Well, I had wanted to write sooner, but things happened quickly almost as soon as I’d arrived in Haven. I found the barracks, gave my letter to the person in charge (the Warden Niska), and ended up as a recruit in the town guard. That suited me just fine; it’s more or less what I’ve trained myself for all my life. I hadn’t even been asleep in my new bunk for more than a few hours before I was rousted. Some big, urgent situation, and did I feel up to helping? So, long story short, I ended up charging off into the wilderness, trying to catch up with a bunch of goofy adventurers and help them bring back some magical thing. I didn’t get the straight of it at the time. Too tired, too much in a hurry. Long story shorter: caught up with the goofy adventurers, helped them bring back the shiny, and they didn’t really need my help anyway.
After that, it seems, I was marked by association. I got lumped in with the likes of a bird-riding goblin and a 10 year-old girl, in a supposedly “elite” group called the “Mayor’s Men.” It’s been one crazy mess after another, but I can’t say it hasn’t been at least a little bit fun. Especially that bit with the bandits.
I’ve been keeping up with the meditation, and I’ve been doing some research into my…changes. It seems I’m a sorcerer. I’ve got magic in my blood. I guess that’s not surprising; mother is an elf, after all. But to be perfectly honest, these changes don’t feel particularly “elfy.” When I call the lightning, it’s stronger. When I grow my claws, they are longer and sharper. When I meditate, I see merciless, golden eyes staring back at me from the shadows. When I dream, I dream of flying. What does it mean?
I am surrounded by kobolds. I realize how odd that sounds, because I just tried saying it aloud. I’ll try to explain. Essentially, there’s a settlement of kobolds upriver a ways from Haven. They live in a mine called the “Sootscale Caverns.” And they are surprisingly friendly for kobolds. Apparently, some time ago the lord mayor helped the tribe settle a turf war with some mites, and they’ve been friends ever since. The kobolds interact often with the people of Haven, and are generally thought of as decent, if eccentric, neighbors.
Anyway, it seems some of the mites survived, and came back to cause some trouble. Lord Mayor Melchior investigated, briefly, and then decided to delegate it to us, his loyal (and underpaid) problem-solvers. Well, the scuffle was as much of a mess as any of our last several missions, suffice to say. But it feels like something is different this time. I think my first clue was that I could understand the words of every kobold speaking near us. I knew it wasn’t the common tongue as soon as I heard it. I’d never learned it, never heard it spoken, but I knew what it was…the speech of dragons. I soon discovered that I could not only understand it, but also speak it myself. I was even complimented on my accent (and for speaking a civilized tongue). That would have been enough on its own to pique my curiosity, but the fact is, I felt a vague sense of…comfort? Familiarity? Right-ness?
Thus, I decided to take a brief leave of absence from the Mayor’s Men, and the others returned to Haven without me. The kobolds seemed mildly surprised that I expressed a desire to stay among them for a time, but they found a small nook for me to sleep in. A young, female kobold (and just how did I know she was female, since they all look alike?) led me to my room and helped me settle in. Before heading back to her other duties, she asked if I was here to see someone. I replied, honestly, that I wasn’t quite certain why I was here. She frowned for just a moment, then suddenly brightened, and said, “Oh! You here to see shaman then!” My look must have betrayed my confusion, for she explained (as if it were perfectly obvious) that when someone in the tribe as as clearly misguided as I seemed to be, they go to the shaman for help. So, it seems that’s what I’m going to do tomorrow. But first, rest and healing.
Today I went to meet the Sootscale tribe’s shaman. Well, more or less. More like the shaman’s understudy. Magister Mikmek is not currently available, as he is still recovering from injuries sustained during the mite attack. But I was assured that Chizzek, the “super-apprentice-vice-assistant shaman,” was more than adequate to address any of my needs. So I was led into the shaman’s cave, which was utterly filled to the rafters with odd trinkets, and actually looked to have been expanded several times already for the express purpose of adding more junk. Some time ago, I discovered that I can magically adjust my eyesight to be able to see magical auras, and I did so now on a whim. I admit, I was somewhat surprised at just how many of those pieces of “junk” radiated magic.
Before long, I was introduced to Chizzek. It occurred to me then that I really didn’t understand why other people seemed to have such difficult telling kobolds apart; they all look very distinct to me. But certainly one obvious distinction in this case would have to have been the chipmunk on her shoulder. She explained that it was her familiar, and the source of her magical power. I declined to comment, but instead simply introduced myself. Chizzek then got right down to business.
“Kobold shaman is good for kobold. Human shaman not good for you?”
“Well, technically, I’m only half human. But no, what passes for “shamans” in Haven don’t seem like they would be able to help in my situation.”
“Hmm.” She nodded. “Kobold shaman better in most case anyway, I think. What is problem?”
