Red Dragonborn Warlord
The Dragonborn Rask will meet your gaze with a level stare – he has no illusions about his grandure. His dull red scale does not shine, and neither does his chainmail or heavy iron shield. Each shows the scratches of contact and combat – but in their practicality a great care can be observed. Below his armor can be observed simple clothing, but briefly one may make out a few symbols – a small amulet of Io hung around his neck, and a sash with the symbol of the dragon aspect Tamara tied around his waste, obviously cut from something larger, like a cloak. His longsword, slung over the shoulder is marked with an unremarkable sigil on the hilt – a rampant lion. However in combat he can often be seen to touch this in the moments before acting.
The thing to understand about the Mountainhomes of the Dragonborn is that they are hot – stiflingly so. The Dragonborn raised in the Ninefold Chain remember it nearly as fondly as the embrace of their mother herself. The Dragonborn of Varlun may have their pride in the great city and it’s achievements, but to ask a Dragonborn descended from the mountain where he’d rather be and you’ll never get any reply but for the halls of his family home.
Few know of the raising of Dragonborn children – how one of my people is prepared for the outside world and deemed an adult. Of course, all know of the creation myths – the birth of the world and the Dragonborn soon after in the heat of a newly forged land. What many do not know is the compulsion that remains in the blood of the Dragonborn, a connection to the primal command given by Io to the Dragonborn on the day of our creation. That command from Io was one to protect and nuture the growing world – one proudly taken up by the first Dragonborn. However, upon the shattering of Io, that command divided as well – changing the Dragonborn from a people united to a race just as divided and diverse as the peoples they were to protect. But even as much as one of my people may desire to break free of that compulsion in their blood, their destiny is set when that command takes hold of them.
My bloodline is that of the Tiaman – my family a long and unbroken line of clerics and priests in the worship of the good in the world. Bahamut, Avandra, Erathis, Ioun – just to name a few. My family was proud of their work and training in the line of Tamara – to bring mercy and grace to those living in Ouroboros. I was raised just as much on the study of the divine as I was on my mother’s milk. I was to be no different a case than my mother or father, brothers or sisters – each one inducted to the work by the Rite of Hearing.
In most Dragonborn, the blood command asserts itself sometime before or near the Rite. In general it is seen as a formality. Sometimes, but not often, the magic of the Rite is used to incite the blood command into action with the child, passing them through to adulthood. In other bloodlines, this ritual is less important, a passing moment in which the child is pushed into their purpose if they have not chosen one yet. For example, in the Gyran bloodline, their children are traditionally put through the Rite amidst their first true combat – the combat being the primary point, and the blood command being assumed to match their family’s. It is rare, but sometimes the blood command may assert itself as a completely different bloodline’s.
There is no possible way for me to forget the day of my Rite. I was woken in the dead of night – though with no sunlight my only sense of time was the sound of my sleeping kin around me. Two Dragonborn stood over me – my father and the head cleric of the mountainhome. They roused me, unspeaking, to my feet. A cloak was thrown over my shoulders and I was given no time to dress, speak, or even come to my senses as I was led out of the quarters.
I was led to a gigantic ritual chamber – the very heart of our home, both physically and in the whole of our culture. Four torches stood surrounding the center dais – a cloaked Dragonborn kneeled in front of each torch.
They set me to kneel in the center of the platform – the Rite of Hearing, it was explained to me, would be held at this very moment. Passages of divine scriptures and prophecies were read around me. Lights and runes danced around the edges of the dais. The ritual grew further and further to a crescendo, the lights growing brighter, faster and the passages growing louder. Then, in a moment, the last words were spoken and the lights collapsed onto me, blinding me for a moment and fading away.
I heard nothing, I felt nothing.
In that instant, my kin knew it as well – they could see it in me.
In that moment, I was divided from the world I was raised to join. I would have no place as a cleric – divided by fate from the divinity of my family. And without a blood command to direct me, I would have no peace in this world. I was no true Dragonborn in that very moment.
No one spoke, but each rose swiftly and walked out of the room. Only my father remained – visibly shaken. I see him now in my memory, ready to run from the reality of my aberration. He spoke briefly – I was to leave, without any word, without waking my kin.
I was never to return.
He left the chamber – the silence that entered in his place was a deafening roar.
I came to find myself somehow outside, the clothes I could take and the cloak I was given earlier that night were the only reminder of my family. The wind was ice after leaving the warmth of the mountainhome.
I walked for a day, maybe two. I remember little of my thoughts then, littler still of the places I traveled through. I came to my senses at the sound of a human child screaming – I rounded a bend in the foothills of the Ninefold Chain. There I saw men fighting other men – a caravan surrounded by bandits. Wagons were already burning, women and children within were crying out.
Everything I learned as a child was in preparation for the moment when my blood’s destiny would take hold and guide me toward my path as a cleric or paladin. When I would hear the voice of the divine in my very core and follow it. I learned the sword, I learned the way of battle. I learned the teachings of Tamara, of Bahamut. I learned to protect the weak and combat evil in every place possible. Now that my kin had abandoned me and my heritage gave me no purpose, I could only follow those commands which I had studied and revered for so long. I would choose my own purpose.
