About Herk, the Hunched
Herk, the Hunched
Herk laid on his bed, in the room he used, above the tavern he runs. No matter how much he tried, sleep alluded the man. A storm raged outside his cramped little room, thunder pealed in the distance, and rain steadily beat down on the roof. The ever strengthening wind howled trying to find its way through the drafty window. He laid there and wondered, Is tonight the night they come for me?
It was a night like this when they came for him and his brother. Fortunately, I don’t remember much about it, other than the infernal weather, Herk told himself.
<Stop lying to yourself. You remember, you’ll never forget,> the other worldly voice in his head stated mater of factly.
It’s right I still remember most of it, Herk conceded to the voice.
Herk’s earliest memories are of the night he and his brother were kidnapped. It was quick and brutal, one moment they were taking a short cut down a deserted alley. The next moment he had a sack thrust over his head, and was being carried away by rough hands. He and his brother were soon separated and Herk was put in a small stone room with another boy. The room was bare except for a small barred window about six feet off the ground and a bucket filled with excrement. He could tell by looking up and out the window that he was in a basement. As the door closed Herk heard one of the men say, “We’ve got a few hours before we deliver this lot. Got a good bunch here we sho…..” the man’s voice was lost as the door closed behind him. In spite of everything that happened Herk found himself exhausted and soon collapsed into a deep sleep on the stone floor of his cell.
He awoke on the stone floor cold and whimpering, rain poured down outside the window to his cell, and flashes of lightning light up his cell every so often. He continued to lay there feeling hopeless when the door to his cell is opened. One of his jailers entered the room and grabbed the other boy. The jailer said with an evil grin on his face, “Time for me to have a little fun. You’re next chubby,” his jailer said with sneer toward Herk as the screaming boy was dragged from the room.
Herk stood there frozen, not sure what was going on, but even his young mind is certain it is something twisted and evil. That is when he heard the voice <Stop your sniveling and do something you fat fool.> Herk looked around but saw no one else in the damp cell. Herk didn’t know what to do but he was positive that he wanted to leave this room before his jailer came back. So he decided to take the voice’s advice and do something.
A bit of inspiration came to him and he moved quickly, afraid that his captor would return soon. Without hesitation he removed his cloths, balled them up and threw them out of the barred window. Next, he overturned the bucket of excrement and moved it over to the window so he could stand on it. It took every bit of self-control to do what he did next, he bent over and smeared the waste from the bucket on his shoulders, chest, and hips. For lubrication, he thought. Using the bucket he was able to reach the bars on the window and pull himself up. Thanks to the lubrication he was able to painfully squeeze his way through the bars.
<You’re a smart one,> the other voice comments.
I am smart, Herk thought as he picked up his drenched cloths.
< I died in this alley,> the otherworldly voice resounds in his head.
[b]“Who are you,” the boy asked in a whispered voice as he made his way out of the mist filled alley into the down poor.
Herk eventually made his way to his uncle’s house, who ran an underground pub complete with music and dancing, some of the cities forbidden pleasures. In this environment Herk was forced to grow up quickly. His uncle saw to it that he was trained him in the art of brewing and mixing of chemicals. In this free thinking environment he learned to read and debate philosophy, history, and religion. This is where he grew up and where he spent the rest of his youth looking over his shoulder and listening to the otherworldly voice. That is until the authorities came and took his uncle, closing the pub and forcing Herk to find his own way on the streets of Castorhage.
It was some years after this and Herk was failing at running a tavern in the slums of Castorhage when he began a discrete investigation business out of the tavern to help make ends meet.
In the back alleys of the oppressive city, nestled between rows of buildings of similar size and disrepair is a narrow two story structure. With a tavern on the first floor and rooms on the second story. Above the door hangs a sign depicting a man being hanged with his legs kicking and a large empty mug on the ground below him, At the top of the sign in faded yellow lettering it reads, The Dancing Drunk. On the bottom of the sign is the more recently added, No Dancing Allowed!
