As a youngster in the Whispering Sands tribe of Shifters, Rowlfwicke Banes was a literal red-headed step-child. He didn’t start out that way. He was much loved and doted upon, if a little baffling. But when tragedy struck in his teenage years, the affable if graceless ginger felt himself cast out. Things were never the same again.
His people - fiercely tied to the nature of their coastal islands, believing less in learning than in faith that the gods would always provide the fish necessary to survive, believing less in co-dependence then in the strength of the individual, deeply isolated, stand-offish towards any outsiders who happened upon their salt marshes - made Rowlfwicke feel like a lonely outsider even as they raised him to be a tribal leader and strong Shifter male - the second son of the greatest fishing family in the marsh.
Rowlfwicke was always both exactly what his tribemates wanted him to be - strong, intense, agile, and deadly determined - while still somehow being… a bit of a letdown. His defining characteristic was an overwhelming curiosity and gentle nature that, well, simply wasn’t Shifter. Simply wasn’t Whispering Sands.
Most of the Shifters in the village thought Rowlfwicke, despite his strapping frame and incredible agility, his skill both on a boat and on the hunt, was a bit of an odd cog. But Rowlfwicke’s father Redwolfe loved his second son as truly as a Shifter had ever loved anything that was not him or herself, and encouraged his eccentricities with a gentle hand. The Whispering Sands tribe, trusting the great Redwolf Banes, followed suit, indulging the boy’seccentricties and fawning over his clear gifts.
To be perfectly truthfulm Redwolfe’s second son was not extremely intellegent; the boy was uncouth and chatty but had no aptitude for high-minded conversation. He ignored this lack of aptitude with an energy and self-belief that was startling. Gove hum this - the boy tried. He loved books, loved to struggle through them, loved the feel of them, and so his father had books on various races and epochs shipped in by traveling merchants he sold his mightily large catch to. He did this for his beloved son as often as he could.
The Banes’ were not wealthy persay - wealth meant nothing in Shifter society, money merely metal, but Redwolfe caught so much that the tribe, hesitant to deal with outsiders in any way, did allow him this one indulgence. Redwolfe selling his catch to theoutside world and giving the people of the marsh some financial backing could, it was decided, benefit the people of the Whispering Sands someday, if ever they truly needed it. And so the Banes’s, though their seaside shack was no bigger than any other on the marsh, were accorded some amount of respect. They could move about town with some swagger. Rowlfwicke would move around town, but his gait was hardly filled with swagger. Rather it was borne of an incessant need to connect. The boy was always wanting to talk to others - the baker, the merchants at the fish market, the gossipy wives who would sit on their ramshackle porches, about what he was reading, because there was nothing the young Shifter loved more than interaction.
Shifters did not like interaction very much, and everyone in the Whispering Sands tribe had to admit that the young Rowlfewicke was equal parts quiet and aggresive, a poor listener, lacking any real social graces… A Shifter was inherently stand-offish and uncouth, but this kid was especially lacking in any sort of charisma… but still he tried, and they tolerated his weird behavior because his father was such a respected leader in the community.
When Rowlfwicke’s father died in a fishing accident that no one could ever quite explain, the young Shifter turned inwards. It was hard on him, his father’s death, and it was even worse when the community blamed him, an odd duckling, a distraction, for whatever happened on the boat that day. No one blamed Rowlfwicke more than his new stepfather, Grogor, who had been his father’s friend and business partner. He entered Rowlfwicke’s home and was cruel to the sensitive soul. He entertained none of the odd notions that Redwolfe had tried to foster, instead doing his best to make Rowlfwicke conform to what he felt a future leader of the Whispering Sands tribe should be… and while Rowlfwicke was, as he had always been, talented at all the phyical labor expected of him, his stepfather could tell his heart was not in it, and this made him crueler…
And so, as a teenager, Rowlfwicke neglected his duties and began spending his days traveling to the woods beyond the salt marshes. The woods that very few Shifters ever went into. More often then not, he left his books from the library his father had so kindly assembled for him behind. He resented them now, resented the people in the village, resented his father for leaving him, though he knew, ultimately, that his father had had no control over his departure.
