Doing something a bit different. Instead of a full transcript this will be a body language read of Fjord after the analysis. I highly recommend rewatching the scene and just watching Fjord. He takes an epic face journey throughout that gives off a lot of his emotions while trying (badly) to mask them. All of Wursh’s conversation with him outside and his friends talking to him afterwards is transcribed.
The dynamics of how Fjord interacted with Wursh in Ep 58 stem from his childhood insecurities. Fjord tells The Mighty Nein afterward that he was an orphan raised in Driftwood Asylum, and mostly by other kids. (Ep 58 0:46:44) He was the only half-orc (Ep 58 0:48:11), probably the only orc at all. We know from Ep 11 he was judged a lot on his appearance. He grew faster than the other kids, but he was Stumpy, short. Big teeth. […] Just sort of mis-proportioned.” (Ep 11 3:05:23) Nott calls him “pretty handsome, you know, for, like, a half-monster thing.” (Ep 11 3:04:51) Fjords trying to stay reserved, but you can tell that stung, and he gets more uncomfortable the more she belabors her view of him as a monster.
Growing up the only half-orc in an institution, it’s very likely that Fjord was treated as a monster and a threat by everyone growing up and that played into him being picked on (0:48:11). He viewed himself as, “A kid, just like anyone else,” (Ep 11 3:05:14) but I doubt he was viewed that way. His orcish side was viewed as a brutish disposition to be overcome, but he was never allowed to be human, either. Other kids were afraid of him just for existing. The adults probably treated him like he was the aggressor in way more fights than he was, quick to assume his violence. Any kid that wanted to establish dominance in the pecking order would go after him to prove they were stronger than the monster. His height also made him more intimidating. We can see with Wursh he has a very child-like threat assessment around height. But Fjord wasn’t strong, and he couldn’t take too many punches, so mostly he just got the shit beaten out of him all the time and blamed for it by adults.
So, Fjord learned to view every interaction with people as a threat he needed to be prepared for. He wasn’t good in a fight, and he didn’t have anywhere to run as a kid, so he tries to flatter or intimidate to protect himself. He’s an asshole because being a half-orc is seen as intimidating. He learned kids who are afraid of him are more likely to leave him alone. This is the easiest and most passive technique he has, so he relies on it. But if he knows he can’t intimidate, he’ll turn to being very charming. Make himself useful enough to keep around. This is why we see such duality in his interactions.
Vandran’s crew is probably the first time he ever felt treated like an equal, like he belonged. That meant to world to him and he let down some of those barriers. Then everything went wrong. His sense of peace was blown apart that night. Angry, heartbroken, drowning, and desperate, Uk’otoa found him. Offered him salvation and power enough to stop people from threatening him. It seemed like just a dream, even when he washed up on the beach with the sword. He couldn’t fight it, so he ingratiated himself.
He’s aware that he’s under this thing’s power and threat. He doesn’t want to do what it wants, but he’s terrified of disobeying, of being outright crushed. But he’s also afraid of being abandoned by that power. For once in his life he feels powerful and not just scared. That power has gained him strong allies who have his back. He’s afraid the Mighty Nein will abandon him as useless without that power. He fits with this merry band of assholes. He’s starting to trust them, even, terrifyingly, love them. They’re all keeping the world at bay by being assholes (except Caduceus) and he feels like he fits. So, he’s trapped. Ignoring it for a while was the best resistance he could muster.
Fjord was raised by human-folk. (Ep 58 0:41:46), it’s the only culture he knows, but he was never allowed to be one of them. He was always treated as an orc. But he’s painfully aware that he knows nothing about orcs, either. His interaction with Wursh came out of those deep-seated insecurities. All he knows about orcs is what humans told him. He knows it’s bigoted and inaccurate, he’s trying to learn the truth and keep an open mind, but it’s also ingrained in his threat assessment. He thinks orcish culture values strength and dominance, so he went into the conversation with Wursh expecting he had to prove himself. He desperately wants to be respected and accepted by other orcs.
He wanted Wursh to see him as strong, but he also wanted to learn what it was like to be an orc from him. What’s their culture like? It’s a big missing piece of his sense of self. Wursh picked up on his desperation and bullshit right away. When Fjord said he was from the Menagerie Coast, Wursh realized exactly what was going on with Fjord, and Fjord realized he gave himself away. (Ep 58 0:35:39) But he had no backup plan, so he just dug in his heels and tried to play it cool. It didn’t work. He didn’t find Fjord threatening at all, more like a growling puppy.
