Darkness blankets Nyrheim. Pinpricks of torchlight of the night watchmen dot the streets and cast dancing shadows on the tightly packed facades lining the square. A window high up in the Cask & Wick Waywards Inn is open to the night air. Within the room, a candle silhouettes a figure crouched on his knees in flickering light. Telgaunt, the priest is murmuring a prayer to his god.
In the language of the dead he whispers, “watch over me my Queen as I set forth alone out in the Unforgiving Land outside of these walls. I am nothing without your guidance.”
Cut. The priest is scrutinizing a document he forged in the candlelight, wrapping undercut meats in preservative paper, and securing iron manacles to his pack.
Cut. The sun rises as the priest straightens his fine fabricked collar, dons shining mithral half-plate, and adorns himself with a pendant in the shape of a skull.
Flashback. A middle aged human, resembling Telgaunt, stands in front of a mirror straightening his clerical vestments. He places an ornate medallion decorated with seven stars around his neck. He speaks to a boy sitting nearby, motioning about the chapel, “Someday this will all be yours, Telly. When the goddess calls me home, you will be called to serve in my stead.”
The thin and gangly boy twiddles with a small vial, not listening to his father. Inside the vial shadows roil and turn. As his father turns to face him, the boy hides the vial in his coat pocket.
Cut. Long fingers twirl the same vial, now worn with age. The ground is lush and a thick forest looms overhead. Sounds of water are nearby.
Cut. The priest finds evidence of freshly cut trees being dragged off towards the water. At the water’s edge, figures are seen moving. Telgaunt sneaks to find giant crabs feeding on the corpses of goblins. The chittering, bone crunching, and slurping of the feasting crabs is broken by goblinspeak nearby. Telgaunt remains hidden when a hobgoblin and four goblins come rushing out to fight the crabs.
The goblins are fully engaged with the crabs when Telgaunt emerges from the forest-line his mithral halfplate glitters in the setting sun. With outstretched hand the ground all around them begins to tremor! In goblinspeak, he shouts, “heave your sword and drive your arrows into the carapace of these beasts!”
Four large crabs rush the priest, hobgoblin, and goblins. Goblin arrows deflect easily off of the thick carapace armor of the crabs. The hobgoblin’s sword is deflected. Telgaunt makes a fist high in the air and quickly opens his hand to the ringing of a deep resonating bell. He shouts in goblinspeak, “the void of darkness consume you from the inside!” A crab winces in pain and curls its legs under itself and ceases to be.
A few goblins get lucky strikes in the joints between the crab armor, but not enough to kill any. One goblin is cut in half by a large claw. The mithral halfplate protects the priest from a pincer claw attack.
Three more times Telgaunt tolls the death bell, and three more times the crabs wince in pain, curl their legs, and cease to be.
Flashback. The seven starred medallion sits upon a wooden table. A flagon is spilt. Dinner plates turned over. A chair toppled on its side. Muffled shouting is heard from further in the house. The thin boy sits alone at the dinner table fiddling with the shadow-filled vial. The shouting continues until it is suddenly cut short with a thud. The churchbell in the distance rings midnight.
Cut. Smaller crabs rush towards Telgaunt but at the last moment stop and instead feast upon the now dead larger crabs. Telgaunt gives a sigh of relief as the crunching and slurping crescendos.
The hobgoblin barks to the goblins, “line up, now!” before brandishing his sword in the direction of the unknown human priest. The goblins follow suit and form up near the larger hobgoblin.
Telgaunt raises his hand to calm the tremors beneath their feet and opens his eyes which are blanketed in the same roiling shadows as the vial. Afraid, a goblin unleashes an arrow missing the priest. Another grabs the bow from his hands, breaking it.
The priest strokes the skull medallion and the hobgoblin’s thoughts begin to enter his mind.
A gruff voice enters Telgaunt’s mind, “We are the last of our clan. These three goblins are the only one I can count on. Who is this human? I must keep my composure.”
The priest speaks in goblinspeak, “Clearly you lost companions.”
The hobgoblin doesn’t respond, but his thoughts betray him. “Glurg, Burga, and the others were killed in our cave. And now crabs killed the others at the beach.”
“Where is Glurg?” the priest asks to which the hobgoblin replies, “What do you know of Glurg?”
The priest smiles, “Glurg serves me.”
“If he serves you, then you must know what happened to him,” the hobgoblin is fighting to remain resolute hiding his uncertainty.
“Of course, I know what happened to him. He was killed along with every other goblin in the cave,” the priest retorts. “I may have been wrong in choosing him to do my bidding.”
The hobgoblin’s thoughts are of doubt and disbelief towards the priest before speaking in common to the priest, “Cityfolk (loosely translated from a derogatory term) wish to take this island, what are you going to do about it, Master of Glurg?”
The priest quickly responds, “I’m going to make the Cityfolk and anyone else on this island grovel at my feet and it appears I am in need of a new captain.”
The hobgoblin’s thoughts change to thoughts of hesitant hope, before he laughs saying, “you have no idea what’s going on around here. There are more factions here than the Cityfolk can ever dream. We had our place, they have taken it from us. We will give them our place but they will not be able to take everyone’s.”
He thinks about gnolls before lingering on kobolds, and finally about the abyss and water.
Telgaunt waves a dismissing hand, “The gnolls aren’t a threat and the kobolds and wyrmling dragon they worship have already been dealt with.” He holds up a red dragon scale taken from the very corpse of the dragon.
The hobgoblin’s thoughts switch to a continued attempt to control his composure after being astonished upon seeing proof of the kobold and dragon being defeated.
Telgaunt reaches a welcoming hand, “Serve me. The gnolls have been dealt with, the trolls and ogres are weak, and the kobolds and dragon have been slain. Serve me and we shall rule the island. The Cityfolk will grovel at our feet. We will feast and be kings!”
Flashback. Years have passed. The young boy is no longer a young boy, but a man. A tombstone rises out of the ground at his feet. It reads, “loving mother, may she bask in the light of the Eternal Sun.” His bloodied fingers fiddle with the shadow-filled vial as shouts are heard from the village behind him.
The now aged priest clutches his seven starred medallion and lays in a pool of his own blood. He breaths his last breath.
Telgaunt pockets the vial and walks from the village never to return.
Cut. The hobgoblin’s thoughts are hopeful towards serving Telgaunt. He doesn’t care much if the priest is telling the truth about being Glurg’s master or not just that he seems powerful. The goblins aren’t so convinced so Telgaunt retrieves from his pack and throws them the undercooked meats. One goblin looks at the meat in defiance. Telgaunt waves a shadowy hand, marches towards the goblin, the ground trembling beneath them. The goblin jumps up, screeches, throws his hands up, and runs away. The others laugh before hitting him across the head a few times.
The hobgoblin introduces himself as Helgrok and the other three as Egz, It, and Kromm. Telgaunt laughs, “I shall call you Helgrok & The Hideous Three.”
Hours pass. Telgaunt speaks. The hobgoblin listens intently. Telgaunt makes promises, tells them to remain hidden, and that he will return soon.