In the Act II Prologue, the party experienced a series of visions while leaving Briarstone Isle behind:
The Connection is fading. It’s almost gone now.
And in a dark cell the Prisoner stirs. It’s chained by the neck, by the wrists, and by the ankles to a grim, curved granite wall. It sits in the waste excreted by its body. And it is in agony.
It may actually die.
This thought causes the Prisoner—against all instincts of self-preservation—to wail in terror and rage, writhing in its chains. And for a brief moment, it effectively blacks out. The concept of death is nearly unfathomable. And not just as an individual, selfishly—to allow itself to die would be to commit perhaps the greatest crime it could possibly commit against its entire species. The loss it would represent is incalculable.
But still… it may actually die.
And time is running out.
The Connection’s almost gone.
But while it’s still there, a final attempt must be made. One last try. What would do it? What would punch through?
It just tried to find them by accessing the moment of their birth, and it thought it had finally succeeded, but instead it found only memories from their later childhoods. It didn’t make sense.
What to do?
Locating the memory of their births as individuals didn’t work. But this bizarre little family did have another sort of birth…
The BELL tolls.
And together, the characters see a scene from the past.
It is 4703, fifteen years ago. On a dock in Cassomir.
R.I.P. Long Fist and Tyrrell. They lie dead in the nearby warehouse. Riddle lies slaughtered in the open air a scant fifteen feet away. And Jane is gone. Jane ran away. She turned into a wolf and hightailed it to the north. Off into adventures unknown.
Dr. Gulliver Vatticus is talking to the Stranger—this thing that appears to be a woman tightly bound in yellow leather with milky white eyes and wriggling mouth covered in a scarf. She’s wiping Riddle’s blood off of her rapier.
Vatticus asks, “So didja get whatcha said you were gonna get?”
“Yes,” the Stranger hisses. “It seems some of my cargo… has escaped, but yours was in the office with me.”
And the Stranger returns to the warehouse. Clop clop clop, on her hooved feet.
A young boy steps out of the darkness to join Dr. Vatticus. He’s around 5 or 6? Maybe 7? He’s pale, and thin, and it looks like his joints are kinda messed up. He’s hiding behind a mop of dark black hair. It’s Brayden. No scars. No rot. He sees the mutilated corpse across the way—Riddle’s face is almost entirely dissolved and chewed to shreds—and little Brayden wraps his arm around his father’s leg.
Soon, the Stranger returns, leading two humanoid figures, their hands tied behind their backs, bags over their heads. She brings them out onto the pier and forces them to their knees. They don’t struggle, really.
“As promised. They should do nicely.”
“Excellent. The Count’s gonna be pleased,” Vatticus says. “So, Brayden. Your new friends are here. You wanna take a look? Go ahead.”
The young boy steps forward to the figure on his right. It’s male. Huge. Unbelievably huge. Gray-green skin. His arms are covered in tattoos… but they’re sparser and unlike those tattoos today, they don’t seem to be simply random shapes and patterns. They still look crude, they still look as though they were done by hand, but now there appear to be recognizable objects: is that a sun or something? Maybe a leering face?
Brayden pulls the bag off his head and sees a teenaged half-orc. He seems out of it. Clearly drugged. And also… bruised? Battered. He’s been severely roughed-up. But slowly, his dull, yellow eyes open, and…
Brayden Vatticus and Gruk Riptusk see each other for the first time.
Brayden reaches over to the other figure and pulls the bag off his head. It’s another teenager, this one a human. No triangle tattoos. No visible metal teeth. He’s terribly sun-burnt, and his head is shaved. After a moment, his eyes open and…
Brayden Vatticus and Rony (for that’s what he was calling himself at this point) see each other for the first time.
Then into this charged moment, a final figure steps out of the darkness. It’s a woman. In her 30s, with golden skin, metallic silver hair, and deep amethyst eyes. She is bundled in black robes and a black cloak. She’s holding something?
Thema stares down, down at the cluster of Brayden, Riptusk, and Rony on the pier and as Dora realizes she experiences this vision through Thema’s eyes…
They all lock eyes. A Nexus point. A birth. A beginning.
Rony’s coming to. His brown eyes go from dim and glassy to the piercing sharpness we recognize from later in his life. He looks around, studying the scene. Evaluating. Calculating. His gaze finally settles on Dr. Vatticus. He speaks in a voice none of his companions recognize, not really. Not yet.
“You responsible for all this?”
Vatticus stares down at him. “So what if I am?”
“See, my uncle taught me about cost. And consequence. The price to be paid for crossing a line.”
“Oh? I’ve crossed a line, have I?”
“You’ve taken something from me, and from my friend Grip here, that was not yours to take. Something no one has the right to take away from me.”
“Oh, yeah?” Vatticus draws a syringe and stabs it into Rony’s neck. Rony howls in pain and his eyes start to go blank again. But he’s fighting it. He’s fighting it so hard. “So what are you going to do about it?” he laughs.
Without waiting for an answer, Vatticus turns and stabs Riptusk with another syringe. The half-orc immediately slides sideways into an altered state, but Rony’s howling and howling with rage.
Vatticus turns back to him. “Shut your face, kid. Who the hell do you think you are, huh?”
Rony’s writhing in an epic battle between his exhausted brain, the old drugs, and the new drugs. He briefly loses ground and then is compelled by the drugs to answer the question.
Who the hell do you think you are?
Rony mutters incoherently for a moment, then says, “St…. Ssssssst…. St—ony.”
“No, no, no, no…. Stoiču. Rony Stoiču.”
“Rony Stoiču, huh?”
Rony pushes past the drugs with surprising strength and growls, “Don’t you speak his name.”
“Or what? What? What do you think you’re gonna do to me, Rony Stoiču?”
With his last whisper of SELF, Rony pushes forward and pierces through the drugs. And Gull recognizes immediately that he is experiencing this memory through Rony’s eyes.
“What do you think you’re gonna do to me?”
“I’m going to take everything from you. Your stuff. Your name. Your life. Everything. I’m going to rip ‘em out of your hands, crawl deep inside them, make ‘em mine, and then break ‘em. What you’ve robbed from me—my being, my essence, my very self—I will steal from you a hundred-fold. And you’ll never see me coming. I will take… and take… and take.”
Brayden releases his father’s leg and takes a step back. Not back to Mummy. Never to her. Just away. There is a serious chill in the air.
Rony continues, “I will never relent. I swear this on my uncle’s name. And on my grandmother’s memory. This is my curse upon you.” He spits. “It has been spoken.”
Rony collapses. Dr. Vatticus seems shaken. Little Brayden starts crying.
And so does someone else.
For there’s a rustle amidst Thema’s dark black robes, and as she whispers, “Shhhhhhhhhhhhh,” for the first time it is clear that Thema is cradling a small child in her arms.
And the vision fades.
Because the Connection has been cut.
First Reference: Act II Prologue
Other Notable References: —