When it started going south, Wursh tried to encourage him, but instead it felt like condescending pity. It made him feel weak. Caduceus also tried to bolster him, but again, he only made him feel pitied and weak because his friends didn’t understand what was going on. Nott saw him struggling to hold up the mask and wanted to show him he didn’t need it by teasing him and poking holes in it. But to Fjord, especially as a very bullied kid, that just made him feel even weaker, more insecure, and hurt. The teasing never feels like it could come from anyplace other than wanting to see him hurt, even if he’s intellectually aware Nott cares for him on some level. He feels like he needs to give as good as he gets with her. But in this moment, he needed desperately to not look like she could hurt him. He needed to look stronger, so he exaggerated the tough guy routine.
When Fjord brushes off giving his name and abruptly leaves (Ep 58 0:40:59), Wursh feels like he’s doing a disservice to this kid if he lets him get away with it. He tells Fjord he knows he’s acting like this because he feels like he has something to prove, and he doesn’t have to. I can read what Wursh is saying two different ways. Either he was saying don’t let the temperament and traits of either your human or orc side rule you. Or don’t let how people perceive you based on your blood rule you. Or, most likely, both. You are who you are, you feel what you feel. You are part of both, even when you’re made to feel like you’re part of neither. You’re enough as you are. Trying to act tough will just get the attention of someone powerful enough to hurt you. Fjord knows he’s right and the game is up, so he finally backs down.
It remains to be seen how much this lesson will change Fjord’s behavior. But it did get him talking about his past to his friends. I don’t think they quite understand yet. None of them went through the same thing. But Beau might understand some of the abandonment. Caleb may understand some of the daily fear. One day Nott may understand why he doesn’t want to be seen as a monster for the body he’s in (this will be tied to her own growth). Yasha understands his sense of loss and his fear of letting people get close. Caduceus may piece all of this together from that conversation. And Fjord may keep learning to trust not just his friend’s power, but their compassion.
Scene runs: 0:29:14 to 0:45:31
Fjord is politely disinterested when they get to Wursh’s smithy, quietly going over his notes.
0:29:28 Matt: “A tall and built half-orc. You see a thick chin beard of tough, course, black hair, bald head, arms covered in tattoos from, like, mid bicep down to the wrist.”
Travis has a delayed reaction, and it isn’t until “thick chin beard” that he starts looking uncomfortable. He shifts uncomfortably at the mention of tattoos.
Matt: “Wearing thick leather apron, trousers, no shirt under the apron under the vest and is just kind of sweating on the very edges.”
As Matt describes his appearance, Travis has to remember to breathe from nerves. He starts fidgeting with his beard. He’s happy to let Caduceus take the lead, although he stays tense.
0:30:27 Matt: “And standing up, he’s pushing about 7-foot. He’s a very tall bugger.”
Fjord starts looking even more intimidated and insecure.
0:30:31 Matt, indicating Caduceus: “So, he’s about as tall as you are eye to eye. And just- This guy’s been doing a forge for a long time. The immediate comparison of half-orc him to half-orc Fjord is- it’s a Laurel and Hardy sketch.”
Fjord looks even more uncomfortable.
Taliesin: “His neck has a 6-pack kind of thing?”
Travis mimics strongly puffing out his neck and looking mean.
As Caduceus talks, Fjord looks nervously between them. His posture is closed off and tense. When Wursh speaks, it’s with the same Texas accent Fjord uses. Fjord raises his eyebrow in surprise, blinks a lot, and manages to look even more anxious.
As Caduceus and Wursh talks, Fjord starts to calm down a bit.
Caduceus suggests Jester would like to see Wursh’s tattoos.
0:32:37 Wursh: “Well, she’s certainly able to look, but not something you can really teach. These are important to my home town, so wouldn’t recommend her giving them out.”
“Home town” catches Fjord’s ear.
Caduceus: “Oh no, I just think she would really enjoy seeing them.”
Fjord tries to sound casual, but it comes off a bit forced and over-inquisitive.
0:32:53 Fjord: “Your, uh, your home town? Where you from?”
Wursh eyes him suspiciously.
Matt: “He kind of gives you a look over. Make a persuasion check.”
Travis rolls a 23 and looks quite pleased.
0:33:10 Matt: “He looks you over, kind of grins, and goes,”
Wursh: “You’re an inquisitive runt. I like it.”
