Not Like the Others
This story is the final story ending my saga started with "More than What Meets the Eyes" and is also a slightly alternative universe story. This story happens during Chot's childhood. Hope you like and let me know either way.
I own nothing. Poop!
Small hands parted the pelt to get just a tiny peek of the dance. Go-Backs spun and danced with wild abandonment. The song soared as his tribe celebrated the good hunt. The smell of smoked fish and roasted venison filled the air, making his empty belly rumble and pang. Hunger pulled at him, but this was nothing he wasn't used to feeling. The gnawing fingers of hunger had pulled at him since he could remember. Everyone looked so happy as they sang and danced. How he wished he could dance among the tribe. How much he wished. The child withdrew quickly when he saw Jev glance towards the den.
"No," Chot begged in his mind as he raced to his corner to stand against the chilled stone, "Please, no."
The cub held his breath and hoped, to no avail. The pelts parted while he lowered his head in respect to his sire's entrance.
"Did I just see a cursed bit of filth defy my rules?" Jev's cold voice inquired as Chot stiffened and desperately shook his head in denial, "Really now?"
"Didn't come out," Chot whispered before grunting as he was slapped across the face hard enough to throw him to the floor, "I didn't come out. I stayed inside the den. I didn't come out."
The boy hissed as his hair was pulled while his sire jerked his head up to stare into the enraged elf's face.
"Stay put and make no sounds. Troll scat like you doesn't deserve to join the tribe. Know your place, Cub."
Jev left with a last kick to Chot's gut. He knew his sire had pulled back on his strength or he'd have hurt a lot worse. The boy whimpered as he gasped in air. Pain he knew well. Loneliness and hunger normal. He was a Go-Back. A Go-Back's life was harsh so they fought through to survive anything. He'd had worse before.
"Earn my place," Chot reminded himself as he stood on shaking legs to return to his corner, "Show your strength and earn your place. I'm a Go-Back too. Got to prove that to Jev."
Hours he stood hearing the merriment outside the den. Noise faded as the dance ended and Jev didn't return. Cautiously, Chot peeked outside of the den and saw all asleep except for a guard leaving for the outside to scout. The boy scampered towards the scraps left over from the feast. If caught, he'd be punished, but he hadn't been given any food in two days. This was survival's need and also something he had grown used to doing. Quickly, the lad snatched up crumbs and bits of meat to chew hungrily. Just a few mouthfuls remained, but enough to help with the hunger pains and to survive another few days. A small noise startled Chot and he froze and waited.
"Good. Just someone turning over," Chot thought, seeing the elf twitch a little more before settling.
As quickly as he came, the child left on silent feet. It was a hard life, but the only kind Chot had ever known. He rarely got to play with the other cubs. Never got to sing along or join the dances. He had no playthings or even sleep furs. The lad knew that this wasn't the same life other cublings had, but accepted his place with silent resign. He'd been told from as soon as he could remember that his place was not with the others. He would listen from the den as cubs, especially the girl-fawns, were praised and trained to be hunters and warriors. What Chot wouldn't do for just a bit of that…just a little piece of acceptance that the other cubs knew.
"Earn my place," Chot reminded himself again, leaning tiredly against the wall stone as he waited silently.
Sighing, Chot stood in his corner. He was young so he tired, but knew he was not allowed to sleep without permission. The boy startled as his sire entered and again his head dropped in respect. Jev tossed his leathers and furs aside and settled, wrapped cozily, completely ignoring the hopeful child. Chot waited to be allowed to finally curl up in his corner and sleep. Nothing. No acknowledgement as Jev rolled over and started snoring. Chot studied his sire's features, so much like his own, in the dim light. How he wished he was a strong like Jev to earn his place within the tribe faster. The boy stood silently until he most have fallen asleep at some point. He woke realizing he had sunk to his knees. Jev would be angry, but the elf still slept so Chot forced himself to his feet once again. Chot stood and waited as he heard his tribe beginning their day outside of the den.
"Jev, you pus-boil! Get your lazy rump up. The hunt is already gathered. Sick of having to be sent to get you, Cousin."
It was Evar, Jev's cousin. The two hated one another for some reason.
"I'm up, Second Choice," Jev growled as Evar snarled at him, "It's your turn with the filth. Get him out of here and teach the cub some respect."
Chot's heart dropped as he felt Evar's eyes on him. Evar was so much worse than Jev. His sire's hands hurt, but Evar's words stabbed deeper.
"Again?" Evar groaned as his upper lip turned up in disgust, "Fine. Go to my den, Boy, and touch nothing."
Chot nodded quickly and slipped from his sire's den to hurry to Evar's. If he went fast then maybe no one would notice him. Please, High Ones. Please no one notice. Please.
"Chot?" the cub heard as his heart dropped once again this early morning, "By the great ice wall, what is this? How did you get this bruise, Pipling?"
Urda stooped to touch his cheek. Jev and Evar would be angry.
"I…I…" Chot stammered as his chief lifted his face to look up at her, "I wasn't looking and fell hard. It doesn't hurt."
