Tyranny of Dragons

24th of Uktar, 1489 DR
Introductions, Greenest in Flames

It almost feels odd to begin an account from anywhere other than the beginning. Had one of my students tried such a farcical idea under my watch, I would have shown him the sharper side of my tongue. Even so, I find myself in precisely that situation, since filthy burglars broke into my room at an inn in Baldur’s Gate and stole my last journal (probably thinking that it was a spellbook or something else of worth; little do the rat-bastards know that it was simply the account of a cursed scholar wandering around the various stinking holes of the Sword Coast). Luckily, I was carrying everything important on my person at the time. If they had stolen the scrap of burnt tapestry that I saved from my burning home, I don’t know if I would have been able to continue this foolish journey.

It has been near half a year since the beginning of my self-imposed exile from the lands of the Tel-quessir, and I still have not completely grown used to the prolonged solitude. My travels amongst the N-Tel-Quess have taught me much of the ways of the world, however, I often feel pangs of homesickness for the quiet eaves and moonlit glades of the twilight realm of my birth. Thoughts of exploring the outside world were mere whimsy; I much preferred the softly lit reading nooks of my library in Starfall Enclave, and the cozy warmth of my small home amongst the cedars. I miss my wife and children terribly; this, however, is an unfortunate circumstance that I must become comfortable with, since there is no way the Dread Prince will allow me to live peacefully alongside them as I had before the Nilshai destroyed our home and drove us to Toril while he still holds my soul hostage.

Today, I was hired as a caravan guard for one Averro Dugud, a merchant prince hired to transport goods from the city of Beregost (east of Baldur’s Gate) to the town of Greenest. A caravan guard! I, who used to be the Lorewarden of the entire library of Starfall Enclave, I, who was responsible for educating the all of the younglings of the Enclave on all subjects and fields, I, who sat on the council of elders and led my community in times of need, have been forced to sit atop a caravan with a spear across my lap while the wind whips my cloak about me as I try in vain to search for goblins, bandits, or worse who would likely slit my throat in exchange for my meager possessions. I hope that a hundred years in the future I will look back on this and laugh that I had such a flight of folly, but now, I am cold, miserable, and in terrible need of a warm bath. At least Master Dugud appears to be of a good enough sort; his round face is always smiling, and he showed great interest in conversing with me as he drove our wagon.

The other hired guards are somewhat more interesting than a portly merchant-prince, surprisingly. For one, I have struck up a fast friendship with a wood elf named Immerel, a fast-fingered thief of somewhat ignoble origins. I find his blunt manner refreshing, and it brings me back to better times when he allows me to educate him on the history of his people, a subject that he is sadly deficient in due to having grown up as an orphan on the streets of some human city. Another guardsman (though I use that term loosely) is Balthazar Yargitte, a dragonborn adherent to the Platinum Dragon Bahamut and former Brigadier General of some army of dragonmen. His holy fervor and military discipline can be trying at times, though he has a sound mind for tactics (if nothing else) and a strong and courageous arm in battle. Third is the half-orc savage Akasha Skullsplitter, a fierce warrior who possesses the typical orc traits of utter dimwittedness and hatred towards Tel-quessir, particularly magi. Like Balthazar, she is a fierce combatant, however, and though I can’t decide whether she hates me more for being an elf or for being a practitioner of the arcane arts, sound judgment has thus far stayed her hand from turning her axe against me. Rounding out our ragtag bunch is Jandar Stormborn, a fanatical priest of the Storm God Talos. This fierce and taciturn warrior seems to prefer solitude, though he does not hesitate to fill the ears of all around him with the words of his god (possibly the one subject that I truthfully would not care to study). His prowess in battle is quite remarkable as well, though I find certain aspects of his character questionable.

Some days out from Beregost, my hopes for an uneventful trip to the hamlet of Greenest were dashed against the wall when we were set upon by a large raiding party of kobolds: fierce, runtish lizard creatures led by a crazed member of the Cult of the Dragon, almost all of whom we slew handily (except the few that escaped, and the cultist, who was run down and captured). Using some of my more persuasive “gifts” from Prince Saath, I managed to wring information out of the prisoner that indicated the existence of an imminent offensive against Greenest planned by the Cult of the Dragon, and that it was to be the very next night! With this news fresh on our minds, we made great haste towards the town, only to find it in flames, a mighty blue wyrm winging its way through dark palls of smoke, blasting lightning from its maw at the slightest provocation. There, we engaged more kobold raiders and rescued a family with the help of a human swordswoman named Linan the Swift, and endeavored to help them safely reach the keep in the center of town while we fought off more kobolds.

