(This is an introduction to my dragonborn cleric for my current Dungeons and Dragons game. It’s a bit ahead of the current game, fan fiction of the fiction. 😀 I hope it’s fun to read!)
The City of Splendors, the people of Faerün called it. The shipping port of Waterdeep. The city employed every race along the coast, from diminutive gnomes and dwarves to fair elves and mighty dragonborn. Humans and halflings filled the streets, going to and fro between their daily tasks and chores. Clever scoundrels and orphans that belonged to no one played in the alleyways, always listening for secrets (or shiny things) they could sell to buy their next meal. The main cobblestone thoroughfare was wide enough for four wagons to ride abreast, but it seemed every other corner of the city varied in width.
And the doors! They were certainly constructed for average citizens to pass, even the doors that led to the interiors of taverns, stores, and warehouses. Honestly, nothing was built for a dragonborn. Not specifically, not here in Waterdeep. Of course, for the wealthy, buying an appropriate door was of little consequence. For those of more meager means, passing through dozens a day became a dull tradition to endure. Most dragonborn could get away with lowering their heads beneath the door frame and trying with all their might not to bump into anything. Most had practiced their urban lifestyle and set it out of their minds.
If there were any doors that this dragonborn could fit through, they were surely too high-class to allow him passage anyway.
Etri was not an urban dragonborn. Nor was he small by any means. Standing a full head above regular dragonborn, Bahamut had graced the blue-scaled half-dragon with strength and durability beyond his peers. To make matters worse, Etri wore thick and well-worn armor crafted from hefty plates of iron, dull not from neglect but from weary use.At his waist, he carried a steel mace, forged with as much heft as the dragon himself. Coincidentally, the mace was bright and free of the grime that covered the rest of Etri. Atop the rucksack upon his back hung a shield crafted of ironwood and steel, emblazoned with no symbol. With dreadlocks of dark cerulean adorned with iron rings and the hint of horns at his temples, even the burliest creature avoided him out of habit.
Were this the truth. He would have cleaner armor. And a much cleaner shield.
He certainly made an impression as he entered through the city gate and passed through the throng of city-dwellers. Trying to keep his golden eyes in the direction of his feet, he could never truly ignore the stares that followed him. Halflings and gnomes gave him wide berth. Humans and dwarves, no matter their stature or mass, watched him with suspicion, fear, or martial approval. Perhaps the only peoples that didn’t blindly stare were orcs and tieflings; most of them received the same kind of attention, and had learned to ignore it in kind.
The only detail everyone ignored about the dragonborn would have revealed a deeper nature beneath all the muscle and scales. Upon his neck, just visible above the neckline of his mail, was a small gold charm in the same shape as his shield. In the very center had been inlaid with a small azure gem gifted to him by his mentor Korok. Rest his soul, only the quill and his holy symbol of Bahamut he carried reminded him of his old friend. Beyond these physical mementos, Etri had only memories of healing, guilt, and redemption. It was his mentor that taught him of the great and dreadful platinum wyrmgod, as well as a selfless life beyond stinking fish and saltwater.
Even before his mentor adopted him, the blue dragonborn always made an impression on those he worked with and cared for. For all his sharp spines on his brow, claws on his hands, and fangs tightly meshed inside his stoic complexion, Etri spoke in soft tones. The pride of his youth had been torn away by the scars upon his arms and face. Perhaps not his temper when conflict arose. And although he considered himself a sage and a researcher, he never felt very bright. As a nestling, the call of the sea had been stronger than the call of education.
Korok had not been granted time enough in life to help Etri find an answer to a great mystery: why Etri’s scales had begun to reveal flecks of metallic yellow beneath the scratches and cracks of his blue. It was, coincidentally, the same shining color as his holy symbol.
For thus did he come to Waterdeep. Surely the City of Splendors would have answers.
