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!
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."
"Fail at everything you touch. Fail at everything you touch." The words replayed over and over again as he curled into a ball to gasp in short, panted breaths. There had to be more to life than living like this. He'd heard the tales of Kahvi and the war. He barely remembered his old chief besides the memory of flashing green eyes. Kahvi fought, hunted, and lived with passion. Why couldn't he? Because he was a buck? No. There were many bucks and stags that earned the tribe's admiration despite the slant towards the does and fawns.
"I'll keep trying," Chot decided as the pain in his stomach subsided to a dull roar, "Just try my best. Try my best."
The cub knew he should move, but he was so tired. So very tired. Sleep.
"What in the braids of Kahvi?! Chot? Chot, can you hear me? Vok! Where are you?"
"Urda? What is…what has happened to the faunt?!"
"I don't know, Vok. Take the boy to my den while I fetch Mardu to look at what's wrong. Kiv, go get Chot's sire."
"Urda, Jev is drunk on the mind-numbing brew again. He's out."
"Pfaugh! Waste of an elf. Go, Vok."
Chot heard the words, but floated without understanding what was going on. It wasn't until someone pressed on his gut that he gasped awake to see many faces looking down on him as he lay upon soft furs.
"Be still, Chot," Mardu soothed as she reached to wipe something from his lips and came away with drops of blood on her fingers, "Can you tell us what happened, Cub?"
"What…huh?" Chot stammered as he looked to see Urda, Vok, Kiv, and Evar watching him, "I…where?"
"Cub, you're in my den," Urda began as Chot focused on her while Mardu continued her work in angry silence, "Someone struck you good, Chot. We elders need to know who."
Chot blinked slowly. He was hurting and having trouble focusing. That is, until he caught Evar's murderous eyes watching him with a hint of warning.
"I-I don't know," Chot lied as his chief cursed softly, "It was dark and I had no warning. Don't remember any features. He…he was rambling about trolls so I think whoever was numbed by brew and didn't know what they were doing. Didn't recognize the voice. I'm sorry."
"Curse it," Urda hissed before her face softened as Chot flinched involuntarily, "Not your fault, Cub. Nothing to apologize for. Mardu?"
"Broken ribs which is why he had blood on his lips. One rib did some internal damage, but nothing serious as long as we keep the faunt still," Mardu reported in crisp words, "Must be going through a bought of growth since he has no poking meat on his bones to have absorbed the hit. I think we need to discuss rationing the mind-numbing brew. We can't have another elder lashing out at a faunt this young again."
Vok and Kiv snorted as Chot made a face at Mardu. He was no faunt and hadn't ever really felt like one. His spirit was much older than it should have been at the mere age of eight and four.
"Chot will stay here," Urda chuckled, scrubbing fingers into Chot's mane as he huffed, "Evar, you have your babe and Jev is away on hunts too much. I want the cub watched carefully, understood?"
"Aye, Chief," Evar agreed, cutting his eyes to Chot, "Let's hope you discover who did this soon so no other cub gets such a mucking treatment. Would be a real shame if this happened again."
"If this ever happens again the buck rot will be gutted before the tribe," Urda snapped as Evar stepped back in surprise, "Our cubs are our only future. This will not go unpunished again. Vok, guard the cub while he rests after Mardu wraps his ribs. Kiv, with me. Let's see if we can find out who was roaming about after the dance. I'd like that punishment to happen sooner than later."
Chot watched the warning that Evar's face gave him before the pelts were pulled closed as Mardu and Vok leaned him up to wrap his ribs. It hurt, but he made no noise except for an occasional hiss.
"That's a good warrior," Mardu praised as Chot was laid upon the pallet, "I've seen seasoned elves whine more and you made hardly a sound. You've made your tribe proud today by showing your strength. Rest now, Cub."
A thrill ran through Chot at the rare words of praise. He'd shown his strength. He was worthy enough to have Vok guard. Did that mean he was finally becoming a true Go-Back?
"Rest," Vok ordered as Chot glanced up at him while Mardu left after she had tucked a fur over him tightly, "Here. Let me play a bit for you so you can relax. Just keep still for me, Cub."
Chot did relax at the flute music. He relaxed and he slept and he dreamed of a life free of pain. He dreamed of himself standing before a tribe that supported him as much as he tried to support the tribe. It was late when voices began to register again.
"My chief, I can keep the boy with me. He is my son."
"A son you threw out of your den, Jev, or did you think I didn't know? The cub stays with me until he heals."
"I had to do that so Chot could begin standing on his own two feet. He was becoming too reliant on my cousin and me."
"I see. The boy works hard, made himself another place to sleep, and never complains. Looks like this lesson is working, but the cub has no furs and ragged leathers. We train warriors in our tribe, but even warriors need basic necessities. You will fix that, Jev. You are his sire and you were too drunk to watch over your son. Where were you when the child needed you?"