I find that even now, months after I left the Sildëyuir in ruins with the remnants of my community, I still find myself oddly affected by the violence of battle. It is not cowardice that I feel, for I was battle-trained in the arts of the sword and the bow as is tradition amongst my people, nor was it squeamishness; I would have known if I could not stand the sight of blood early on when my father took me on hunting trips as a youngling. Instead, I feel a profound sense of sadness, or something very similar to it. Why must blades be used when words could be used instead? These Toril-folk are so violent; they seemingly draw blades at the slightest provocation. Even the most heated disagreements amongst my Ruar-tel-quessir kinfolk never escalated into physicality. Today, I killed kobolds with great blasts of eldritch power from my fingertips, and afterwards, when the rush of battle-madness faded, I wondered if things would have been different had I tried to reason with them. Yet, during the act, part of me seemed to almost enjoy it. Is this the insanity of the Githyanki Dread Prince seeping into my mind unbidden, or was I always a killer deep down? No matter how many times I remind myself that kobolds are the misbegotten spawn of primordial, evil dragons, I still feel slightly disgusted with myself that I took pleasure when I exploded the head of one of the little creatures with my eldritch might. Gods of the Seldarine in holy Arvandor above, I miss my family. I should be working in the garden out back with little Takari and little Ysuran, or in the warm embrace of my lovely, raven-haired Azariah, not playing the hero in some dragon-infested backwater.

Even as my quill leaves the parchment, I understand the folly of that line of thought. I will surely return once I have repaid my debt to Saath; I dare not return to them until I do.

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26th of Uktar, 1489 DR
Pressing the Attack

For all that I write concerning the needlessness of violence, there is a certain indescribable quality to it. It is true that words should be the first avenue of recourse, but I have come to accept that I hold something of a flawed worldview. In the enclaves of the Ruar-tel-quessir, or the “star elves” as written in mortal legend, we train and arm ourselves more out of tradition, an honor to the gods we venerate. The Protector, mighty Corellon Larethian, decreed that all People should practice the Arts, particularly the Art of War, so that we may beat back the ravening hordes of Gruumsh One-Eye whenever they crawl out of their pits, but when one lives on a mystical demiplane created by powerful elven High Magic… I’ve never even seen an orc before except in illustrated form (do half-orcs count?), and judging by the accounts I’ve read, they don’t appear to be particularly capable of interplanar travel. Needless to say, I still insist that pacifism is the nobler route, but having seen the horrors of battle firsthand, I have found myself quite willing and able to place principle second to necessity. Now that I write this, I actually find it quite funny; the life-work of the wood elf sage Ithraides, for example, writes that in moments of passion, we should surrender ourselves to our base urges, for in instinct and intuition we are truest to the Gods and to the spirit of all elves, that joyous chaos, the invigorating riot. It is one thing to read of battle, to see it described by delusional sages claiming some heroic purpose, some divine right of conquest or defense against pure evil, or to read the inked disdain of those who write of wars and battles as mere proxy conflicts fought by puppet leaders, and it is another thing entirely to live through the reality of the thick smoke of burning farmhouses, the coppery scent of fresh blood spilt upon the dirt, the frenzied bleating of livestock, the crashing of steel on steal, and the screams of the dying. Though it seems that many managed to escape the Cult’s initial assault, there were more than enough mangled bodies lining the avenues to set the scene in my memory forever.

That, dear Reader, is how I found myself whooping in triumph on the scorched slopes of Greenest as I crushed a kobold’s skull with a crackling ray of force from twenty paces. Not a moment after we rescued Linan and her family from kobold skirmishers, we were forced to engage another raiding party outside of the small keep at the center of the town. Battered and bruised as we were, with a wounded family in tow, I assure you that we looked quite heroic as we charged up the slopes in the wake of my opening volley. Our disorganized battle line slammed into the ranks of the kobolds like a roaring tide. The kobolds, their ranks swelled with frenzied cultists, put up a tough fight, but we won through, only to find that our progress was once again blocked by another war party. Immerel and I opted for the skirmisher’s approach: flanking left and right to pick off foes at our leisure as our more heavily armed and armored comrades led the charge up the center, a favored elven war tactic.

Though looking back, my memory of the fight was mostly a blur, my comrades performed admirably. I distinctly remember the dragonman smiting a cultist in twain, and his primal roar of victory, a challenge to the furthest heavens. Jandar bought much honor and glory this day as well, as he laid about left and right with his mighty warhammer, slaying kobolds where they stood with each swing, and with mighty blasts of magical thunder. Akasha pressed the attack further than any of us, drawing the attackers off of Jandar long enough for him to administer battlefield healing before throwing himself back into the maelstrom of battle.