On that bright and cheerful day, Etri’s mind was deeper than the sea he once trawled. Only two locations in Waterdeep would he find an answer to Korok’s last question. The first were the Halls of Justice, located deep in the Castle Ward. Although the subject of gold dragons would fit within the purview of righteousness, surely there was little chance a priest from Waterdeep would wish to speak of any dragon, least of all to a gigantic stranger from the other side of Faerün. The second location and the more likely would be the Font of Knowledge, located just a street away from the temple.
If anyone questioned why, he had the letter. It would prove his intentions. If it did not, what would the city guard do? Arrest a dragonborn for wanting to learn of his heritage?
After entering the city proper, Etri immediately lost his way. Even with the directions given to him by a town crier, he still found himself once or twice at the dead end of an alleyway. Grumbling, he took it slow; the city was a lot of take in. He traveled south, discovering an open-air marketplace. A good location from which to orient himself… or, it might have been. With the traffic bustling in the wide space, he couldn’t see anything that would direct him onwards to the Caste Ward, even above the heads of the townspeople.
Oh well, Etri thought to himself. May as well take my time on my first day.
Walking beside the many stalls and vendors in the marketplace, he contemplated if anything might strike his fancy. He had eaten before he entered the city, anticipating the long lines that no doubt filled the eateries. Curious, he passed by a blacksmith’s forge; an odd spot to set up shop, what with the constant heat of the day and the roar of the daily crowds. Hanging from hooks outside the smithing space were swords and daggers, maces and hammers, and even scimitars and rapiers of various sizes (matched to the size of people who would hopefully wield them). Etri nearly considered a polearm of some make, perhaps a bardiche. If he couldn’t use it in a fight, he could use it to butcher or split wood.
In the end, he decided against it. He already had trouble entering doors. A large polearm would make it impossible.
Etri then decided to find the best assistance any busy city could provide. He stepped into an alleyway just off the beaten path and spied his tour guides: a trio of young lads, two humans and a gnome, each younger than the other, tossing a leather ball. The moment they saw the giant dragon, they stood to their feet, quite ready to flee.
“Don’t be afraid, little ones,” Etri said, offering the children a small wave. This gave him time to approach and kneel. “I am seeking the Halls of Justice. I know it lies within the Castle Ward, but I don’t know the way. I don’t suppose you know which direction I should head?”
The boys looked at each other, considering the request.
“I’ll not ask for your help without compensation. If you guide me to the ward, I’ll give each of you a silver piece. Do we have a deal?”
At this news, all three boys lit up like wildfire.
“Certainly, sir!” cried the gnomish lad, waving to Etri. “It’s this way!”
“Yeah, it’s this way!”
From the path they followed, Etri would never have found his destination on his own. The boys waved him down alleyway after alleyway, down narrow side roads and carriage stops, through stables and past a smaller smithy and tailor shop. As he continued, the tenements disappeared, replaced by high-class apartments and multi-level manor homes. The stores matched the paved streets, their goods glistening behind glass windows for gentry to admire. The boys led him through the yard of one residence in particular, and he knew for certain he would be detained for trespassing. Fortunately, no lawman or resident witnessed his crime, and he continued on with greater haste.
At last, the children stood next to a carved stone wall, and held out their hands to stop the dragon.
“This is it, sir!”
“Can we have our silver now?”
Sure enough, they had stopped at a large arched gateway that appeared to lead into a high-class avenue with beautiful manicured gardens and stately manors: no doubt the entrace to the Castle Ward. Etri grinned, kneeling down before the lads. It was not too long a time when he had been so eager for payment.
“Nearly,” he said. “Do you know the way to the Halls of Justice? Or the Font of Knowledge? Do they have guards stationed there?”
“Yes sir,” said the oldest boy. “It’s south, that way. We would take you there, but the guards shoo us away before we can get in. There’s mighty green gardens back there, but we never get to see them.”
“You’ve never seen them?” Etri asked.
“Yeah, not ever,” piped the gnomish boy. “And we never will unless we become adventurers and get super rich. Like you, sir!”
