This is for Kyle and anyone else wondering who Rue is exactly. Rue is a character I created for a friend's Pathfinder RPG table. In the months that I've portrayed him, he's captured my imagination with his wonderment at the world, innocence, and desire to do good in spite of his nature. Rue might need his own book down the road. I always write about my RPG characters, even just a little to help me role play them at the table. This is part of the story about where Rue came from and how he met his spider companion, "Agmund".
The Hobgoblin foreman wandered the line of cages looking into each one. He paused near Rue’s cage and smirked, motioning for the keeper to come over. The portly Gob-Mom scampered up to him as quickly as her girth would allow.
“Does the gobs not please ye, sir?” She bleated.
“This one, he is so small it’d be easy to slip through the bars and flee. Why’s it still here?” The Hobgoblin asked, glowering at Rue.
“Rue is a runt, half as big, and half as smart,” the Gob-Mom cackled.
The hobgoblin frowned slightly, opening Rue’s cage. He expected the tiny goblin to burst into a run, a worthy target for one of his cruel arrows. Instead, the small goblin just smiled sleepily and looked out into the world. There was no malice in the small goblin, a detail the hobgoblin noticed but could not easily quantify.
“Pitiful… not even worth an arrow. Put em’ to collecting bits in the field. Give it a pot and send it out. Gob, don’t come back without a pot full o’ arrowheads and metal scrap,” The hobgoblin foreman snarled.
The Gob Mom grabbed up the tiny goblin, and set him down on a stool. She couldn’t send him out with his bits flapping about, so she dug in the trash and found a potato sack. With a tug, she pulled it over Rue’s head and let the little gob chew a hole for his head. Doing her minimal best to avoid lopping off limbs, she cut arm holes with a large pair of rusty scissors.
“There, doesn’t it look pretty now?” the Gob Mom cooed.
Rue smiled sleepily and looked about, his eyes devouring the first sights of the world outside his cage. The Gob Mom waved her hand in front of the tiny goblin’s face but received no response. The little biter was mesmerized by the light. She waited a moment before giving Rue a slap.
“Now, go find the Hobs some bits and baubles,” the Gob Mom said putting a small iron pot in Rue’s hands.
Rue slowly turned his gaze from the sky to the pot, a wide grin slowly wreaking havoc across his face. With a small “squee”, he hopped down from the stool and ran toward the field the Gob Mom indicated. There were other goblins already there, rooting about in the corpses and muck. They gazed at Rue with a collective malevolence. More competition for shiny objects was the last thing any of them desired.
“Dis oar feld. Oar shinies. Git ya runt,” one squeaked angrily.
Rue slowed his approach and looked about at them, not understanding. The goblins helped him comprehend by forming a ring around him and kicking and punching him until he fell to the ground bloody and quivering. He crawled painfully toward a ditch, wondering why they’d hurt him so.
He was just doing what he’d been told, as well as he could understand. Rue cried, alone in the ditch, and licked his wounds as best he could. He lay there, playing as if he were dead while the goblins continued their work. Eventually, they moved on to look for loot elsewhere.
Turning over, Rue gazed up toward the sky, his battered lips silently mouthing all the words he’d heard spoken that day. The meaning of some of what he’d heard sank in, but the rest was just meaningless sounds. He smiled anyway, even though it hurt to do so. The cool rain did little to soothe Rue’s pain, but the mud beneath him was somewhat more inviting.
He felt ashamed, both of his size and his rapidly rising bruises. Grabbing handfuls of cool mud, he slathered it onto his spindly limbs and face. He’d seen the bigger goblins doing the same, but he’d not tried to fathom the reasoning behind the practice. Even though they’d given him a beating, he understood their shame a little better now.
Rue skirted the field, being careful to avoid his larger brethren, his piggy little eyes looking about for “shinies”. There was little to be found, but he managed to find a few for his pot. The bigger goblins were watching Rue though, and they didn’t let him back to camp with what he’d found. The beating hurt, but nothing like the whip wielded by the Hobgoblin Foreman later.
