Elena and Farental had begun their family quite young – when Elena was a mere one hundred and three – and their daughter Olenitia had been a difficult birth, made even more complicated by the midwives heroic efforts to prevent her from giving birth during the hours in which the powers of death were dominant. Nevertheless, the midwife succeeded – delaying Olenitia’s birth until the magical tides had turned, and she could be born a life thunder.
In this case, however, the forces of death were not to be denied. Those dark powers recoiled upon Elena, and infused themselves into her own elemental attunement, leaving her nearly sterile.
With no cure available, Elena and Farental elected to simply keep trying as often as possible – but had no success. After some twenty years of unsuccessful attempts, Elena became desperate enough to try almost anything… She tried peculiar herbs and treatments, an assortment of exotic spells, and consultations with the Ikam, to no avail.
Eventually she was desperate enough to try pay attention to an odd dream – and to follow it’s guidance to contact a representative of one of the odder religions around; the Shadow Elven Cult of Haerun.
Karinthal Martinalic was an exile from his own people, but he was a formidable master of wards, illusion, and concealment – and he saw the value of a chance to being a few Thunder Dwarves into the Cult of Haerun. He spun a web of warding and illusion designed to conceal a newly-conceived life from the death-energies that had contaminated its mother’s essence and entrusted Elena with a rare elfinstone.
In exchange he asked that Elena and Farental pay at least lip service to Haerun – and that he be placed in charge of the child’s religious education later on.
Elena and Farental would never know whether Martinalic had sent the dream, whether it was truly divinely inspired (with the god of trickery and concealment taking a hand, certainty was hard to come by), or whether Elena had simply finally found someone who could help her at last and ceased to consider further random “omens”. Martinalic kept his secrets – including the fact that curing Elena would require that the powers of death be allowed to find their long-thwarted expression. Her child would be born of death, and host the powers of death, no matter what efforts might be made to prevent it.
And so Tarlin was conceived, and his early gestation shielded from the powers of death. The pregnancy went smoothly enough – but, near the end of the delivery, as the powers of death were taking root in the infant, Tarlin happened to strike his mother once too often, killing her.
That wasn’t too uncommon with the birth of a Child of Death, and – with a young Life Thunder in the house – was a strictly temporary problem, but it still made quite an impression.
Fortunately, Martinalic was quite capable of shielding himself against young Tarlin’s touch.
Young Tarlin was raised in the faith by Martinalic – knowing that he owed his life to the hidden god – and groomed as an assassin; Martinalic had not forgotten the enemies who had exiled him – and whether or not his god has prompted him in any other way is between himself and Haerun.
Tarlin is now seventy-five (according to the Great Cycles of the Dwarven Clock*), and has indeed taken up the profession of assassin. His last little “job” paid well, it had some political repercussions, which made it advisable to leave the dwarven territories for a time.
Well, he had a secret letter from her mother for his half-sister (it seemed that Farental had had an affair once while Elena was at her weirdest), and he’d been meaning to spend a little time with her to find out what she was like anyway – even if she was unaware of the relationship. Since she’d been assigned to a mission in Shadow Elf territory, he could sneak aboard her ship and hitch a ride, killing two targets with a single blow.
*The Great Clock of the Dwarves is one of the few steady and reliable timepieces in the Twilight Isles. In fact, special charms akin to the Chelian are attuned to it, to provide a reliable measure of time throughout the realms of the Thunder Dwarves. It counts out:
- Scintien – the sixty-four segments of each rising, full, and declining thunder (roughly equivalent to a second).
- Tides – the eight segments from one rest period to the end of the next, each consisting of a rising, full, and declining thunder (each rise, period of fullness, and decline is roughly equivalent to an hour).
- Vhaen – eight full Tides (roughly equivalent to a day).
- Oshen – eight Vhaen, making up one full lesser cycle (roughly equivalent to a week).
Forty-Eight Oshen make up an Yharn, which is traditionally regarded as one great cycle of the world – and actually does seem to correspond to the time required for the storm seasons to ebb and return. Serious traditionalists break up the Yharn into subperiods – a set of four periods, each subdivided into three additional periods – but those don’t seem to correspond to anything in particular.