Fjord looks frustrated and put out. He shakes his head in a “yeah, okay, that hurt and was unnecessary” way.
He takes notes as Wursh says his from the Greying Wildlands in the village of Araftcra [sp?] out in the Rhyme Plains
He takes notes as Wursh says his from the Greying Wildlands in the village of Araftcra [sp?] out in the Rhyme Plains [sp?]. Fjord does show genuine interest. Wursh says the tattoos are of the nearby Dunrock Mountains. Caduceus says it’s their first day in the city.
0:34:03 Fjord tries to get into the conversation, but Wursh talks over him and cuts him off, talking specifically to Caduceus. It shakes him a bit, and he backs off to regroup.
Wursh asks where they’re from. Caduceus says all-over, then talks about where he’s from. Wursh thinks Caduceus is a crazy motherfucker for living in the Savalierwood.
0:35:12 Fjord: “You’re, uh, so vertically challenged. Everyone like you from the… Araftcra? The same stature?”
0:35:26 Wursh: “Generally, yeah. We’re big.”
Fjord looks put out.
0:35:29 Wursh: “You should see the full-blooded orcs up there. Plenty of them, and they’re a little bigger. Well, one of the clans, anyway.”
Fjord looks like he feels very small.
0:35:39 Fjord, obviously feeling insecure and trying to brush it off: “Yeah, not as, uh,” he clears his throat,” not as huge down in the Menagerie Coast. I’m from Port Damali.”
Wursh, with dawning realization: “Oh! You went and grown up in some of that human territory.”
Fjord looks like he realized he gave too much away.
0:35:50 Fjord, still trying to play it cool: “Yeah, not too many of us, uh-“
He’s cut off by Wursh again.
0:35:53 Wursh: “Explains a lot.”
Fjord’s beginning to look defeated.
0:35:56 Fjord, resigned: “Yep, well, you do the best you can with what you got. Um…”
0:35:59 Wursh, looking slightly perplexed: “Don’t be ashamed of that, son.”
Fjord is mildly surprised.
Fjord: “No, I ain’t ashamed.”
Wursh: “Now look at you; you’re mobile. Me, I hit things real hard, but I spend most of my day in here where it’s bothering me with the heat. You being from the Menagerie coast, I imagine you’ve seen quite a bit, too, in your days.”
Fjord slightly nods along but looks a bit haunted.”
0:36:22 Fjord, trying to sound cocky: “Yeah, it doesn’t… bother me so much.”
Wursh, looking through him: “Good.”
0:36:27 Caduceus: “Mr. Fjord has saved my life on a couple of occasions, actually.”
Fjord looks assured by this and more confident.
0:36:33 Nott: “Yeah, it’s true. He can carry a barrel with only- just a little bit of assistance from one of our ladies.”
Fjord, very annoyed. “Okay! You know, disregard my little goblin friend over here. She’s excited by big muscular types.”
Nott: “I’ve seen it, sir. he can lift almost-“
Fjord: “Many barrels.”
Nott: “Almost one.
Fjord: “Many barrels by himself.”
Nott: “Almost one my himself.”
Nott: “Almost one, yeah.”
Wursh has stopped paying attention and is looking over the broken sword. He suggests the origin is Uthadernian [sp?].
0:37:28 Fjord: “Luthegernian?”
0:37:31 Fjord: “Luthedernian. Sorry, short ears.”
Wursh explains it’s where the Dwarves and Elves live together. Fjord concentrates on his notes. Wursh says be careful up there. His people are just surviving, but the orcs are bloodthirsty. Fjord listens tensely.
Caduceus asks about a jeweler. Wursh suggests Faton’s gems. He isn’t a gem wearing person and he’s not a master craftsman, so he doesn’t have a lot of need. Fjord’s posture shifts to be broader and slightly more confrontational.
0:38:59 Fjord, trying to sound and gruff: “Yeah, jewelry wearing’s for softer folk.”
Fjord screws up his face and spits on the ground. He looks back at Wursh’s toughly, but it’s obviously an exaggerated act. Wursh laughs.
Caduceus thanks him for his time. Jester comes in because they’re taking so long. Fjords watches the exchange uncertainly. She shows the medallion and boasts they’re friends of the Dynasty and really cool. Fjord watched Wursh’s reaction.
0:39:56 Wursh, not sure what to make of it: “Alrighty, well, I didn’t realize I was in the presence of such… whatever the word is for your people.”
Fjord, feigning arrogance: “Yeah, don’t judge a book by its cover, friend.”