“I don’t know about rich! I have enough to get by, is all. Would you believe me if I told you I used to fish for a living? Right here in Waterdeep, in fact.”
“There’s no way!” said the middle boy. “How’d you get to be an adventurer, sir?”
“Yeah, and where’d you get such fancy armor? I bet you beat up wolves and bandits all the time!”
“Have you ever killed anybody with your club?” asked the gnomish boy.
Etri stroked his knotted chin.
“No one who didn’t deserve it,” Etri sighed. He reached for the charm around his neck. “And only in defense of the innocent. I am a cleric of Bahamut. The god of dragons. I do my best to serve His will. And His will is to give aid to all, even the smallest and poorest. Here, for your assistance.”
Etri reached to his belt and produced a silver piece for each of the boys.
“Thank you, kind sir!”
“You’re really nice!”
“Could we worship dragons too?” asked the oldest human. “Maybe we could be strong like you.”
“You’d best not,” Etri said with a claw to his lips. “Most dragons don’t care for it… even Bahamut himself at times. You’ve heard stories of dragons burning down villages, haven’t you? Hoarding treasure and causing trouble?”
“Yes sir,” the three boy said. The gnome added: “They’re kinda scary. How come you worship dragons then, sir?”
“Because they’re not all like that,” Etri said, a grin forming as he stroked the frill beneath his chin. “One even saved my life, once.”
The boys’ eyes all grew wide.
“Go on, take your silver,” Etri said, standing. “Get yourselves something to eat. Treat yourselves, perhaps. But then after you’ve finished, share the rest of your fortune with someone in need. Do you know of anyone suffering? A widow, perhaps, or another child who hasn’t eaten in a while?”
The boys paused in thought.
“Hmm, a widow? There is Missus Alassen.” The older boy shrugged. “Her hubby got killed by bandits upways to Neverwinter. She don’t have much left.”
“And Landi.” The gnome said with a nod. “He’s so sad all the time.”
“Who is Landi?” Etri asked.
“Missus Alassen’s son,” replied the oldest. “Last I knew… he wasn’t doing all that good.”
“Ah. Then they deserve a bit of kindness after all their suffering, don’t you think?”
“Yes sir,” the three boys said.
“Do not feel you must do this. You have earned your silver, and it is yours. But consider my advice, and help them if you can.”
“I’ll do it,” said the gnome. “I want to be like you, Mister Dragon, sir. I’ll go help Landi right now!”
“I only do my best,” Etri said with a dry chuckle. Though he towered above the children, they now showed little fear. “As we all do.”
“Come on!” said the oldest boy, racing back the way he came.
“Thank you, Sir Dragon!” shouted the two other boys, following after. Etri took a pause and watched the children sprint further into the town and out of sight.
Etri shook his head with a beleaguered smile. Not distant in his mind was a man who had given him the same gift. Perhaps if he had taken the advice he shared, he would not have burdened himself under his own stupidity.
“Halt!” said the Castle Ward guard. He wore shining armor that reflected the dignity of his position, his royal sword within a tight leather scabbard hanging at his waist. Even though his helmet covered much of his face and head, Etri could still see fear in the man’s eyes as the dragonborn looked down upon him. Perhaps the only support that bolstered him was his fellow standing opposite him at the archway entrance.
“Good day, sir,” Etri said, attempting to sound as non-threatening as possible. “I am looking for the Halls of Justice and the Font of Knowledge. Might this be the way?”
“What business do you have there?” The guard nearly stammered.
Etri took a step back. There was no use lying.
“I am searching for answers concerning my heritage.” Etri considered his words. “I have heard much of the research performed by the sages of Waterdeep about dragons… and rumors of dragons. I am a cleric on sabbatical from my monastery seeking any information I can find.”
“Your heritage, eh?” asked the distant guard. “Ancestry? Blue dragons, no doubt. I’ve heard they are quite vicious.”