"My son is correct," Jev casually remarked as he stepped up and drew Chot away from Urda, "He will learn to be more careful in the future, Urda. I will teach him myself with my cousin's guidance, of course."
"Ah," Urda hummed, patting Chot's head, "Tread carefully, Cub, so you grow as good a warrior as your cousin and sire."
"Yes, Chief," Chot agreed as he felt a strong hand grip his shoulder with a painful grip, "I will work very hard at my training."
The lad hid a wince as the grip on his shoulder tightened hard enough to bruise.
"Come. Let's not keep our chief from her duties, Chot," Evar instructed, pushing the child towards his den, "I will be right back, Jev."
"Wait," Urda called as Evar stopped and turned, "Let Chot help with watching some of our other faunts for me. The cubs are bored today and getting into fish-poking everything. Plus, I haven't seen the boy in days. Let's give him some air, right?"
"Aye," Evar agreed, making Chot hide another wince at what he knew was coming later, "Go on, Boy."
Chot nodded and scampered towards the main fire pit where he knew the smaller cubs were kept to keep warmest. This bit of freedom was a rarity so he might as well enjoy the time before he was forced to stand or do chores for hours without rest. Plus, he enjoyed the younger cublings. They were fun to play with and tease.
Chot chuckled as a slightly younger cub tackled him to his back. Yun. One of the favored fawns among the Go-Backs. Gifted in her own way from having a Wolfrider as a sire.
"Stag Chip," Chot blurted as he wrestled with the girl, "Can't pin me."
"Can," Yun growled before giggling as Jirda came over to help, "See?"
"Cheater," Chot tossed out before rolling and dumping the girls from his person, "Watcha doing?"
"Playing toss stones to learn balance," Yun chirped, pulling him over, "Come play."
Chot hesitated. He had never played toss stone before. If the younger cubs knew he didn't know how they'd talk to their parents and then questions would reach Jev and Evar. Life was hard enough without that happening.
"Let me just assist the ones that need extra help right now, Yun," Chot said, taking a seat to watch the game, "I'll play after I sit a bit."
The fawns shrugged and returned to the game as Chot watched avidly. He caught onto the game quickly and then ended up needing to help a couple of the tiny faunts. The two were not sure on their feet and Chot didn't mind holding their hands while they jumped from ring to ring. The group laughed as he gave the game a go and ended up on his rump.
"Won't be a proper warrior without balance, Troll Dung," Yun chortled as Chot grumbled, "Try again."
"Only cause I poking want to, Stag Chip," Chot snapped as he tried again with better success, "See? I only tripped on something. I'll be a mighty warrior. Better than you."
He ended up in a wrestling match with Yun again, but Chot didn't mind. This was fun and it had been so long since he had felt anything like this. A familiar face drew the lad's attention and he stood quickly as Evar slunk over.
"I'm sure others can keep the cubs entertained," Evar voiced as Chot nodded, "You know what your job is. Do it."
"Yes, Evar," Chot agreed as the adult stalked away, "See ya, Brats."
"Aw," Jirda whined, "You hardly ever play with us."
"Have to pull my weight," Chot sighed, hurrying to the back of the lodge to see several fresh skins stretched and awaiting his attentions.
Hours of scraping were ahead of the cub. Evar wouldn't allow him in the den until his work was done. This was punishment for having been seen and allowed a bit of freedom. Looking at the work awaiting him, Chot groaned softly. He turned and gazed at the squabbling faunts at the fire pit. Why was he so denied the same amount of care? Was it because his mother died? The mother he never knew? The mother that made his sire and Evar snarl at one another? Shrugging off the melancholy, Chot located a scraper and set to his chore.
"Earning my place," Chot reminded with each stroke of his tool upon the skin, "Showing my worth. Earning my place."
Hours past as Chot worked alone. His muscles ached in his kneeling legs and scraping arms. This work he knew well and had done since he had needed two hands to hold the scraping tool. He tensed slightly but continued working when he sensed someone approach.
"You are too slow, Cub," Evar remarked as Chot hurried his strokes, "You try my patience. Do you have to fail so miserably at all you do?"
The lad's next stroke hesitated for a moment before returning to his steady rhythm. The words had dug deep, leaving wounds inside like all the other cruel remarks tossed his way over his short life.
"I'm sorry, Evar," Chot offered, turning to look at what should have been kin to him, "I'll work harder."
Evar spat as the cub looked down for a moment before turning back to his chore.
"Why I put up with you is anyone's guess," Evar stated as Chot worked and listened, "I guess I do this for your poor mother's spirit. To be cursed with making the wrong choice with Jev and then being stuck with filth like you weakened poor Cetia. You only have your mother's lovely mane the rest is all that worthless Jev's, Filth."
"Evar?" Chot called as the elf glanced over at him in shock for daring to speak up, "What can I do to be better? I'll try so hard, Evar. How can I be a better Go-Back?"
"Better? You?" Evar snorted, "Never happen, Cub. You were worthless from the moment you were born and dear Cetia knew it. Rejected you early. Cetia only ever wanted a strong fawn like all of Kahvi's young. Instead, she got a sickly buck like you. Would have been better if you had been stillborn."