I admit, as heroic as we appeared to be, we nearly met our end this day. Though we fought valiantly, the kobolds’ sheer advantage of numbers pressed us sorely, and while we were frantically parrying their strikes and stabs, heavy stones rained amongst us. One by one, I watched my comrades (including Linan) fall. Jandar the priest took a particularly heavy wound, a nasty cut across the stomach that did nothing to hide the pulsating viscera beneath. Luckily, anatomy (particularly humanoid anatomy) was one of the subjects that I studied and taught, so when I braved the hail of stones and arrows to assist him, I was able to seal the wound and staunch the bleeding long enough for him to stabilize. For my troubles, I was hit a glancing blow on the shoulder by a sharp sling-stone, but I shook it off and managed to keep Jandar from bleeding out further. As I stood up, hands bloodied with the lifeblood of my new comrade, I saw Immerel and Balthazar fall. Linan lay unconscious as well, blood pooling faintly underneath her armor.

Despair filled my mind. Am I going to die here? I think to myself, frantically. I have proven that with Saath’s gifts, I can hold my own in battle, but against four-to-one odds? Jandar struggles to stand, likely fueled by some pious rage, but his sheet-pale face does not reassure me in the slightest that he is still capable of fighting alongside me. Then, something changed. The little pocket of energy that I keep parceled away in the back of my head unfolded, and the understanding of something vast and alien flooded the foreground of my thoughts. This sensation spoke not to me in words, but in visions, insane imagery of passion, of an inscrutable understanding of the minds of lesser beings, but most of all, of power, the power to bend the fabric of existence to my will, to exert the discipline of my mind unto reality and force it to conform to my ideal.

I opened my mind like a blooming flower, pressing the petals of my consciousness ever outwards until I forced them into the weak minds of the kobolds who were advancing hungrily towards me, an unarmed elf standing amidst a field of wounded.

“FLEE!” I roar directly into their minds. “LEAVE THIS PLACE, OR FACE THE WRATH OF THE CHOSEN VESSEL OF THE GITH PRINCE SAATH, DREAD CORSAIR OF THE INFINITE ASTRAL SEA! FLEE, OR RISK YOUR VERY MIND BEING TORN ASUNDER BY THE POWER I WIELD!”

The kobolds hesitate, confused looks painted across their scaly faces. They continue to advance, for I am only one elf after all, but more slowly. I make a demonstration of an advancing urd, a winged kobold that swoops towards me, hoping to end this confrontation and move on to the keep. I fling out my hand, the outstretched digits popping with the power of my patron. A bolt of pure force, crackling, white-violet aether blasts from my hand and catches the urd square in the chest, blasting it apart with an explosion of bones being separated and flesh being torn asunder. Blood, scales, gristle, and bits of torn wing rain upon the battlefield.

SEE WHAT YOU HAVE WROUGHT? FLEE, OR FACE YOUR DEMISE!” The psionic manifestation of my voice booms within the thin confines of their skulls. The other kobolds turn tail and run for the keep, only to be cut down by the guards.

Suddenly, I am back to myself, my iron mental discipline has forced the psionic fragment of the Githyanki warlord that has been my constant companion for all these months back into the depths of my mind. Seeing that the immediate vicinity has been cleared of kobolds and cultists, I rush to the gate and plead with them to keep the portcullis open long enough for me to move my comrades in, and after some convincing, they oblige. Linan, the woman we saved on the outskirts of town, clambers to her feet and helps Jandar and I drag our fallen comrades into the keep to seek medical attention.

At this point, I know not what my future holds. I know not how I shall go about upholding my end of the bargain to Prince Saath, whose insane ramblings neglected to fully spell out the terms of our arrangement, only telling me that he would see me serve him faithfully or see my family burn in psychic fires far worse than those any Nilshai sorcerer could conjure. After seeing the might of his physical manifestation and of the vastness of his astral armies crushing the Nilshai invaders, I was too awed to seek clarity. Still, writing this from a small nook in Greenest’s keep, I feel a strange sense of… appropriateness, as if Saath intended me to be here, that my presence in this town, on this day in Uktar in the Year of the Warrior Maiden, that I am fulfilling some strange prophecy that his warped and twisted mind is privy to. I think I will stay a while with this group of outcasts, to see what I can learn.

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