“Not blue,” Etri said, resting his weight on his mace. “Gold, perhaps. I’ve heard they take to mountains and plains. I used to be a sailor by trade, born not far from here. Now I serve the Light as a cleric, and I do not understand my own nature. This has left me with great confusion as to my familial line.”
“Very intriguing, sir,” said the guard. “I would much like to learn of what you find.”
The fearful guard looked at his comrade as if he had gone slightly mad.
“Indeed?” Etri’s head tilted. “Not many wish to learn of dragons.”
“Ah, there’s much to learn. It’s my favorite part of bein’ a guard here in Waterdeep, actually. Dragons, bandits, all the latest gossip,” the guard said with a laugh. “Some even grant my request! They make for wonderful stories for my children.”
“In that case,” Etri said with a nod. “I will report on what I find. If I cannot find you, perhaps a note will suffice?”
“Oh,” he said. “If you wouldn’t feel obliged.”
Etri looked back at the guard staring up at him.
“I may pass, then?”
“Aye sir,” he said, nearly tripping aside.
“Thank you, Sir Cleric.” The guard offered Etri a small salute. “I wish you luck!”
As the little boys had described, the immaculate gardens of the Castle Ward were as prim and proper as man could design. Had he worn his priestly robes and not his stuffy armor, Etri might have felt more within his element in that beautiful place. The streets were paved with intricate puzzles of marble, the kinds of organized stones that make children hop to avoid the lines between. Small fountains and songbirds brought natural music to the concourse, Etri’s second favorite ambiance besides the calls of gulls and waves.
Walking apace between the civic buildings were priests, researchers, and nobility that enjoyed the religious and academic ward, away from the hustle and bustle of markets and grocery. Every soul that came into viewing distance of the enormous cleric did their best to choose a different path, whether this path led down another avenue or through the nearest garden. He even dared laugh at one terrified elven noble who fell over a finely manicured hedge trying to avoid him. Although Etri’s calling was pure and lawful, he still had fun at other people’s expense every once in a while. With the flick of his wrist, his thaumaturgy created a terrible snarling growl to erupt from behind the elf. The horrified gentleman let out a feminine shriek before flailing to his feet and sprinting away towards the Castle Ward gate in complete terror. Etri then realized he had likely forced the friendly guards at the archway into a difficult situation, and hoped they could forgive him when he returned.
Despite the majesty of the man-made structures, one monument towered and excelled beyond them all. Mount Waterdeep took up much of the horn of the city’s harbor, upon which settled the Peaktop Eyrie. Etri could easily view gryphons flying in organized groups, saddled with warriors of high renown and skill. Etri had heard tales of dragonborn whose skills had sharpened so near actual dragons that they themselves grew wings and soared the skies. It would probably be the only way Etri would ever get off the ground. That, or taking a flying leap off a cliff, which he didn’t think particularly wise.
As luck would have it, Etri’s feet led him right to The Halls of Justice. This temple, no doubt dedicated to Tyr, a deity of even-handed justice. An ironic title, given that most depictions described the Blind God as missing his left hand. The clergy supported charity above martial might, which had given Etri hopes that the temple might hold clues. He proceeded up the marble steps towards the entrance, impressed by the mighty marble columns that upheld the pantheon of the Triad above. The guards that stood sentinel beside the doors did not question him, although they did give him very concerned stares. One of the doors was already open (a door more than large enough for an actual dragon), so he stepped inside.
The temple was a beauty to behold. Pillars of stone held up a gorgeous arched ceiling that drew the eye heavenward, gauche imagery of knowledge and judgement painted upon its surface. Beneath the arches were carved walls of marble which framed stained glass windows of unmatched quality. Each window displayed different religious iconography, displaying the splendor for which the city was named. Distant from the entrance were pews of hardwood, and beyond them was a pulpit before a marble sculpture of the great god Himself: a humanlike figure with a great beard holding aloft a sword in one hand, supported by the handless left arm. In that moment, there was no service, creating a silence inside the sacred space that Etri appreciated immensely. He always felt safe inside a temple of order, no matter the deity worshipped within.
