The following contains the concluding part to chapter three, the penultimate chapter in the Prelude. Following the next chapter, the regular narrative line of the story begins, chronicling many more regular characters (my friends’ PCs) and the events surrounding them during actual gameplay. Thomtham has just roared at his old friend, and Pawluk retracts his comments. Here, Pawluk and Thomtham conclude their dinner conversation, and much is left unanswered regarding the fate of “The Dark Child.” Was his advent boon or omen? Only time will tell…
PRELUDE, Chapter 03: Among Giants (continued)
“I didn’t mean any disrespect, neighbor. Please forgive me for playing demon’s hand. I just don’t want to see something like this dismantle the great Stonecrush tribe. You’ve worked hard to place yourself amongst Goliath lore; I only hope to see you remain there.”
Thomtham slowly drew his arms back in from their aggressive position, reflecting the general embarrassment he felt from snapping at his old friend.
“I am sorry too, brother. The pressure I’m under… it has taken its toll on my composure. It’s times like this I must remember Vankryn and the inner-peace he represents.”
Pawluk scoffed, “Heh. Perhaps. But more importantly, I think you need to focus on what your own father would have done. I find it easier and usually more applicable to look only one generation back, as opposed to countless,” Pawluk retorted as he noted Thomtham’s curling scowl, “Then again… that is just me. I don’t mean to be teacher here. Your father did an excellent job of that; I merely suggest that you meditate on that.”
The two sat in silence for a few seconds. Thomtham sighed as Pawluk meekly returned to his food. His consumption was much less feverish now; he ate as his mother had instructed him too as a young boy.
“Of course; I hope you would,” said his friend in a calming voice.
“If I followed my immediate feelings,” Thomtham said as he drew in a sigh, “I would dash the young child on our rock fortifications.”
Pawluk stared at Thomtham, amazed at the thought of infanticide. Dashing the child’s brains? We’re not elitist dragonborns, thought Pawluk. Certainly young Goliath males need to exude a kind of strength and fortitude, but the thought of destroying a child because of some sort of deformity never sat right with Pawluk. He resisted the urge to challenge Thomtham’s honesty, surely knowing that his friend was just expressing the pressure he felt from many troubling issues. He immediately feigned sympathy on his face for Thomtham, attempting to deceive his friend that he, too, has felt these urges.
“It’s wrong, I know,” said Thomtham, seeing through Pawluk’s guise. “I realize I just told you I would raise him as one of my own. That’s the honorable side of me. But we both know that that infant’s presence here is only danger and threat. Given our current tension with most human civilizations in this land, harboring one of their children will only bring storms to my people. It’s almost as if… it would be better… if he just disappeared.”
Pawluk could no longer hold his tongue.
“So,” he began, “killing the child would be a safer alternate? Worst case scenario, friend, is that some human band discovers the child here. Well, you just give him back as some sort of peace offering. However, if they arrive and discover somehow you’ve killed a child of their kind? There’s your storms. There’s your danger and threat.”
Thomtham knew that Pawluk was right. With the number of human spies in the area, disposing of the child would be next to impossible without notice. In fact, Thomtham was certain that several spies from the Kol family were within proximity of the child’s mother’s funeral held earlier. If that woman had been anyone important, then somewhere out there, someone else knew about her death. A wave of uneasiness flooded Thomtham’s mind. He sat in silence for several minutes, trying to discover some solution. Then, he thought of something, something that might work. If he couldn’t kill the child and if he shouldn’t hide the child…
“You must help me, then.”
“Of course, neighbor,” Pawluk returned with sincerity, “Anything you need. Guards, messengers, soldiers–”
“I need your words,” Thomtham interrupted, “I need the messages that you deliver to your people and neighbors in closer proximity than me and mine.”
“I am confused. You need… my words?”
“We can’t kill the child, that is certain,” explained Thomtham.
“This is true.”
“And we shouldn’t just conceal the child; he already sticks out with that darker skin and sable hair,” Thomtham continued.
“I was convinced he was a nothic, I’ll be honest,” joked Pawluk. Many nothics were dark-skinned, scaly, and apine servitors of Vecna; their central, singular eye peered into men’s souls and drove them to madness.
“Cute,” responded Thomtham. “We won’t kill him and we won’t hide him. Instead, we’ll make sure he is quite well-known, in fact. Let us make sure the knowledge of his presence here spreads far and wide… we make him legend.”
“I will not lie to you, brother,” Pawluk returned with a smile, “several travelers that I met along my journey north already spoke of his presence.”
“Really?!” exclaimed Thomtham with a curious exuberance.
“Oh yes, they even had a name for him already.”
“That is hilarious!” roared Thomtham.
“I don’t think you are going to have any trouble spreading the knowledge of his presence in your camp, neighbor. Ingenious too: if the humans want him back, then they can come and get him. Otherwise, perhaps you have found the key to finally bridging the racist gap between our societies… perhaps undoing the despicable actions that purist bastard Corellis committed centuries ago.”
“It is under punishment of banishment if someone even mutters the name, let alone the deeds of the final emperor of Nerath here,” Thomtham said with ichor.
“May Asmodeus seer his flesh for eternity.”
The inhumane deeds of fallen emperors always permanently stain the world, an old adage reads. Emperor Corellis D’Enign IV — later dubbed “Corellis the Cruel” — was the final emperor of the first human empire of Nerath. Toward the end of his reign (and subsequent fall of the empire), Corellis enacted genocidal laws, wiping out entire civilizations of other races, including goliath, shifter, gnome, elf, eladrin: practically all other races save human, tiefling, or dragonborn. The other two contemporary empires — the tiefling empire of Bael-Thurath and the dragonborn empire of Arkhosia — stood in direct opposition to Nertah and each other. The three empires vied for land and people for centuries; Corellis began his eugenically repugnant campaigns and blamed many of the atrocities on his opposing empires, attempting to cite riots and wars against his enemies. However, Corellis never denied his hand in the affairs, blostering his hubristic pride again and again. Armies marched on the human capital, and he just watched most of the city burn, doing nothing to stop it, before disappearing outright. Very few of the conquering forces knew of his disappearance and created lies that he had been encountered and justly slaughtered for his crimes against all humanity. The general consensus now, centuries later, is that Corellis the Cruel forever burns in the Elemental Chaos, his flesh bubbling as his muscles and bones are skewered with blades of pumice. That was the hope, at least.
“I’m beginning to think this child may be more a boon than an irremovable cyst,” said Thomtham.
“You should name him after your father, as you were. It is rarely done and will support his legendary status. However, make no changes to it; simply call him Thom.”
“Excellent idea, Pawluk. My father and Theryk himself would revel in the cunning, may they be blessed and rest peacefully in the Eternal Mountain.”
“And, best yet, we don’t even have to concern ourselves over his moniker of status,” Pawluk cleverly responded.
“Ah yes. You said he had already acquired that,” Thomtham asked, as he reached for ink and parchment. “I shall begin my letters to my neighbors with it. Tell me: what did these travelers call him?”
Pawluk leaned in, smiling.
“The Dark Child.”
All images are copyright of the artists.
All Dungeons & Dragons references and images are copyright of Wizards of the Coast, LLC.
Narrative material and story are copyright of Robert C. Beshere.