“I wouldn’t quite say I have a real problem, per se,” I objected, “but some strange things have happened to me recently. Magical things. So I guess I wanted to talk to Mikmek, since he’s apparently the local magic expert. Basically, as near as I’ve been able to figure out, I have some kind of latent sorcerous power that first manifested a few months ago when I was…in a traumatic, dangerous situation. My mother and I were attacked, and all of a sudden I grew claws and could throw lightning.”
Chizzek nodded sagely. “Yes, kobolds know this. Kobolds related to dragons, and dragon blood sometimes is very strong.” She looked thoughtful for a moment, and asked, “What kind blood half-humans have?”
“Um. I don’t know. There are probably millions of people all over the world, so there could be lots of different kinds. I read of several cases where magic in a person’s blood could be traced to demonic, angelic, fey, genie, or even plain elemental ancestry. And some just happen because someone’s ancestor played too much with powerful magic, or was corrupted by undead.”
“Best thing, must find out what kind of blood.”
“Is that important?”
“Great sorcerer kobolds sometimes turn into dragon, or become like dragon. Bad thing if you turn into undead, yes?”
“Fair point. So, how do I find out what my ‘blood’ is? Am I going to turn into a monster? Or explode?”
“No worry. Exploding rarely happen.”
“Hmm. There is spell to learn blood. Mikmek know. Chizzek does not know. Maybe other sign? Kobold with strong blood sometime dream of dragon. What you dream?”
“I…well, I’m not really sure. Sometimes I dream of flying. Those are really vivid. And when I meditate I sometimes feel like something deep down is looking back at me.”
“Wha-, no, ‘meditate.’”
“No, I…I don’t know the draconic word for it. I sit down someplace quiet, I close my eyes, I breath, and I sort of…go inside myself. Like this.” I demonstrated.
Chizzek observed thoughtfully, then suddenly brightened. “Oh! Spell trance! Go into magic place in head and build up magic fire!”
“This good. Blood power live in magic place. It see you, but you no see it.”
“Okay, so what do I do about it? I still don’t know what it is.”
“Chizzek…does not know.”
I was starting to get frustrated. It was actually looking promising for a moment, but now I wasn’t sure that even Mikmek would have the first clue as to what to do with me. I tried hard to think back to every scrap of vision that I’d had, everything that felt meaningful at the time. But I was almost completely blind going into this. Sorcerers were a mixed bag anyway, from what I’d read. Accounts varied so widely, it was impossible to learn anything definite about them, and I couldn’t even find out if any experts on the subject existed. And if they did (I thought cynically), they’d be more likely to live in Brevoy than here in the boonies. I needed an archmage; what I had were kobolds. But still…kobolds did have experience with sorcerers, so how did they deal with them?
“Well,” I began, “how about we look at it from a different point of view? Is there a way we can test to see if it’s dragon blood? Kobolds know dragon blood best, so if nothing else maybe we can at least rule that out?”
Chizzek blinked, then practically leaped in the air. “Yes! Kobold shamans know ritual to wake up dragon blood! Maybe work for other blood too?”
“So, you can do this ritual? Is it safe?”
“Chizzek has done. Most kobold with magic try. Chizzek not have strong dragon blood. Very sad. But still have magic, so little good, too.”
“Yes, but…is it safe?”
“Is safe for kobold. Not tried half-human.”
“Wonderful.” But, since I was curious, and since I’d come this far already and really had nothing to lose, I said, “Alright. I’m willing to try. What do I have to do?”
“Come back tomorrow! Chizzek prepare! Ready tomorrow!” And she clapped her hands and started dancing around.
I went back to my little niche in the tunnel oddly excited. I had no idea how this was going to turn out, but it felt good to be doing something. I slept fitfully, with agitated dreams that I couldn’t quite remember. But as soon as I’d had breakfast, I went back to see Chizzek, and it looked as though she’d spent the entire night making her preparations. Her cave smelled quite strange, and I surmised that it was due to whatever odd mixture she had brewing in the cauldron on the fire at the cave’s center.
“I’m here,” I announced upon entering, “And I’m ready. I think.”
Chizzek looked up from stirring the cauldron (was she stirring it with a femur?) and seemed to grimace. “Chizzek is mostly ready. Chizzek is sorry, but there is problem.”
My heart sank. I hadn’t realized I’d become quite so invested in this. “What’s the problem?” I asked.
Chizzek looked sheepish. “Need dragon part. Tribe no has. No dragon here for long time. Need scale, or tooth, or something. Maybe Mikmek find, but Chizzek cannot find. Very sorry. And brew almost ready, too.”
That was a problem. If a kobold tribe couldn’t find a dragon scale, how was I supposed to get one on short notice? I supposed someone might have one for sale at the sprawling marketplace at Oleg’s, but…
Then I remembered. I had my necklace. Would that work?