Caduceus thanks him for his help and tips a gold piece. Yasha asks his name, and he gives it as Wursh the Tapper. Jester and Caduceus give their names.
0:40:58 Wursh to Fjord: “What’s your name?”
0:40:59 Travis, gruffly: “I leave.”
There’s a long pause.
0:41:06 Nott: “His name’s Fjord.”
0:41:09 Nott: “Yeah. Fjord Tough.”
Wursh nods and mulls it over.
Matt: “And he kind of-“
Nott: “Have you heard of him or something?”
Matt: “No, he just-“
Taliesin: “I’m watching this.”
0:41:23 Matt: “He walks towards the edge and kind of looks out the door and goes,”
0:41:27 Wursh, looking stern: “Hey, come here a second. Wanna talk to you.”
Fjord hesitates and doesn’t want to give ground. His answers are curt and standoffish.
Fjord: “What do you need?”
Wursh looks mildly disappointed in the response.
0:41:42 Wursh: “So you said you grew up in the Menagerie coast, right?”
0:41:46 Wursh: “Around hoity-toity human folk?”
Fjord slightly winces.
0:41:52 Wursh: “And you walk around like you got something to prove?”
Fjord: “Is that what it looks like?”
0:41:56 Wursh, nodding, slightly sad: “From where I’m standing, yeah. ‘Cause I’m’a tell you something: they don’t matter. Yeah, we got a history. But some of us, we don’t let that blood rule us, huh?”
0:42:19 Wursh: “I know you feel the anger there, every now and then, but… don’t let them define you.”
Orc blood? Do you not want to be defined by humans or orcs?
0:42:28 Fjord: “What blood you talking about?”
0:42:30 Wursh: “What? This blood.”
Matt: “He kind of scratches the side of his shoulder and bleeds a bit from his finger nails. They’re kind of grimy and you can see, like, the coal and dirt and stuff that’s under them.”
0:42:41 Wursh: “The blood that we came from. Don’t be ashamed of that.”
Fjord looks briefly confused. He pieces together Wursh means half-orc blood. Don’t let orcs or humans define you.
0:42:48 Fjord: “They don’t look unkindly on our kind where you come from?”
0:42:53 Wursh: “Don’t get too many human folk up north.”
0:42:58 Fjord: “Why’d you come here, anyway?”
Wursh: “Well, I had an apprenticeship up north, or was trying to go for it. But they, uh, it’s a bit dangerous in the alps to get to the sanctum, so I headed south.”
0:43:11 Fjord: “Dangerous for someone your size?”
Wursh: “When you’re traveling solo, yeah.”
Fjord looks down, thinking something over.
0:43:20 Fjord: “If you had the right folk heading up that way, would you consider heading up there again?”
Matt: “He looks around the shop.”
Wursh: “Maybe. Making easy money here. Not too bad. Feeling a little… I don’t know, stifled by all this night, but, you know, I’m learning, I’m training.”
0:43:59 Wursh: “Look, I don’t want to take too much of your time. I’m just saying… you walking everywhere with your pelvis forward like that and looking to start a fight with anybody that calls you on, well, that attitude, you’re going to end up shivved.”
Fjord contemplates that.
0:44:18 Fjord: “And I appreciate you looking out.”
0:44:21 Wursh: “I’m just saying, don’t let any of that bullshit affect you. Just be confident in who you are. Don’t try and prove anything.”
Fjord, nodding: “Try not to let the heat get to you in here. I’m sure we’ll see each other again, Wursh.”
Wursh: “Maybe, Fjord, maybe.”
0:44:43 Travis: “I reach out my hand.”
Matt: “He, like, goes, turns, stops, kind of goes like,”
Wursh makes an affirmative sound and grips Fjord’s hand.
Travis: “His fingers wrap around.”
Matt: “Yeah. It’s like a-” he demonstrates a firm hand clench. “He heads out inside and kind of shoulders past you all.”
0:44:58 Jester: “Woah.”
0:44:59 Caduceus: “I don’t know how he did that. that was amazing.”
0:45:00 Jester: “That was- I mean, like, did you see how… many abs he had.”
0:45:05 Caduceus: “I mean… I mean even his advice had abs. That was crazy.”
Jester: “That was crazy.”
Travis, laughing: “His advice?”
0:45:09 Caduceus: “He just… It just like, broke through layers of walls with that guy. I mean, he just never just… I mean… How did that happen?”
