Dragon's Last Flight
Set upon the Road by unjust exile, he will never rest; for there will always be a Quarry.
This is the hunter’s badge of glory,
That he protect and tend his quarry;
Hunt with honour, as is due,
And through the beast to god is true.
I have been called many things in the course of my life. Half-breed. Traitor. Desecrator. Marked. But never weak. I write this as my account of the life that I have led, so that, if it is someday found, its finder will know who I have been, and why.
My mother was Nahlya, an elf from the land of Aerenal. She grew up a member of a Tairnadal warclan, a fierce and haughty people. Fighting was the only life they knew. And so it happened that at the age of 19 she watched as a rival warclan slaughtered her people and left her mother, father, and the little sister she held so dear bleeding on the northern plains. Driven nearly mad by grief and unanswerable questions, she sought comfort in the wisdom of The Undying Council. Shadows wrapped around her, caressing her wounds, and for many decades she lived in darkness, a student of Death and it’s ways. With time she became a trusted servant of The Undying Council, carrying out their will in the sacred city of Shae Mordai. In the year 973 YK, The Council, in their vast wisdom in the ways of Death and its role in the mortal coils of Eberron, foresaw…an event. Foresaw may not be the right word, as there was no clarity of vision in the detection of this moment, simply the sense of of Death’s sudden and oppressive presence on the mortal plane. The time of this moment was not revealed to them, but they knew the cause and, being wise in experience beyond the years of men, they guessed the place. At their bidding my mother set sail for Khorvaire, bent on delivering warning of this event to the one person to whom it bore greatest import: the queen of Cyre. The elves of Aerenal spend much time in reverence to Death, it is true, but their’s is not a cruel race, and while the war that threatened to tear Khorvaire to pieces held no great impact to their lives or their land they felt it their duty to use what wisdom had been granted them to prevent whatever suffering of others was in their power.
It was a mercenary ship that bore my mother and her companions across the waters to Khorvaire, laden with warriors of her own people bent on death and glory on the battlfields of Cyre. Word had been sent ahead, but the delegation was met in Metrol with news that the court had no wish to recieve them at this time. My mother once more accosted the court officials of the importance of their mission to the survival of the nation of Cyre, but was simply told to wait, and perhaps the queen would recieve them in time. For this period of waiting the delegation was assigned a detail of the queen’s guard, and among these soldiers was a man by the name of Deren. He was a kind man, and an honourable soldier who would have given more than his life is he were able to protect his land. He was my father. He took it upon himself to watch over my mother, knowing that among the nobles of Cyre’s capital there was no love for the elves of the far off lands, and that many were threatened and enraged by the presence of servants of necromancy in their land. He had many questions for her about her home, and desired to know why a people so full of life would choose to spend their existence pursuing the end of it. She told him her story, of the rage and grief that drove her to seek answers in the necromancy of The Council, the veil that those shadows could draw over the pain that lingered in her memories, and something in him felt a deep desire to protect this maiden of darkness. As the days stretched on, and no word came from the queen, their conversation stretched longer, and they took to walking the streets of the city by day. Deren revealed to her gradually the things he had chosen to live for, and as a soldier of Cyre, die for if he must. They walked among the people of the city, and Nahlya was astonished by the vibrance of this nation at war. The markets overflowed with life. The smells of meats and bread frying in the afternoon heat caressed her senses, and her gaze was drawn upwards, past the shadows of the streets and alleys to the rooftops where garments and blankets of innumerable hues hung dancing in the sunlit breeze. Deren brought her to the highest parapets of Metrol, and as she looked down upon that great city set like amethyst on the bank of the river far below she knew that she could never return to the cold of the shadows. When news came from the queen’s court that the monarch had no desire to listen to necrotic ramblings and suggestions of surrender and dishonour, the delegation returned to Aerenal…but not my mother. Deren had offered her a life full of light and hope, a life with him in the city he so loved, and she gladly accepted.
Three years passed, and then I was brought into this world. I don’t know much of my life in those early years, the six that I spent as a child in Metrol. I can clearly recall my father, standing bathed in sunlight and laughing at something my mother said, but whatever surroundings belong in that memory have long faded from my mind. When I was six my father was called to leave his queen’s service as a guard and to join Cyre’s soldiers on the fields of battle. It was decided that my mother and I would would leave Cyre, seeking safety among her people in lands to the southeast until my father could join us. He felt that the war was nearly over, that his land would soon be freed of the chains of war. I do not remember the day we left. I do not remember very much of Cyre that was at all.
My mother settled with me in the lands of Valenar to the south-east of Cyre. The mercenary elves that had come from Aerenal to fight had grown tired of the conflicts of men, and instead of returning to their homeland they had settled in lands once held by Cyre and claimed them for their own. My mother found herself bringing her child into the very culture that she had left, tormented, as a youth, among the same warclans that had torn her past from her many years ago. But they were still her people, and they took us in as their own, at first. All this was recounted to me by my mother. Now I begin a new tale, for the rest of the story is my own.
