So there was a joke being told around the city’s lanceboards. Not a terribly good one, it must be said, but Pion heard the same joke everywhere he plied Neverwinter’s game halls, and drinking dens, public squares, back alleys, libraries, and even classrooms… anywhere he might find a lanceboard set up and pick up a match.
The joke went that once chess pieces were now taken these days, they now remained defeated forever and couldn’t return to the game. Not even to promote an advancing pawn. Not even returned to the board for the next game.
“Someone should collect all those old pieces,” Pion usually quipped in return. “They’d have quite a few of my own by now.”
The joke, as it were, reflected the rumors (if the temples and churches could be believed) of a death curse. Now no one could be returned from the dead. For Pion, it didn’t much matter to him how many times he heard it. Truth be told, it hardly mattered whether he even won or lost the matches he played, only that he learned more stratagems of the game.
He had to; his own life depended on it.
As with past Dragon+ fiction, I workshopped this piece with Adam Lee, on the Dungeons & Dragons story team; we decided to use it as a prelude (hence the name) leading into this year’s Tomb of Annihilation campaign.