Etri waited in peace for a moment before a human entered from a small room beside the cathedral proper. He wore plain white robes, his long hair drawn back, a small white cap resting atop his head. He did not seem perturbed by Etri’s presence, walking up to the dragonborn cleric without hesitation.
“Good day, dragonborn,” the priest said with a small bow. “Welcome to the Halls of Justice.”
“Sir,” Etri said, greeting the priest in return with his fist to his heart and a deep bow. “I am sorry for the intrusion.”
“No apology is necessary.” The priest motioned to the greater space within. “We welcome peoples of all races to the Temple of Tyr, so long as their intentions are pure. How can I assist you?”
“To be honest,” Etri said. “I am unsure if I have come to the right place to find answers to my questions.”
“For a follower of the great Bahamut,” the priest said with another bow. “All things are possible.”
“I am… surprised you could tell.”
“It may also surprise you to know how many dragonborn in Waterdeep also worship the god of dragons. Most worship in secret, naturally. Dragons are creatures of violence to most.”
“Of course. I suppose I have come to the wrong place to learn of dragons, then. Perhaps the Font of Knowledge will hold more promise.”
“Perhaps… perhaps not,” the priest said. “You are a cleric, are you not?”
“I am…” Etri said with a deep chuckle. “Again, you’ve caught me at a disadvantage.”
The priest gave him a wave.
Etri proceeded behind the priest through the same small door beside the cathedral. He then found himself within a large library of sorts, one of surprising height and depth. Upon all four walls, even below the windows of the far wall, large bookcases stood, filled with hundreds and perhaps thousands of books and scrolls. Some papers and documents appeared fresh and new, some were contained within glass displays for protection from dust, and even more were sewn together in entire anthologies.
“What knowledge do you seek?” asked the priest.
Etri opened his mouth, but no words came. The collection of documents, certainly more expansive than the monastery library, filled him with a bit of excitement.
The priest smiled.
“Even the sages at the Font of Knowledge come here to research religion.”
“I have never heard of a temple housing texts from other orders,” Etri said, stepping forwards. “Especially those of dragonborn.”
“Ours is not typical,” the priest explained. “Though this is not a common fact. Tyr insists upon the prosperity of all races, not merely those that believe in Himself. Of course, Her High Radiance is not one to put the worship of other gods above Tyr, but she allows this library to exist to control the information available.”
“Ah,” Etri said. An ulterior motive. “I see. Why trust a stranger with this knowledge?”
“You are not the first dragonborn to come searching for answers.” The priest smiled. “And hopefully your calling begets your trust. What are your questions?”
“I don’t know if you have noticed the very signs I wear on my scales,” Etri said, pointing to his arm. “I am dragonborn, aligned with tempest and storm. I had assumed the hue with which dragonborn are hatched does not change as we age, and yet… something has happened to me, and my scales are changing.”
The priest stepped forwards to examine him. His curiosity was very apparent.
“Fascinating,” the human said. “And I thought it was merely the metal of your armor that shined.”
“Gold,” Etri said. “Is it not?”
“I am unsure. I am not well versed in the traits of dragonborn.”
“Such royal dragons empower themselves with flame, and are just as like to rule with righteous fervor than with demanded authority.” Etri placed his claws on his hips and stared at the ground. “Yet as my scales change to gold, I have felt neither of these impulses. In fact, my control over thunder and lightning has only sharpened. I do not know what this means, or if they have a connection at all.”
“Bronze,” the priest repeated. “Bronze dragons, not gold. Are you familiar with such dragons? Sailors here in Waterdeep are very familiar with them. Or at least with where they nest.”
“Wait, perhaps…” Etri stammered. “Bronze, not gold! Please, good sir, tell me you have materials on these dragons I can study.”
“We do indeed.” The priest gave Etri a wide smile. “Before I show you, I trust you will keep this library and what you learn in confidence.”
“You have my word,” Etri said immediately.
The priest stepped forwards and held out his hand.