Chot choked at the cruel words as he wilted where he sat. Never had his sire or Evar said this before. There had been hints, but never this brutal truth. Chot fought with himself. Go-Backs didn't cry. He was a Go-Back, even if a disappointing one. Even if he wasn't a strong fawn like his mother wanted and the tribe adored. Chot looked up to see Evar stalk away angrily.
"I'll work harder," Chot decided as his natural stubbornness reared, "I'll earn a spot in the tribe. I'll dance one day. I will or…or I'll die trying. I'll fight for a place. There has to be a place for even me, doesn't there?"
Time marched on and Chot grew apart from his oblivious tribe. He learned to tan leathers and was forced by Evar to become the lodge's fish gutter. He was used to having a dagger in hand as he spent hours each day gutting baskets of fish to ready for drying. It became a joke in the lodge that elves could smell him coming due to all the fish guts he cleaned. The words hurt, but the work gave him a way to get some extra food as he snuck a mouthful every now again. He hated raw fish, but Evar and Jev were not generous in the food he was allowed.
Back and forth he was tossed between Jev and Evar over the seasons. He couldn't say what was worse anymore-Jev's physical abuse or Evar's biting words. He endured his treatment and learned to watch and listen. Chot learned when to speak up or stay silent. He learned to never yearn for what he couldn't have. The first time he had accepted a gift of a sleep fur from Urda, he was beaten until he could barely stand the next day. Chot had been forced to watch as the gift was shredded by Jev's knife.
"Useless beings don't need furs," Jev had spat as Evar watched on, "Learn to endure what your natural place is, Filth. You are nothing and nothing gets just that."
"Aye, Jev," Chot breathed as he curled against his corner to try and make the bruises on his back stop screaming at him, "I couldn't say 'no' to Chief Urda. She said I looked cold. I'm sorry. I swear I wasn't cold."
"Cub needs some new leathers," Evar grumbled as his cousin sneered, "Brat's been fraying at his seams since his last growth spurt. Fix this or Urda will intervene, Jev."
"You are getting on my last nerve," Jev growled, holding his knife in Chot's face as the cub fearfully watched the blade get closer and closer to his eyes, "I wanted Cetia and not a useless thing like you. Rotten fish guts! Fine, Evar. I'll deal with the brat's issues."
Chot watched his "caretakers" stomp away before hesitantly reaching to touch a strip of the lovely fur Urda had graced him with. Ruined, just like anything he had ever been given or tried to make for himself.
"Don't need things," Chot vowed, burying his hurt deep within him to be forgotten, "Go-Backs need nothing besides the clothes on our backs and weapons to hunt food. I'll be the strongest and best Go-Back and show Jev and Evar. Maybe even mother will not be disappointed with me when I meet her after my final battle then. Maybe she'll be proud that I had been a buck instead of a fawn then. I'll never give up. I won't."
Chot got his new leathers and hid his pain until he healed. Go-Backs respected pain and didn't whine. Jev and Evar couldn't stop his introduction into the lessons for the growing faunts. This was tribe tradition. Chot was out of the den more. He was seen more so his sire and Evar made sure he got a little more food and bruises didn't show. The lad worked hard at learning different weapons. The sword felt the most natural, but he could work decently with a spear and bow. He felt lighter with his peers and even found himself smiling at times.
Then Evar was gifted with Zey. Zey had bright red hair and a curiously intense stare for an infant. Evar refused to have Chot within his den any longer stating that he didn't want the lad's worthless ways rubbing off on his son. Jev roared at his cousin, but dealt with his own son with hard hands and cruel punishments. Finally, Chot was tossed out of Jev's den late one night at the tender age of eight and four.
"I don't need useless cubs," Jev snarled as Chot gazed up in shock at his sire from the floor, "You are no son of mine. Cetia shouldn't have cursed me with you. Get and show yourself to me no longer."
Chot blinked as the pelts were pulled tight while he sat up slowly. Where did he go now? There were no other extra dens in the lodge and he had no other family or friends to share with. The youth glanced about and discovered a shadowy corner beneath the stairs that led to the lodge's second level. That was out of the way and not used for anything besides storage.
"I'll make do," Chot decided as he curled up within the corner, "At least I don't have to stand so much now. I'm…whoa! I'm my own elf now. I don't have to answer to Jev or Evar anymore. I can…maybe I can go to a dance."
And he did go to his first dance. He knew the songs by heart, despite never being allowed to sing along. He didn't dance that first time, but watched and ate his full for the first time ever and sang and cried out in pain later when Evar punched him hard in the stomach away from seeing eyes.
"Think you're a real, big Go-Back now, do you?" Evar hissed as Chot groaned upon the floor, "Watch yourself, Filth. Because of you and your sire I lost Cetia. You will never be allowed to forget that you are the lowest elf there is among this tribe. Lower even than that Jev. Remember that, Cub. You are worthless and fail at everything you touch."
To be continued…