewers, it didn't pay to look too closely at how it all worked. So off Hugh had gone with ten others, into the countryside to find some easy pickings. It was just after the monthly fair, which meant the added bonus of extra loot and fewer travelers on the roads, so really there shouldn't have been any issues. Indeed, with the first six there weren't. The seventh was a young girl of perhaps thirteen, slightly plump with large eyes and black hair coiled tightly against the nape of her neck in a thick braid. The hair itself would be worth it if it was long enough. She was alone, walking down the path wearing a rust-colored shift, bands of gold adorning it.

What could have been easier? How were they to know she was pledged to the goddess Aerea, her walk a test of her faith that Aerea would protect her from all harm, especially the ravages of men? So far, she hadn't even suffered a blister after ten miles of walking and soon she would reach the grove where one of the oldest of Aerea's temples stood and where she would spend a year as an anchorite. Or so were her and Aerea's plans, until Hugh et al. crossed her path.

The girl's struggle was brief and soon she had been bound and Henchman #2 had taken the lead rope in hand. He moved to bring her back to their camp, where the other girls waited, but came up short — the girl wouldn't budge. Two men, then four, then all eleven of them sought to tug and pull and push and lift the girl, but she stood rooted to the spot, caught up in a trance. They lashed her, then lashed her bonds to the horses, but still she could not be moved. And then her mough opened and from out of it poured a voice that hurt the ears and made the horses tug all the more furiously and uselessly. The voice named them all and cursed them, promising vengeance when least expected.

The girl was gone. The horses, tied to no more than the air, stumbled and scattered. As the gang rounded them up and resolved that six girls was plenty for the pay they were getting — none voiced to his companions their near-divinity experience — Hugh wondered why the god had promised vengeance on the girl, but grinned to herself that he had neglected to mention Hugh's own name. Of course, being overlooked was a normal state of affairs for Hugh and soon she was drinking and carousing with the rest.

That was the day everything changed, but Hugh wouldn't know it for some time. She might have become aware sooner had she been the type who could count past four when wearing mittens, but she wasn't. Slowly, in gruesome accidents, the various members of the squad began dying. Hugh had moved on to Aereolus by the time the killing began, but gruesome accidents make good stories and soon word had begun to spread. It wasn't until four years later, with only three of the gang members remaining alive, that Hugh began to suspect and to fear. Foes in battle she could handle. Even an ambush set by a goddess held little fear for her. But an accident wasn't something you could fight.

So Hugh tried to change. She took to wearing disguises, a new one every day. This lost her her place with her current gang, as Henchman #38 is never allowed to upstage the boss. She sought out fortune tellers (that is, crooks in multi-coloured shawls), who predicted a sticky end unless she bought this amulet, that potion. And so her neck rattled with useless trinkets and her pockets were stuffed with foul-smelling herbs, but she did luck into a ring that, she was told, would spirit her away from danger, buying it cheap for she was not the only dumb one in town.

In desperation brought on by too much drink, she cornered a priestess of Aerea, slamming her against a wall and demanding to know what to do, before sobbing wretchedly into the hem of the priestess's robes. Whether it was pity that moved the priestess or equal desperation to avoid being skewered or covered in sick, she told Hugh that though Aerea could be wrathful, she could also be inclined to show mercy if Hugh actually strove to change her life and spent the balance of it correcting the wrongs she had done, seeking to be a good person. Oh, and if she gave up drinking. Because even priestesses can twist the knife.

Hugh gave away all her luck charms, except the ring, because it was pretty, and all her disguises, except a bright orange bow she afixed to the coif of her maille, because all the respectable ladies wore bows in their hair. Being bald, Hugh did what she could.

She tried to do good, she really did. But giving up drinking was harder than she'd thought. And she didn't have a job, so how was she to pay for her bed and board? Perhaps it's not surprising, then, that she slipped up now and again. Nor did it help that all in her quarter knew her — or at last her hulking frame — as a no good, low-life thug who'd as soon slug you as say hello.

She tried to join the ranks of the pledged faithful of Tehne, Clovis, Emer, and Gessar, thinking that to become a cleric would be the surest means of doing good, but none would take her. She even sought out Aerea, but when she was left in the sanctum for the goddess to test her, she grew scared. Her head pounded from lack of drink and a ringing grew in her ears until in a blind panic she tore through the curtains, mortally toppled a neophyte into the sacred flames, and ran from the temple, cries of "Hey, you!" and "Get 'em!" dogging her as she fled.

And this is where we find her. On the wrong side of the goddess Aerea, on the right side of none. Fighting to overcome her past and herself, when all she's known, all she's ever been good at, is fighting. And drinking. The less she drinks, the more her fists itch. The more her fists itch, the more she fights. The more she fights, the drunker she becomes on bloodlust, until she is nearly berserk with mingled rage and joy. It is only in the aftermath that she remembers to worry about whether she fought for a good cause or a bad one.


Stats

Name: Hugh/Hew/Hu
Race: Human
Profession: Fighter
Deity: Nominally Crimson
Birthplace: North Aereolus City
Birth Date: 2/9
Gender: Female
Eye: Brown/Green
Hair: Bald (brown)
Age: 25
Weight: 156
Height: 6'0
Handed: L

Str: 18 (00)
Int: 9
Wis: 11
Cha: 6
Dex: 17
Hea: 13
Fit: 13

HP: 11
EP: 20

Force: 20
Magic: 11
Resistance: 14
Agility: 16

Trait: Strong Arm

AC: -3
Elven Chain
Large shield
Bastard sword in hand

Run: 10

Skills
Animal Lore: 10
Bargain: 22
Climb: 78
Camouflage: 9
Evaluate Treasure: 72
First Aid: 1
Fishing: 2
Gamble: 10
History: 8
Hunting: 5
Jump: 10
Listen: 5
Map Making: -5
Mineral Lore: 0
Plant Lore: -1
Ride: 47
Spot Hidden: 18
Swim: -5
Tracking: 8
Trap: -3
Language (Dwarvish): 36
Write Own: 44

Weapon Proficiencies
Single, Edged
Single, Weighted
Double, Edged
Double, Weighted
Pole, Weighted
Crossbow/Dart thrower

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