I lost my third son today.
My first child, my own flesh and blood, died gloriously fighting alongside Madrak Ironhide. My pride was eclipsed by my grief, but how many trollkin can claim their sons helped the mighty Madrak? That’s a badge of honor, that is.
In my grief stricken madness I wandered. Most folks let me be, who wants to tangle with a Fellcaller of my size? I don’t know how long I walked for, a few days maybe. Came across an ornery beast of a Thornwood Mauler about to make paste out of this Llaelese nobleman.
We trollkin take courage seriously. Running headlong into the fray is in our blood, Dhunia made sure of that. But a trollkin knows in the back of his mind that he will heal. Lost leg? Grab a walking stick and suck it up for a few days till it grows back. Missing vital organs? That might take a whole week to patch itself up. Unless one of us gets hit hard enough to kill us outright, most likely the wound will sort itself out quick like. Knowing you’ll either die in battle or recover to fight another day limits how brave a trollkin can be. Bravery requires fear, and my kind have far less to fear than most.
Not trying to puff up the trollkin reputation, just stating the facts. We fight, we heal, we fight again. So courage to us means facing death nobly, means fighting to the last of us, means smiling at whatever foe comes to claim our last breath.
So this Llaelese man, this, wee shrimp of a thing I see, is standing between a massive Thornwood Mauler and a young woman. The lady is holding a pair of screaming babes, and she’s praying her wee human heart out, begging Morrow and Menoth and whatever god’ll listen to save her children.
The nobleman has nothing but a quad-iron and a fencing saber, and he’s staring down this beast, and I can’t tell which of them is more pissed off, the man or the mauler. I’ve seen veteran trollkin face Maulers before, and I’ve seen plenty less ready to fight one than this human.
“You’ll not have my family.” He says to the beast, and he right well means it. At that moment, I realized something about the situation. See, when trollkin face certain death during a fight, we thank Dhunia for the chance to die on our feet, weapon in hand. But we accept our fate all the same. This man didn’t accept a thing.
Rarely does a display of bravery mean much to me, but this human refusing to back down, refusing to die, aye, that struck a chord with me. I let loose a fellcall as I charged the beastie, and with my bare hands and more rage than I knew I had, I made sure it wasn’t a danger to anyone any more.
The man dropped to his knees and thanked me, begged for my name, said all he had in the world and then some would be mine if I asked for it. For saving his family, he didn’t know how to even begin to repay me.
I kneeled before him, put a hand on his shoulder, and shook my head.
“If ye really want us to be even, just answer a question for me.” I said. He nodded.
“Tell me, where on Caen you learned how to be that courageous?” He smiled and shook his head.
“My father had a saying, it stuck with me long after he past. Son, he used to say, when life throws something impossible at you, it is never about doing what you can. It is always about doing what you should.”
I followed that family back to their picnic site, helped them pack up, and accepted their offer to return to their family estate. The man introduced himself as Jean Ironscales, a Laelese Nobleman who lived up to the title.
Before I met Jean, facing the grief at the loss of my family seemed too big a task for a simple warrior like me. But after I spoke with him, I knew one day I would be alright.
The Ironscales family gave me a job and a place to stay. I had never been a Guard Captain before, but it was similar enough to running a Kriel that I took to it easily.
I watched those two little younguns, Djuno and Geno grow from babes to young men.
I saw their world be torn asunder. And I was there when they each went their own way, and when their paths collided, I saw them tear each other apart. That was when I lost Geno, my second son.
Last night Djuno went to face the Cephalyx Hive alone. He will never return. I lost my third son today. Whatever Thexdra did to him, it started a change in Djuno. Eventually I realized the same thing that turned Geno into what he became was happening to Djuno. He saw it coming the first night he saw all that was to come. And every night thereafter.
He saw his own end, every night, for years. How a twelve year old child copes with that I will never understand.