"Urda, today…today is the anniversary of Cetia's death. I'm not myself. The mind-numbing brew helps."
"Ah, Jev. We've sung and danced for her. It is time to stop focusing on what you lost and focus on what Cetia left for you. Chot is still here. He needs his sire to teach him to be strong and stout of heart. Do your duties, Jev."
"I…I will obey, my chief. I can take my child now. He shouldn't impose on you."
"He isn't imposing and Mardu advises against him being moved. One of the broken ribs will shift and become dangerous. Chot is fragile right now and is running a fever. Go grieve for your Cetia and then come back a proper sire to this lad."
The boy heard and shuddered softly as hands carded gently through his hair. Jev would never come back a proper sire. In fact, the talk most likely had angered Jev. The next altercation with his sire would probably end in his death.
"At least if I die, I've shown my strength," Chot reminded as he sank back into deep sleep, "I'll be remembered for what might have been instead of the failure of the tribe. I guess…I guess I can handle that. I hope Urda stays the hands of any others who try to hurt the faunts. It's a hard life to live when there are never any soft hands."
"Troll Dung, you awake?"
Chot blinked awake to see Yun sitting next to him with Jirda peeking over her shoulder. He could tell he had slept a long time.
"Stag Chip?" Chot yawned out as Yun grinned, "What are you doing here?"
"Snuck in," Yun bragged as Chot snorted before hissing softly as his ribs ached, "Stay still, Stupid. You've been really sick for a few days. Urda was so mad and questioned everyone. No one knows who hit ya, but all the elders are watching us younger all the time now. It's kind of hard to even breathe."
"I know the feeling," Chot sighed as Yun and Jirda looked angry for a moment, "I don't feel sick. I just feel achy."
"That's because I've been pouring fever brew down your throat, Cub," Mardu sniffed as her hands came down heavy on a shocked Yun's and Jirda's shoulders, "Back to the fire pit, Fawns. We will be talking later on disobedience. Leave Chot alone right now. Off with you two."
Chot watched as the two scampered out before he focused on Mardu. This Go-Back had always been hard to read.
"Feeling a little cooler today," Mardu remarked as she felt his cheeks, "Let's lean up and check those ribs. Careful, Lad."
It hurt worse this time to rewrap his ribs, but again Chot bit down on the pain and refused to voice the hurt. Mardu rolled her eyes as she helped the boy lay back down.
"You know, I can't help you unless you tell me the poking truth," the elder stated as Chot hid a flinch that she might know of Jev and Evar, "How bad is the pain, Cub? Even we elders take some pain-numbing medicine when badly hurt. You've proven your strength. Don't prove your stupidity by not knowing when to ask for help."
"Oh," Chot breathed in relief, "I hurt some, but not bad. Ow! Except when you press there, Mardu."
Mardu chuckled softly as she shook her head at Chot. The next few days, Chot slept and healed. His fever broke and he was allowed to go to the fire pit, but not to train. It was a harsh day of snow and sleet when Urda came to sit next to the fur-wrapped lad and waited as he finished a silly tale he was making up for the youngest faunts.
"Go play now," Urda urged the babes as they toddled off once Chot finished up, "Lad, you know that three of the hunt left two days ago, right?"
"Aye, Chief," Chot agreed.
"Cub, the three were found. They got caught unawares by a bear," Urda continued as Chot sucked in a breath, "Jev was the only survivor. He is damaged and may not survive his battle. This might be his last one."
Chot gasped as his mind raced. Jev was possibly dying? The pain of that took him by surprise. He had been trying to earn the respect of his sire and he didn't want Jev's death. He didn't want that despite the hard hands and cruel words.
"I…I will dance for him if his battle ends," Chot recited as what was expected of him, "I hope he fights through so I don't have to dance."
"Good, Lad," Urda praised as Chot lowered his head, "You will have to stand on your two feet for a while. You are strong and can handle that, yes?"
"Yes, my chief," Chot answered, "C-can I see him?"
"Not yet, Cub," Urda denied, "I want you to go to Evar's den. He's waiting on you. Kiv will help you. Let's go."
Chot tried to walk without assistance, but ended up being scooped up by Kiv instead despite the cub's protests.
"You're too light," Kiv fussed, holding the blushing lad like a babe, "When you shoot up like a sapling, you become all twigs when a cub. I could snap you in half."
"Try it," Chot challenged as the elder laughed, "I eat."
"Like a piglet," Kiv snorted, "You'll gain that weight back good. Evar, open up."
Chot sighed as he was lowered to have a seat within the den. Evar was talking in angry whispers with Kiv. Toddler Zey was staring at Chot with curious eyes as he crawled over and clambered right on the older cub's lap.