“Worthless gob!” The foreman bellowed, bringing his lash back and forth across the diminutive goblin’s limbs.
“Peez! Peez!” Rue pleaded, holding up his hands defensively.
“My whip will be worn out on this one,” the hobgoblin foreman spat.
Rue lay there, looking up at the sky again with one eye, the other swollen shut. He licked a deep wound on his arm and wished he was somewhere else, somewhere far away. The hobgoblin foreman kicked coals from the fire on Rue garnering him the scream he was looking for.
“Peez, shiny find! Shiny find!” Rue said, clasping his hands together.
“The hells will find you wanting otherwise gob-ling. Now go,” the hobgoblin snarled.
Rue staggered to his feet and picked up his small pot. He scampered to the edge of camp, not sure where to go. He couldn’t return to the Gob Mom, and the other goblins had already made it clear he wasn’t welcome among them. He walked away from the fading light of the hobgoblin fires, unnoticed by sentries or sleeping dogs.
“Shiny find,” Rue murmured, looking sadly into his pot.
His heart heavy at having failed and lonely for the company of others, Rue covered his eyes and wept bitterly. He walked in a haze of pain, every limb aching from the abuse he’d suffered. Though he’d known nothing else, Rue still wanted to belong to the group and be accepted.
He was terrified of everything now. Whatever wonders the world held in the morning had been banished by the hobgoblin’s lash in the evening. He’d gazed into the light of the day, and felt warmth, and even excitement at getting to join his tribe. That too was gone now, replaced by an unrelenting loneliness.
Without meaning to, Rue almost stumbled into a large spider’s web. It spanned the distance from the ground up into the lower branches of a tree above. Across its delicate surface were all sorts of things, and no small number of goblin bones lay about beneath. Rue looked at the bits and baubles strung about then back up to the web, finding himself face to face with a large spider.
“Shiny find?” Rue asked.
The spider’s many eyes only glistened in the dark for a moment, before it skittered back up into the web. Rue watched, mesmerized, before he reached out and grabbed handfuls of arrowheads, tiny bones, and other trinkets. There were tattered bits of leather too. The items thrummed with a metaphysical force, a preternatural sensation that Rue could feel against the palms of his hands.
“Luckydoos,” Rue whispered, somehow understanding the significance of the objects.
He couldn’t bring these back to the hobgoblins, and felt a deep shame at even laying hands on them. Rue put the items he’d taken back where they belonged, nodding to the spider. Preferring to suffer the lash than take what wasn’t his, Rue turned to leave, gathering up his pot. It was then that a peculiar sensation took hold, stopping him in his tracks.
“Not even worth an arrow,” Rue said, fearfully mimicking the hobgoblin’s tone.
The pot in his hands suddenly sagged with new weight, without any discernible cause. When Rue looked down, his pot was full of baubles, shiny and otherwise. Beneath the mud that covered his limbs, he could feel pain fade and the marks from the lash close and fade. The weight of the spider lay across his narrow shoulders, with something of a whisper from its limbs. Rue nodded, listening intently.
“Yup,” Rue whispered in reply.
An hour later, the goblins awoke, the cold rain finding them easily in their ramshackle shelters. The sounds of small timbers clattered in the center of the slave camp, stirring them from where they had been trying to sleep. As the goblins emerged to investigate, but all they found was tiny Rue standing beside the fire pit.
“Runt, has shiny bits. Gives to us, or we takes em’,” the largest goblin spat.
Rue held up a single stubby digit, smiling widely as he plunged it amongst the timbers. A second later, the small collection of twigs burst into flames illuminating the many faces of the captive Mudrub tribe.
“Doesn’t it look pretty?” Rue asked, mimicking the Gob Mom.
The larger goblin stepped forward, towering menacingly over Rue.
Rue nodded, cowering and shaking like a beaten dog.
“When yeh puts on the mud, make sure it gets on da ears,” the large goblin growled, taking some of his own mud and placing it on Rue’s head.