I remember very little of the actual combat – the women said I looked quite valiant. The men said I was a bloody fool, but a fantastic distraction – breathing fire ineffectually at the bandits, but it was still fire and it was still coming out of my mouth. I was laid up for a month with my wounds at the caravan’s next stop.
One man approached me – he offered me a job. He would teach me how to fight, how to lead other men. All I had to do was agree to defend his people with him. It gave me purpose – it gave me a place to be. No one likes to wander, and maybe it’s just in the Dragonborn mindset to hate the road alone. I began to learn his methods – he was a captain of the Varlun royal guard. It was in my luck that he trained Dragonborn himself there as well. His story echoed in me: betrayed by his noble masters, cast out for their profit in disgrace. His purpose now was to build a life for himself, gathering strong and trustworthy men to protect each other and those others who had the coin to spare. I was one of his men, and over the years, they would grow to be mine as well. I cared more for the company of these soldiers in my command than anything else in the world.
And I suppose it was that brotherhood that brought me to ruin – that brought me through the mists in the end.
I was set in charge of a small squad of forward guards on a trade caravan that ran from the Ninefold foothills all the way to the sea past the Steps of Io. We were scouts, ahead of the caravans. We would be on task to identify threats and guide the caravan behind us along towards safe paths.
We were passing that day through the Steps of Io, closer than I would have liked. Too close to the fanatical tribes of halflings that live in those landmarks. Some were simple cultists, but too many others were bloodthirsty things – that would attack and kill for sport, no matter what the odds of their success might be. And darker still were the rumors that some didn’t worship Io himself, but rather the darkest shards of his essence after the shattering. Some said that they worshipped Tiamat, and used travellers to complete vile rituals.
My squad passed silently among the hills – noting the signs of the Halflings. We came over the top of a rise and looked over a break in the forest. Within the clearing lay a camp in panic. Humans dashed about a set of covered wagons, some children cried out and were rapidly quieted. The sound of the camp was suprisingly dulled for the number of people visible.
Our vantage point atop the hill made us somewhat easier to spot than I would have liked. Five men, armed, dashed up the hill towards us – every other able adult grabbed some kind of weapon in the camp. Upon reaching us, the men seemed tense but slowly relaxed as they came to realize we would not attack. One made a signal back towards the camp and the people gradually went back to panicking.
The desperation we could feel from them almost bordered on madness – they were settlers, diverted through the Steps of Io by flooding along the rivers. They had already met the Halflings, in the night they had lost many men to their daggers and five children to the hands of the Halflings, dragged away screaming. They were scrambling to escape now, but they had to fix their wagons and get out of the forest. Seeing us armed, they demanded our aid. My aide, crouching on the ground, immediately launched into our usual response when requests for mercenary help were given. We were not a charity, he said, it will cost you.
One of the men leapt upon him, raining down blows in his mad rage. He began screaming incomprehensibly, I picked up at least one word about his son being taken. None of his companions made a move to stop him, but rather looked upon us with disgust. I saw the crazed man draw a blade in a flash and raise it to strike at my aide’s heart. I drew and struck off his hand in an instant.
All of my men were now at the ready, and formed a defensive posture. I pulled up my aide from the ground, the other man still screaming and clutching his arm. I could feel the tension rising and quickly gave the order to sheath weapons and fall back. I gave the order to withdraw and my squad began filing back through the trees. I remember now the look in the settler’s eyes as they saw the armed squad withdrawing down the hill – I didn’t care then, if they wanted to behave like beasts to my men, then they would have to contend on their own.
It was only minutes later that I felt a great dread fall over me. Turning, I saw a pitch black pillar of smoke rising from beyond the hills. Just where we had left the settler families. I broke into a dead run, my mail and gear turning it into a torture. My eyes only on the ground ahead of me as I tried to undo my decision. Behind me I heard my men cry out for me to forget it and turn back with them. I crested a hill and saw the carts arrayed, just as we had left them. There was no smoke now, nothing at all. But neither was there a single soul among the carts. I descended then, slowly. Among the carts I looked for any sign of the men, women, or children that I could find. I found no one – but I found one thing in the center of the camp that made my blood run cold. In the flattened ground around the central campfire, words were written out in mud among the dust. Somehow I knew that it was blood that traced the words.
I heard the voices of my squad, which had been steadily growing louder as they approached, fade into silence. The world was muffled and I stood in shame as the mist rose around me. I was nearly broken at that moment, but I remembered then the lessons of my family’s gods. The commandments to protect and preserve at all cost. I remembered in that moment the truth of brotherhood I shared as the leader of those men – that unquestioning loyalty may have set me off my path, but it was still something worth living for. These lessons I had learned by no guidance in my blood, no fate dictating my path. And though I may be punished, I will at least recognize that it is righteous.
I will make no excuses now – if I am in this place, I will accept it. If fate will offer me no path, I will make it for myself. I WILL understand the silence of my blood, and I WILL rejoin my family with respect. There is more to my world than I had ever understood as a child – I seek to know, and I seek to lead with honor.