Instead, he would haughtily take his bow and arrow, passing all the shops and porches he had once reclined on in the midst of ceaseless and graceless conversation. No more of that. Now he spoke only with the spirits in the forest. In his time in the woods, he took all the concentration he had always dedicated to trying to make heads or tails of books on dwarf politics or long-gone human civilizations, and he used it to become an expert marksman. Had he showed his extreme skill with a longbow to his stepfather, he likely would have been off the hook - he would have been the talk of the community again, a source of pride.
But no, he wouldn’t give them the satisfaction. Instead, he ventured farther and farther out, sometimes for days, often surviving only off of what he could kill. His mother became distraught at her son’s physical and mental distance.
One day, while in the woods, a bear that was in Rowlfwicke’s sights was suddeny struck down. Surprised, Rowlfwicke began shooting at where he suspected the arrow that felled the bear had come from, only to see a striking, fair elf merchant. The surprise slowed him - had he know been sitting in shock, he could have rifled off three more arrows in the time it took for the next surprise to come. Suddenly, he was tackled form behind and tied up.
He was the prisoner of a band of elves who were being guided towards the salt marshes by the merchant he knew through his interactions with his father; the merchant who had in fact been the source of all those wonderful books/ He resesnted this shadowy figure from his childhood and he made his opinion of the man be known. As previously stated, Rowlfwicke, who had little to no charisma, was not a man of great social grace. He was mean and biting toward the band of regal elves, spiteful that they had captured him and wounded his pride.
When he was calm, the elves told the Shifter that they were a political envoy looking to ally with the Whispering Sands tribe as they prepared for what would be a long war with a nearby dwarf civilization. Rowlfwicke laughed ruetfully at this idea. If he knew his stepfather, the elves would have no luck in these marshes. The clansman he knew treated outsiders like they treated toxic waste in their waters - like poison.
“Your father had agreed in principle to help us you know,” the merchant spoke up. The merchant explained that at first his father’s interactions with merchants had been simple enough - he wanted books for his curious son and a prfit for his fish. But he had become first intrigued in the politics of the outside world, and then he had become dedicated to them. He began ensuring outsiders that he could swing his tribe to his way of thinking - that the outside world was important, that fish was not the only thing in the world, that you had to pick a side to be ready for the oncoming storm. Rowlfwicke was shocked and intrigued in equal measured.
“It’s why he was murdered,” the merchant said sadly. “Thrown overboard. Left for dead.”
Rowlfwicke’s jaw fell. “By whom?” he snarled as if it had been the merchant himself who had committed the crime.
“By his friend and business partner. Now your stepfather.”
Rowlfwicke did not speak for the rest of the night. The elves untied him and left him where he was. They expected he would jump up and run into the village, lash out at the man who lived in his house, slept with his mother, ruined his life. Instead he sat exactly where he was, unflinching, all the movement taking place in his mind. His eyes were boiling with anger. And there he stayed.
Five hours later, the merchant returned with one of the elf envoy’s. They described how they had been unsuccesful, laughed out of the meeting hall by a band of ruffians led by Rowlfwicke’s backwards stepfather. When they got no reaction from him, they began to walk away.
As they were almost out of shouting distance, the gentle elf turned toward Rowlfwicke and shouted. “You could come with us you know?” He smiled and turned.
A moment later, Rowlfwicke got up, brushed the grass and leaves from his clothing, picked up his bows and arrows and began to follow. He would track them from afar for a while, like he would track a bear, and he would watch them, so he could make sure that his father’s trust in them had been a good choice. If he liked what he saw, he might (MIGHT) join their party and begin working towards whatever grand cause had brought them to the backwards salt marshes that Rowlfwicke hated so. Whether he joined them or not, he knew one thing for sure - he would not be returning to the salt marshes, no matter what.
That wasn’t exactly true. He knew that someday he would return. When he understood himself better, when he could control his anger and funnel that anger into sheer force, he would return and take revenge on his step-father. That he knew for sure as he began tracking the elf and the merchant and started his adventures in the outside world.