“Well, I once got attacked by a tatzlwyrm. I killed it and made a necklace from its teeth. I’ve heard they’re in the dragon family. Would one of these work?” I held out the necklace to show her.
Chizzek looked it over, and visibly brightened. “This work! This from stupid dragon cousin, but still dragon! This work!”
I removed a tooth from the necklace and handed it over. Chizzek promptly dropped it into the bubbling cauldron.
“Good!” Chizzek said. “Very good! Almost ready! Now you need very important, special ceremonial garb!”
Chizzek ran over to what looked like a pile of rags, grabbed it up, and deposited the bundle in my arms. “Quick! Put on! You bigger than kobold, so had to make big size. Not great, but still good!”
I unfurled the bundle, and it took me a minute to discern its shape. It looked like a hooded cloak, with wireframe spokes sewed into either side and a dangling tail on the back end. The hood was decorated, seemingly to approximate a dragon’s head, with embroidered eyes, roughly attached “horns”, and numerous teeth (kobold teeth?) glued around the brim.
“You’re serious?” I asked, dubiously. She only gestured impatiently and continued stirring, punctuated with occasional mumbling in some strange, heavily inflected version of draconic. I sighed in resignation, and did as she bid me. It seemed enormously silly, but what had I expected when I decided to ask a half-baked kobold shaman for advice?
“Now what?” I asked, half dreading the reply.
“Now Chizzek show you ritual dragon dance!” She quickly threw on her own smaller-sized dragon cloak and began a curious dance around the fire pit. She spun, she stamped, she leapt and dived, spreading the cloak’s “wings” and pretending to soar and glide. “Now you do!”
I could feel myself already blushing at the sheer ridiculousness of what I was about to attempt, but consoled myself in the knowledge that no one would ever know. I imitated Chizzek’s dance as best I could while she watched, and after a minute or so she nodded in apparent approval.
“Good! All good! Ready to start! Last thing…need blood! Make cut, put in pot!”
I sighed my way past the momentary surprise. I mean, this was basically “blood magic,” now wasn’t it? You work with blood, you need blood. So be it. I drew my dagger, made a small cut on my arm, dribbled some into the cauldron until Chizzek was satisfied, and quickly bandaged the wound. I noticed that the brew in the cauldron immediately began to bubble and hiss, and pungent smoke began to exude from the mix, filling the small cave.
Chizzek clapped happily, then ran off to one side of the cave and produced a small drum. “Now,” she said excitedly, “Breath smoke! Do dragon dance! Think dragon-y thoughts!” And with that, she began beating a rhythm on the drum and chanting in a low monotone.
I must have been feeling euphoric from the smoke, as I just shrugged and started the silly dance. Whatever was in that stuff was certainly potent, and quickly began playing merry hell with my senses. When I leapt into the air, I felt like I had leapt a thousand feet, and coming back down, cloak-wings outstretched, I felt like I was swooping down from the clouds, thrilling in the flight, scanning the ground below for some unsuspecting prey to crash down upon. I felt the solid bones of mountains beneath my claws, the winds of the upper atmosphere sliding across my scales, the glitter of a billion stars filling the night sky mirrored in my eyes, the smell of ozone in my nostrils, and the harsh crackle of electricity humming in my ears…and then, suddenly, I was falling, deep within myself. And there, at the core, shadows that my meditations could not pierce were driven back, to reveal a truly awesome sight.
It WAS a dragon! An immense, sleek, lethal, and brilliantly blue dragon! Bigger than the barracks back in Haven, deeper blue than the most perfect sapphire, muscles rippling beneath shining scales, eyes blazing with intelligence, all wreathed in dancing lightning; and it was inside me! And, in a sense…it WAS me. Then, in one terrifying moment, the great beast SAW me, and in a flash, that magnificent embodiment of all that was great, glorious, and powerful launched itself straight at me…
I have no idea how long I’d been dancing in that smoky cave, but I suddenly snapped to full consciousness. It felt like something primal and powerful was welling up within me, and I embraced it. I roared like only the scion of a dragon could roar, and along with it came a rush of tingling power that flowed through through me and seemed to carry me. My claws grew, hard and sharp; my jaw reshaped, becoming a fanged maw; and for the the first time in my life, I gained a taste of what it meant to be truly strong.
I stood there for a time, simply basking in the strange feeling of rightness and completeness. Soon enough, the smoke dispersed; Chizzek had long since ceased her drumming and chanting. My claws and fangs receded once more. But I had changed inside. And this time, visible evidence of the changes remained, for as I looked myself over, I noticed small patches of fine, blue scales here and there, adorning my skin like a fine mesh of tiny jewels.
I glanced over at Chizzek, who was looking at me with something like awe, and seemed to be holding her breath. “Well,” I said lightly, “I think we have a winner.”