0:45:18 Fjord: “Cool tattoos, huh?”
Jester: “Really cool tattoos.”
Caduceus: “Super cool tattoos. they were very good, I mean, very impressive.
Yasha: “Yeah, that was amazing.”
Jester: “He’s pretty cool.”
Fjord looks at them quizzically.
Yasha: “He seemed like a super nice guy.”
Caduceus, nodding to Fjord: “He seemed really nice.”
Fjord makes a face and scratches his nose to cover it.
0:45:30 Fjord: “What else do we need?”
They discuss what they need to buy.
0:45:51 Laura: “As we walk, I pat Fjord’s shoulder, and I say,”
Jester: “Don’t worry, Fjord, you have really good abs, too. I felt them.”
Fjord, waving her off: “Jester, you don’t have to make me feel better about my abs.”
Jester: “And you’re taller than me. You’re really tall in comparison to me.”
Fjord, scratching his head uncomfortably: “Yeah, I- Yep, I sure am.’
0:46:07 Fjord: “That was just a very large gentleman in there.”
Jester: “Yeah. He was pretty big. But sometimes that’s not a good thing, you know? Sometimes being a normal size is good, too.”
Fjord narrows his eyes and looks like he doesn’t know where she’s going and he’s not sure he likes it.
Caduceus: “What a normal size?”
Fjord: “A normal size?”
Jester: “Yeah, like me. That’s a good thing.”
Fjord, sarcastically: “I have to be above average. Just so you’re aware”
Jester, realizing she’s digging herself in a hole: “And then somebody that’s even bigger than normal like you are is really good, too, it’s like a nice thing! Shit; help me, Yasha.”
Yasha: “No, it’s okay. You look great.”
Travis: “I look up at Yasha.”
Fjord looks slightly put-out.
Yasha: “Yes, you’re so close to me in size.”
Yasha: “Wait, is some of your… family as big as him?”
0:46:44 Fjord, cluelessly shaking his head: “I don’t know who my family is, so I don’t think so.”
Taliesin, with a skeptical smile: “Insight check.”
Taliesin was waiting for something. He rolls a 22.
0:47:02 Travis: “I don’t know who my family is.”
Taliesin: “Cool. Alright.”
Yasha: “You’ve never known your family?”
0:47:06 Fjord, shrugging: “No. I’m an orphan.”
Caduceus: “Really? Huh.”
Nott: “So that guy could have been your cousin or something. You don’t know.”
Caduceus: “I mean, I don’t see a resemblance, but…”
Jester: “He did have an accent similar to yours.”
Nott: “He did.”
Fjord, tensely and annoyed: “Uh huh. Little bit of a, you know, difference.” He makes a swap gesture.
Jester: “Just in height.”
Jester: “But, you know, you looked pretty similar in teeth.” Immediate look of regret. “Nope, your teeth are not- I don’t- You really didn’t look alike. But you had similar accents!”
Fjord, pulling his shirt down and looking really uncomfortable: “Boy!”
Caduceus: “[Could] plant a tree in that hole.”
Nott: “The accent was a good tell, yeah, it’s true.”
Fjord crosses his arms.
Yasha: “It’s- who raised you then?”
0:47:46 Fjord: “Uh… The kids around me, I guess. Just kind of learned from being around other orphans.”
Caduceus studies him and process that sadly.
0:47:54 Fjord: “Yeah, it wasn’t a great place. Driftwood Asylum is very…” He waves off his hand.
Nott: “Like an orphanage?”
Yasha: “Driftwood Asylum?”
0:48:04 Nott: “And you didn’t even have, you know, like, your muscles to protect you. So, you had to rely on wits and cleverness.”
Fjord scratches his face uncomfortably.
0:48:11 Fjord: “I mean, to be fair, I actually was a bit bigger than other kids when I was younger. Half-orcs tend to grow a bit faster, but yeah, I just tend to get picked on a lot. Only one of me around.”
Caduceus: “Driftwood Asylum?”
0:48:25 Caduceus: “Someone named an orphanage after wood that needs to be somewhere else or really just wants to go somewhere else? That’s just-“
Nott: “It’s also wood that if you find it, you know, it’s nice. Sometimes they make art out of it and stuff.”
0:48:36 Fjord: “I didn’t say it was a great place.”
Caduceus: “You lave layers. I feel I just learn something new every day.”
Fjord eyes him suspiciously.
0:48:47 Caduceus: “Uh, where to, captain?”
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