"Oof. You're heavy," Chot grumbled as the babe grabbed a chunk of his hair, "Ow, ow. Strong too. Let go."
"Careful, Faunt," Kiv instructed, pulling small fingers apart and lifting the babe off of Chot, "Your cousin is not able to handle your roughhousing."
"Gah! Na!" Zey squalled, reaching for his sire.
"Zey's not used to others touching him," Evar bit out, taking his son, "I'll watch the lads. Thank you, Kiv."
Chot curled smaller in his furs once Kiv left. There was no telling what was going to happen next.
"Got yourself in good with the elders, hm?" Evar hummed, bouncing his son as Chot remained quiet with his head down, "Cousin? Of my child? I think not, Filth. Don't get a big head."
"Aye, Evar," Chot answered, keeping still, "Um…Jev?"
"Got his," Evar sighed as Chot peeked up at the elf, "Told him the High Ones would eventually punish him for his part in Cetia's death. You'll both feel that punishment one day, Filth. Bah! Hold Zey and do not make my cub cry. I'll go check on that worthless elf."
Chot grunted as he suddenly got an armful of faunt. Zey grizzled when his father left. The babe was still in the clingy phase.
"Don't cry," Chot attempted, bouncing the infant despite the pain in his ribs, "Um…oh, look. Look at the stag."
Zey's sniffles stilled as Chot bounced the infant's carved stag over his head as the babe reached for his toy. Chot even got a few giggles out of the faunt as he made the toy nibble on the babe's ticklish sides.
"Mah," Zey murmured, taking his stag to begin to gum.
"Okay. Your stag," Chot agreed, moving slightly before grimacing, "High Ones, heal these ribs soon. Ugh."
The older cub worked hard to keep Zey happy until the baby finally fell asleep curled up within Chot's fur. Evar arrived later and glanced in surprise at his son.
"How'd you get my cub down for his nap so soon?" Evar demanded softly as he lifted his son to place in the baby hammock closest to warmth.
"Played with him and wore Zey out," Chot answered, "He's…your son is a good faunt."
Evar glanced at Chot before sniffing dismissively.
"I'll agree with that," Evar voiced with a hint of pride before scowling at Chot, "Jev is bandaged and time will tell. You will sleep where you are sitting. Here is some dried fish and a skin of water. Make it last. I'll give you no more until a good eight of days. Do not speak or disturb my den, understood?"
"Aye, Evar," Chot whispered, taking the offered food and water.
Then Chot disappeared into the background. Or at least, that was what it felt like. He grew still and quiet. He sat for long periods trying not to shift at the aches in his ribs or cramps from staying still too long. He rationed his bit of food carefully, but there was so little that soon he would have nothing left. Hunger's hand he knew well so he remained passive at the inevitable. Evar's treatment of Zey was so different from the Evar Chot had known. Zey wasn't spoiled, but certainly doted on.
"So this is what family is like," Chot thought as he watched Evar hum and rock his son a couple of evenings since Jev was found, "It…it seems nice. So nice."
The forgotten cub sighed as he drew his knees to his chest despite the tug of his ribs. He had never known soft hands like that. Go-Backs rarely showed a softer side except with the young, but never had Chot felt soft hands. Except…Mardu and Urda had shown him kindness on occasion. Treated him like a tribemate. That had been nice.
"What do you stare at, Cub?" Evar questioned as Chot glanced back to him.
"I've never seen a faunt so young with a parent," Chot admitted, resting his chin back on his knees, "I did not mean to stare. I apologize."
Evar grumbled as he tucked his son into his sleeping hammock.
"He will be great," Evar bragged, looking at his child, "One day he will be a leader or even chief. Not like you, Good-for-Nothing."
"That would be nice," Chot hummed as Evar startled at the words, "Cubs are the future. Urda said so. Wish I was too, but…never mind."
"But, what?" Evar pushed as Chot looked away.
"Am I a disappointment just because I'm a buck or because I'm me?" Chot asked as Evar's scowl returned, "I know my place, Evar, but it would be nice to at least know why I can't ever do right. Why am I filth?"
Chot grunted as Evar's hand suddenly fisted into the back of his mane to draw him closer.
"You are filth for destroying your mother," Evar hissed as the cub bit his lip at the pain of the hold, "You are filth because of your connection to Jev. You are lower than my cousin because all goes asunder wherever you go. You will never be a part of the tribe. Don't allow the simperings of Urda fool you. You are a cub that is being protected now, but once grown, you are just another useless elf that will be bear or troll fodder one day due to your failures. Remember that."
"Yes, Evar," Chot bit out, trying to ignore the stinging hold in his hair, "I'll listen and remember."