From the outside the tavern looks nasty, cheerless and uninviting. Soft wooden planks and oak details make up most of the building's outer structure. It's difficult to see through the dusty windows, but the gloominess from within can be felt outside. In the corner of the window closest to the door is another sign which can hardly be seen beneath the dust which reads;
A heavy wooden door is the only entrance to the tavern and groans when it opens. Upon entering the tavern it appears as dire inside as it is on the outside. Dark squared, wooden beams support the upper floor with rows of small, molten candles dangling from the beams. The common room is long and narrow the walls are bare, with the plaster peeling off in places. The bar is on the left and runs the length of the room with several small tables running along the right wall along with a stone fireplace. Along the far wall are two doors, one leads to the kitchen the other to the basement. The overall layout gives the room a cramped feel.
The tavern is almost completely abandoned the few who are here are dredges of society and lost souls but whoever they are, they give you an uncomfortable feeling of dread. Behind the bar is a large, stooped, overweight bartender who is coughing into a dirty napkin. He makes no effort to acknowledge your presence.
Tap, tap, tap the crow beat on Herk’s head with its beak while his bloated body laid on the ground in a refuse covered alley. Herk tried to scream but no words came out as his mouth is filled with worms. The crow begins again tap, tap, TAP.
Herk's eyes popped open, his head still pounding, but he sighed with relief as he realized that he is in his bed, safe, in his cramped little apartment. He concluded, It’s just that dream again. He laid in his bed breathing erratically with sweat pouring off his obese body. The sour odor of his unwashed body mixes with the smell of alcohol, and his breath, creating something noxious. Herk shook his head as he began to work his jaw, making sure that his mouth wasn’t filled with worms. No I’m still alive, Herk decided as the pounding in his head grew louder. The other voice in his head reminded him as the pounding continued, <True but you're closer to the grave today then you were yesterday.>
It took him a second to realize that it isn’t just his skull that is pounding but someone is also knocking at the door to his apartment. A voice that is not his own echoed in his mind and warned, <Careful, it could be trouble!>
”You always think it’s trouble,” Herk rebutted before he realized what he was doing. I have to stop encouraging it, Herk admonished himself. But admitted, Probably is trouble.
Slowly Herk threw his legs over the side of the bed and moved his ponderous frame into a sitting position. He ran his fingers through his thinning hair as he reached with his other hand for the mostly empty bottle next to his bed. Greedily he brought the bottle to his lips and finished off the contents. He tossed the bottle aside and carefully got up, the bed groaned in relief as his considerable bulk is lifted. Sluggishly he made his way over to the water basin, which is sitting on the dresser against the wall. He splashed water on his face and he looked up catching his reflection in the small dust covered mirror that sat above the dresser.
He scowled at his likeness, it was a look of disgust and surprise. He mused that while he was not yet 40 years old the reflection looking back at him seemed older.
<Weary looking,> The other voice inside his head remarked.
It’s right I do look weary, but it’s more than that, Herk surmised.
As Herk continued looking at his reflection he noticed his eyes, They are same color of the sky right before a storm.
Herk is startled from his reverie by the unrelenting knocking on the door. He admonished himself, Stop admiring yourself, there is business to attend to. He shakes his head thinking, Probably trouble.
His stooped and hunched backed form made its way across the room, the floor creaked in protest, as Herk is large framed, and even stooped over, stands a little over 6 feet tall. He is broad shouldered, barrel-chested and big bellied with thick legs and arms. He is overweight and a layer of fat covers the muscles beneath.
He continued the journey across the small room and he carried himself with an air of confidence. The swagger of a veteran, he thinks.
Another snide comment from the voice, <swagger of a drunkard.>
“Go away,” Herk said halfheartedly not sure if he is talking to the voice in his head or to the person who is knocking on the door.
Again his thoughts were interrupted by the other voice, <Probably someone here to kill you.> Herk hesitated for a second then made a fist as he places his other ham sized hand upon the knob, you’re probably right.
You can tell by looking at him (and sniffing) that cleanliness is not one of his top priories often he smells of liquor, body odor, and bad breath. The remains of a half-eaten meal frequently stain his shirt.
He can often be seen mumbling or talking to himself and frequently laughs at his own jokes.
If there was one word to describe Herk it would be paranoid. He believes the world is out to get him (and at times he is right). He is clever and isn’t afraid to let people know it as well as possessing a cutting sense of humor. Additionally, he frequently gives advice whether or not it is wanted. These attributes don’t win him many friends.