“I am Brother Kylan Worlit. It is a pleasure.”
The dragonborn shook the man’s hand.
“Etri,” he said. “Etri Valkandrian. Believe me, the pleasure is all mine.”
With his armor removed, Etri felt considerably more comfortable; a strong defense did not contribute to the pursuit of learning. Tomes and texts sprawled themselves over the writing desk in the center of the library hall. At his ready command was his brass quill, his travel-worn leather journal, and two ink cups, one which he had already dried as the afternoon continued. Although the chair upon which Etri sat creaked at his weight, he did not let it deter him from reaching across the desk again and again for the many documents Brother Kylan had provided. Each one held details about the metallic and sea-faring dragons, official registrations of dragonborn coat-of-arms, and even dubious attempts to connect dragon family lines together. These were likely guesses if not outright lies; few dragons would admit to fathering generations of mortal spawn, and even fewer mortals would approach them to ask.
As the evening arrived, Etri took the long pipe from his pack and placed it in the corner of his mouth. He had stopped smoking under Korok’s insistence years ago, but he still felt the comfort the bent piece of driftwood provided him. Just as simple as a nestling, he always thought.
Bronze dragons. Curious. Interested in knowledge, if only for the sake of knowing. Playful? This Etri doubted. How would anyone come to that conclusion? Perhaps there was more to this point, however, as Etri read a fascinating story of a young girl stranded upon a deserted isle far to the west, perhaps even further than Moray. The book did not name the child. A clutch of bronze dragons played and cared for her, according to the record, led by a young dragon that shepherded the wyrmlings.
The tale ended with the young girl flying upon the back of the dragon, returning to the outskirts of Waterdeep. The dragons were never seen again. No directions, no further details.
Etri continued reading from the brief description. Large, vicious, even for those with good natures. Three thick bones grew from their cheeks and up to the crest of their heads. Most had a single frill near the tops of their necks. Etri massaged his out of reflex.
Storm, lightning, even rain and seas beckoned to them. Many notable bronze dragons had participated in large conflicts, especially those that threatened their nests. But according to the Nalmareedy Almanac (which was surprisingly accurate for a popular publication), most bronze dragons did not seek out battle, and detested killing if it did not serve a noble cause.
Then came the tale of Felifarn, one of the greatest historical curiosities of Waterdeep. This particular dragon had a fondness for sunken treasure, and carried what he found back into an underwater cave just a few leagues away from the city’s naval walls. As it so happened, the dragon spent much of his time not diving, but spending time among the human populace, disguised as a man in a dashing uniform from some non-existent shipping company. Dragons were famous (or infamous) for their shapeshifting abilities. The more Etri read, the more he could hope that bronze dragons lived up to the inquisitive and well-natured qualities described inside the scrolls.
Near the falling of the sun, another brother of the temple entered the library to replace and light the candles. He did not mind the cleric quietly reading, and graciously agreed to retrieve a lantern with which Etri could read more clearly. Etri felt very hungry and tired after the brother left, but he could not part his eyes from each page.
Not more than ten minutes after his lantern burned did the door to the library open. He lifted his eyes, expecting the same brother to step inside. Instead, an older figure slowly entered, stopping at the edge of the desk opposite Etri. She gained his attention in an instant. Her bearing gave her the air of nobility, but the garments she wore belonged to the church, without doubt. This was no simple sister. Etri quickly pulled the pipe out of sight and lifted himself from his chair in habit, giving the woman a respectful bow.
“Good evening, milady,” the dragonborn said, his voice as low as the candlelight. “I hope I am not disturbing the peace of this sacred place.”
“Brother Kylan offers much to an outsider, I see,” the human woman said, her voice with slight disapproval. “As with most knowledge, I say let sleeping dragons lie. But alas, when a cleric of a great beast arrives seeking what he ought not, people begin to talk and suspect. Do you not agree?”
“I agree, milady,” Etri said, a bit hesitant. “I only intend-“
“You will call me by my rightful name, Her Radiance Ghentilara,” said the woman. “Or the Sunrise Lord. No other.”
