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Emperor Hawthorne III is a major antagonist in the Avernum series by Spiderweb Games. He is one of the three main antagonists of the original Avernum and its remake, Escape From the Pit, the other two being Sss-thss and Grah-Hoth.
Hawthorne was the reigning Emperor of the Empire, a powerful, militant nation that ruled the entire world with an iron fist, violently suppressing any who would dare oppose their rule. Before Hawthorne's reign, the Empire was already notorious driving multiple races to or near the brink of the extinction, one of the latest victims being the Nephilim. The Empire also had a specific "quirk": Those enemies of the Empire they refused to kill, they instead banished to the massive, sprawling caverns beneath the earth known simply as the Underworld.
However, Hawthorne's reign quickly saw this policy of banishment take new, dark forms. Rather than simply banishing prisoners of war, Hawthorne began having anyone, even loyal Imperial citizens, arrested and banished if they were deemed "undesirable". Eventually, nearly every crime became punishable by banishment to the Underworld, and even those who committed no crime could find themselves banished if Hawthorne or his followers wanted something of theirs.
Hawthorne was well aware of the existence of Avernum, the fledgling nation that the thousands of banished prisoners had formed over the years, but he did not consider them a threat to his rule. However, this dismissive attitude would prove to be his undoing.
One of the most prominent prisoners Hawthorne had banished was Erika, a mighty, yet haughty mage who had been banished due to her rivalry with Hawthorne's archmage, Garzhad. Not only had Hawthorne banished her to Avernum, but Garzhad added extra humiliation to her ordeal by placing an elaborate curse on her that would kill her if she ever saw the light of the surface again. Filled with anger and resentment over her humiliation, Erika dedicated her life to avenging herself upon the Empire.
Eventually, Erika came into contact with a group of Avernite adventurers who would later become known as the Great Heroes. With their help, Erika was able to construct a spell that would allow the adventurers to enter Hawthorne's palace and assassinate him. Hawthorne was guarded by many power Imperial soldiers, and he himself was a mighty warrior in his own right, but ultimately he was struck down and his tyranny was finally ended.
Even after his death, Hawthorne's legacy is felt in the second Avernum game and its remake, Crystal Souls. Garzhad, furious at both the Avernites' actions and the fact that his Emperor's assassination was orchestrated by his hated rival, used his political power to turn the Empire's official stance on Avernum into open war. The Empire's burning desire to avenge their Emperor fuels most of their actions in Crystal Souls, including the theft of the titular Vahnati artifacts to use as war weapons.