Evar released Chot as the boy pulled himself tighter while something different happened within him. Chot was angry. He was angry that he was deemed so low. He was angry that all had been decided for him without his say. He was angry to be blamed for past events that he had nothing to do with and had no choices about anyway. He was angry that at times he felt he was getting ahead, only to be slapped back so hard. Why couldn't he be great too? Why couldn't he be an asset to the Go-Backs? Life wasn't fair. Chot knew that, but this ongoing torture was…it was…
"Urda!" Chot yelled, launching himself from the den as Evar reached for him, "Chief Urda!"
"Chot! Get back here!" Evar roared as Chot ran blindly, "Wait, Chot!"
"Cub?" another voice said as hands caught him up, Vok, "Chot, what's wrong?"
"I…I…"Chot began as Evar ran up, looking on wide-eyed with Zey screaming in his arms.
Could he finally tell the truth? Could this pain finally end? But what about the faunt? Chot glanced to Zey. Would he destroy the soft hands the babe received? He couldn't.
"My sire?" Chot sniffled, giving into the inevitable as his last bit of hope died, "How is my sire?"
"Oh, Cub," Vok breathed as Urda hurried over, "Urda?"
"He'll live, Chot," the chieftess said as the lad nodded, "He's stubborn and we knew he'd pull through a day ago. Has Evar not informed you of Jev's condition?"
"I was about to when the boy took off," Evar smoothly lied, seeing that the fight had gone out of Chot, "I think he had a bad dream. He didn't hear me calling for him."
"He is pale," Vok pointed out, looking to the crying infant, "Evar, I will see to Chot. You have your son to deal with and I think Chot needs some quiet."
Evar caught Chot's eyes and then relaxed as the boy nodded slightly. The secret was safe. Chot would take this truth to his final battle. It felt good to have Vok bustle him into the elder's den and tuck him beneath warm furs. It didn't feel good to cry, but he cried. He cried bitter tears of anger and hurt. Vok rubbed his back thinking Chot was upset over his sire, never knowing that these tears were not for Jev. Chot was crying for himself. For the life he'd never know. For the dreams that would never happen.
"Sleep, Little Pip," Vok instructed as Chot's tears tapered, "All hurt needs a way out sometimes. Rest, Chot."
Then the boy did the worst thing. He swallowed the pain and gave up on his oldest dreams. Jev and Evar would never give him the opportunity to prove himself. It was time to realize that he was alone. Time to grow up and focus on surviving. Chot took the tender emotions of his youth and locked them away so deep within that he was left with just emptiness. The hollowness stung, but the cub was determined that he would be great and adored to fill that emptiness.
"I'll be the greatest swordsman," Chot decided, narrowing his eyes, "I'll protect the cubs and be what a Go-Back is supposed to be. I'll do whatever necessary to not ever feel hurt or rejection again. I'll dance and sing. I'll show them all. I'll be legendary and elves will remember my name in song. I'll protect other cubs and I will do that on my own. I don't need anyone. I won't fail. I…Jev and Evar are wrong. I'm not a failure. I'm not. I won't cry. I will never cry again.
And Chot didn't for so very long. He bottled himself up and became the scamp of the Go-Backs. He survived the cruelness of Jev and Evar until each left for the palace of the High Ones in his own way. He made decisions. Some were good and some were bad. He made his mistakes and wound up in the Sun Village and then the Forevergreen. He made friends and slowly those friends began to pull away at the locks that kept his real self safely shielded. Chot fought the release of his feelings, but then became an older brother without him realizing it in time to stop getting too close. Later, with his adopted, younger brother, he found a cub. A lost cub hidden away as completely as Chot had locked away his emotions. Feelings began to come to the surface more and more when small arms hugged him close for comfort. His heart began to crack slowly open at the title of "Chot-pa." His shock at discovering that he had almost become a parent left him in awe and then he became a soul brother to one that needed him as much as the cubling.
-I know you.-
-Of course you do, Snow-for-Brains. I know you too.-
In the knowing, he slowly discovered those feelings he had locked away in his youth. To his horror, it was discovered that someone else had been mucking about in his head, but his friends and soul brother ended the connection. He was finally able to open his heart fully after that and discovered a family and then was wanted as a lifemate. Him. Chot was wanted for who he was and the surprise of that left him breathless. Then he was gifted with the right to be known as a father. Someone else's cubling became his without issues of blood relations and he grasped onto the title with vigor.
"Happy, Beloved?" was asked as Chot smirked while he watched his adopted cub leave to train with a spear.
"Perhaps," Chot purred only to tease his lifemate, "Are you, Glider?"
It warmed Chot's heart to know that his beloved was happy and for the first time in his life…Chot was happy too and he would move whatever mountain to keep the family, that was the source of his happiness, safe.
Thanks to any who read my ramblings about my favorite character. I hope you enjoyed.