The warclan elves are a fierce people. I came of age living in the nomadic tent camps of the Tairnadal, packing up and moving whenever a change of location might benefit the clan strategically. As soon as I could lift a longsword I was set to training. Along with every other child in the clan I groaned and sweated and bled through my childhood in the mud of the sword ring. I was shown no mercy. My mother had, in the general opinion of the clan elves, betrayed her race by marrying a human, and I was the offspring of that selfsame treachery. As the years passed I learned to shed their shouts of “half-bred filth” with the same ease that I parried the blows rained upon me by my teachers. By the time I was ten the lengths of hardwood training staves I fought with had become extensions of myself. I recall evenings limping home to our tent on the edge of the camp, limp with fatigue, dragging those mock blades in the dirt beside me. I would find my mother sitting some ways away on the plain, staring towards the northwestern horizon until the last glimmer of light faded from it, waiting for the man who had promised her he’d return. He never did. My memories of Cyre had all but faded, leaving only the image my father’s sunlit laughter. His memory was preserved by my mother, who told me stories of him and never ceased to hold me to his standard of honour. Whatever these elves might say about him, she would tell me, you should be proud to call such a man your father. And so I was. My battles in the dirt were fought for him, my blades dancing for the sake of his honour. I suspected even then that he had fallen in battle defending that far-off land, and if he was looking down on me from the halls of his fathers then by my blood I was going to make him proud.
When I was twelve, my life changed once more. If my father, like so many men of Cyre, had the blood of Cannith somewhere in his ancestry, and my mother was born of the barbarous Elves of the plains, then Fate had granted me an inheritance that left me wandering the no-man’s land of bloodlines. The Dragonmark manifested on the night of my twelfth birthday. I screamed in the night as it seared itself into the skin at the back of my neck, and in the morning my mother brought me to the elders. The clan’s oldest elf identified the intricate patterning of burnt flesh with disgust and disbelief: a Mark of Storm. “Never…never has a warrior of the Tairnadal born the sign of Lyrandar”, he whispered. For all gathered there that night this was binding proof that the blood coursing through my veins was anything but pure. My trials in the sword ring grew more severe, and more deadly when, eventually, wood was traded for steel. But desecrator of the elven race or not, I proved myself their equal with the blades. The whispering web of steel I wove about myself was matchless, and by my eighteenth year not one of my peers would contest my skill with the longswords. No parry or riposte, however, could stop the news that shattered my heart along with the rest of Khorvaire that year…the year that Cyre died.
The Mourning took everyone by surprise, but if you’re reading this you probably already know that. Khorvaire had lived with war for as long as most mortals could remember, and we were used to death and battle as part of life, but this was different. It was like Death itself had simply descended to the earth and wrapped itself in a thin, grey shroud around Cyre’s shoulders. The news of the total and utter destruction of all life within Cyre’s boundaries shattered my mother’s heart. All those years of hoping that the horizon would yield to her the man she loved had been for naught. She died two days later, and I found myself alone among a people who hated me simply for being what was. My mother’s presence had been enough to keep the wolves at bay out of respect for the family of a pure-elven from the far-off lands across the sea, but no longer. I began hearing whispered threats, sensing cold, hard eyes on my back as I set about caring for my mother’s burial. I decided to set out for the borders of Cyre as soon as I was done…but I hoped I wouldn’t go alone.
I have told you some of the condition of my mother’s heart; I have told you none of my own. At the centre of every boy’s journey to becoming a man is the battle for a girl. I was no different, and for years I had sought to catch the eye and win the heart of one particular elf maiden, Miriel. And in the end I did, though few knew of our friendship until the day I left the camp. Never has a love that true seen the light of day since my parents stood upon that parapet in bright Metrol. I would have, and should have, died for her. That fell morning I walked slowly to her family’s tent and boldly asked her father for his daughter’s hand in marriage. He never did get around to answering me. Long had Miriel’s eldest brother been one of my fiercest opponents in the sword ring, and ever disparaging of my father’s memory. His open disdain for my human heritage gradually hardened into a hatred like obsidian as I proved myself his better with the blades time and time again. Those blades were the only answer I ever received to my proposal. He drew his swords with a roar, slashing sideways at my throat in the confines of the tent. I threw myself backwards through the door, coming to my feet in the dust with my blades at the ready. He could barely speak for rage as he emerged from the doorway, but his meaning was clear enough: he would kill me for daring to suggest that his sister would ever dishonour their clan by wedding a desecrator of elven blood such as myself. He raised his blades one last time, and a word from the tent at his back stayed his hand. Miriel stood there, her hair shining like gold in the rising sun, pleading with her brother to stay his hand and not fight the man she loved. He struck her through the neck with his sword. I killed him, and left my one love bleeding on the plains in the red light of dawn as I fled north.
The warclan pursued me as far as the desert. I ran for three more days into the barren sands and the turned east. Many miles brought me to the mountains at the end of the world, and across them to the shelter of the jungles of Q’Barra. Four years it has been since I began to walk these forest paths; every day has been a battle. The lizardfolk that dwell in the depths of these lush valleys are a merciless people who’s respect is earned at the edge of a blade and at the utmost end of one’s will to survive. With time we came to see each other as equals, and many of them I am honoured to call my friends. A man will always be in need of friends at his back in time of need, and in this wild land I have become a man. Man; many would look at me at scoff at that word, but it is of more than mere blood that I speak. I carry the blood of elfkind within me and I carry it with pride. But my father was a man, and it is to his honour that I seek to match my life. As I write this I am leaving behind the cool shade of jungle palms for the first time in many a cycle of the moons, and one day soon I will lay eyes upon the city of my father.
I am Darrow. I have been called many things, but never weak.