Etri’s eyes widened. He spoke to the Sunrise Lord herself, the high priestess of Tyr.
“Your Grace!” Etri shook his head. “I mean, Your Radiance! I thank you for the use of your beautiful library. I do not mean to impose upon your good grace, I-“
“But you do, dragonborn,” said the Sunrise Lord. “Although I am not without sympathy. There are few who understand from whence they come. Often it is only nobility are so filled with want of pedigree.”
Etri nodded, diverting his eyes.
“But I see that you are not nobility, nor are you driven by simple curiosity.”
“No, Your Radiance.” Etri’s eyes closed. “I do not know from whence I come. I have only known the road and the sea, and the guidance of my Lord.”
“Is it mere longing for family that drives you?” asked Ghentilara.
“It is not.” Etri set his quill down upon the desk, trying to form his thoughts. “No doubt you are familiar with my kind. For all my life I went where the wind blew me. I found stability from the faith my mentor taught me. He was… an old dragon taken before his time. I survived while he perished.”
“I do not know who I am, Your Radiance. I do not understand the powers that grow within me. Even my very scales betray what I once thought certain. I defend the innocent, aid the downtrodden, grant healing to the afflicted. But I do not know why.”
“Interesting.” Ghentilara walked around the desks with her eyes squarely upon Etri. “You would question your very nature? Follow the wind and waves as you say? If my knowledge of the great beast is correct, I am certain Lord Bahamut would not approve of His cleric changing at the whim of scrolls and books.”
“I cannot disagree,” Etri said with some sadness. “But I do not wish to change why He made me. I only wish to understand what happened to my mentor… and to me.”
“And you believe you can learn this knowledge through communion with a dragon?”
“I am uncertain.” Etri’s clawed finger then rose. “Your Radiance, perhaps this letter given to me by my mentor will help make sense of my pursuit.”
Upon the desk sat the very words Korok had given him, written a mere three days before he died and discovered a day later by the young dragonborn. Etri handed the paper to the older woman.
“It seemed nothing of my mentor’s death was coincidence.”
My life is coming to an end. When it will arrive I do not know, but I know it follows after me with haste. Lest you worry, it will not come from my own hand. And it will not come from illness or age. I do not wish to die, if it meant I could spend more time with my pupil. Perhaps teach him better manners.
None of this is your fault. Read this again: none of this is your fault. When my blood stains the ground, you will learn something about your old friend that may be difficult to comprehend. Few will mourn my passing. It may only be you. This does not sadden me. Bahamut calls to this old dragon, and I will answer Him without fear, as I hope you will when we finally reunite inside the celestial crystal halls. Perhaps I will meet the mate you choose. Perhaps I will meet your nestlings once your wandering days end.
When you find this letter and witness what remains of me, you will have many questions. I would tell you not to seek answers. But you have not listened to me before, and I do not expect your curiosity to vanish. Indeed, it is why I chose to be your mentor.
You have wisdom beyond your short years, and compassion that shines beyond your stature. Cultivate your soul in justice and soberness, and you will build a brighter world for all dragonborn. Brighter for all races across Faerün. Lord Bahamut has plucked you from the sea and set you upon the path of grace. Never forget the lessons I have taught you. And for heaven’s sake, boy, keep your weapon clean! Few bat an eye at a dirty brawler. But no one will ignore a cleric whose weapon reflects wisdom over violence.
When I die, look upon my body and see for yourself what has happened. Follow my blood. And follow yours. Only when you understand your origin will you understand the danger I have placed you in. Do not speak of this to anyone you do not trust. It will give you the chance to prepare.
I will die. But you will have time. I suppose this is the last gift I can offer you.
Yours in timeless brotherhood,
Ghentilara read the letter thoroughly, the interest quite apparent as she handed the slip of brown paper back to the dragonborn before her.
“Ominous. Pray tell, how did your mentor die?”
“Quite suddenly, Your Radiance. One moment we were traveling by carriage towards Baldur’s Gate four days distant, and the next the carriage was upszide-down. I was knocked unconscious, bleeding heavily. I crawled out of the ruined cart, and upon the ground some yards away lay my old friend, his scales charred by flame and filled with barbed arrows.”
Etri bared his teeth for a moment before remembering who stood before him.
“When I saw the hooded figures trying to abduct my mentor’s body, I charged forwards and attempted to fight them off. I succeeded in clipping one of the bandits in the arm with guided flame. But I was in no condition to capture them. They fled on horseback, leaving me in shock.”
“So what of the letter? What did he mean by ‘follow his blood’?”
“This is my unanswerable question, Your Radiance. As my blue-scaled mentor lay lifeless upon the ground, I witnessed what I thought impossible. His blood was no longer blue. It pooled around his corpse, shimmering gold. Plain as if he had granted me a fortune in death. In all my days, I have never heard of a dragonborn changing so.”
“His blood then began to burn. Like oil lit from a candle. As I watched for mere moments, his golden blood evaporated to nothing, leaving his body drained and cold.”
“Allow me to presume,” the Sunrise Lord said. “That you too have fallen under the same mysterious condition?”
“Yes, Your Radiance.” Etri raised his hand. “When I cut myself, I bleed gold. Blood that evaporates with arcane flame in mere moments. Under the candlelight it can be difficult to see, but my scales too have begun to change. Korok hid nothing from me, yet I don’t know if I will soon have to hide my face, my tail. I may have to abandon my charge if my very presence injures those around me.”
“Korok was not your kin, if I understand correctly. Yet his affliction passed to you.”
“I have no answers,” Etri said. “Least of which is knowing if my condition is an affliction at all. A poison, an illness, some form of dark magic, none of these seem to apply.”
Etri laid the letter back upon the desk.
“All I understand is what my mentor described in that letter. That I am in great danger because of my blood, and that I must prepare. For more of these hooded figures, perhaps. I do not know.”
Ghentilara stepped to the desk to cast a glance at the documents Etri had focused upon for the last few hours. The dragonborn took a step backwards to allow her room to pass the unrolled scrolls and documents one by one across the table.
“Isn’t that curious,” she said with a certain lilt in her voice. “Bronze dragons.”
“Indeed. It was Brother Kylan who had given me the idea. Perhaps I do not bleed gold, but bronze. It would match my upbringing by the sea, my martial focus of storm and lightning, and perhaps even my very nature.” Etri cleared his throat. “I have never intended to meet a dragon. Nor ask a favor of one. I will admit, the very idea of such a meeting fills me with a bit of trepida-“
“I will help you.”
Etri’s jaw hung for a moment.
“You will?” He shook out of his daze. “I mean, I would more than welcome your assistance, your Radiance. I would certainly offer my services in return.”
“You will, cleric of Bahamut.” The regal woman turned to pace towards the library door. “I have duties to attend to tonight, and have little time to explain now. Understand that I mean to offer you a mutually beneficial arrangement, one that will require a being of your skills and… stature.”
“Yes, Your Radiance,” Etri heartily agreed. “I am at your disposal.”
“Before you make yourself disposable,” Ghentilara said with a quiet chuckle. “I want you to understand that my request will not be trivial. I will be placing you and the cityin danger should you fail. Tonight, consider praying that my Lord will protect you as surely as Bahamut does.”
Etri bowed before the distinguished priestess.
“Clean up before you leave, will you?” Ghentilara asked with a hint of humor and a wave of her hand. “And return here sharply at seven o’clock tomorrow morning. We shall discuss the matter then.”
“Certainly, I will.” Etri gave a last deep bow. “Thank you, Your Radiance.”
2 thoughts on “The City of Splendors”
I always love character backstories with plot hooks. 🙂 You should talk about this campaign more!
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Definitely! We’re starting with Stroud, so if Etri dies in Borovia, I’ll just continue his story here. 😀