Andriy and Svetlana Volovodov did their best to live a simple life, all they ever wanted was to live at peace. Andriy was a talented blacksmith renowned for his exquisite sword smithing. Svetlana tended to the crops on the small parcel of land they lovingly called home and sold their produce in the village market. The Chatkama peninsula was not the best place to try and raise crops, the frequent brutal storms could wreak havoc on the lands and crops would rarely survive. That is one of the reasons the fertile central kingdom of Vyshorod was able to maintain such tight control over the territories of the empire. Of course, the punishing taxes and massive dominating armies that characterized King Uther’s long reign had a more significant impact than crop yields.
The village Andriy & Svetlana lived in was small and quiet. The people were friendly and accepting, which is one of the reasons they decided to make their home there. Not every group of people would accept dragonborn as just fellow residents, but the people of Kliuchi had enough to contend with trying to maintain as much of an independence as they could under empirical rule, to have time for prejudice to get in the way. This led to a surprising amount of ethnic diversity among the populace, despite there being only 1500 or so residents.
It was the type of place where everyone knew everyone else and they all helped each other as best they could. That is why on the day that they had both dreamed of and dreaded since their union, Andriy & Svetlana chose to ask their neighbors for help when they discovered Svetlana was pregnant. They knew full well the law; any Dragonborn child must be surrendered to the military before their 5th birthday on penalty of death. The only way to avoid this was to pay a tax to the empire of 10,000 gold pieces a year until the child reached the age of 16, when conscription would put them into the military for 5 years.
There was simply no way Andriy and Svetlana could pay the tax even once never mind every year for 16 years. Their child it seemed was doomed to a lifetime of military service, unlike conscription, dragonborn children had no opportunity for honorable discharge, their rank was simply permanent. Their only hope was to hide, live a life of isolation and try to keep their first born child hidden for as long as possible, maybe if they outlasted 5 years they could argue that the law no longer applied to their child.
The village cleric, Yuri, a kindly Loxodon with a gentle yet firm disposition counseled them as they agonized over the decisions. Obviously by law it was clear what they should do, but as parents, especially parents who were of an uncommon race, the decision was made that they would try and preserve the life of their child, regardless of the consequences. Yuri knew of a long abandoned cave complex in the cliffs on the northern most tip of the peninsula. Legend had it that one of the great dragons themselves had dwelled in the caves in ancient times, but who knows where the truth lies in legends. They would be completely isolated, but they should be safe.
That evening as Andriy & Svetlana walked from the cleric lodgings to their home, they knew it would probably be the last time they saw Kliuchi. They took in the sights of the town, the familiar moss covered one story stone buildings with thatched roofs. Windows glowed, illuminated by oil lanterns, the sky slowly turned purple as dusk drew upon them.
They called in to the Fountain Inn for once last drink with the locals. One of the taller buildings in the village, it was two stories tall and the stone was clad with creme to make it seem more welcoming. They had to duck to enter through the old door, Andriy placed his hand on the head jamb as he crossed the threshold, a habit developed many years ago after he cracked his head leaving after just the right amount of ale. Straight ahead of them at the old oak bar, Alexi grinned and began pouring ale before they even spoke. To their right a roaring fire with padded stools and comfortable arms chairs spread in front, to their left, tables of different sizes where diners were enjoying their evening meal.
They collected their ales from the bar, thanking their dear friend Alexi and made their way to the hearth. As they sat in their usual chairs Oksana and Leonid turned to them and smiled.
“Friends, it is especially good to see you tonight” Oksana said, genuine warmth radiating from her voice. “Indeed” Leonid added “ “let us sit together for a while & pretend there is no such nonsense as time”.
“It is so good to see you both” Svetlana replied
“How is little Dmitri” Andriy asked”
“he is an absolute terror and growing like a weed” Leonid laughed “we wouldn‘t have it any other way”
“Is that a new dress?” Oksana asked”
“Why yes it is” replied Svetlana, “ I just got it today, it has special buttons that help it to be adjustable”
“I love it, the white brings out the blue of your scales so beautifully” Oksana beamed back to her
“How is business Leonid?” Andriy asked
“Eh, it is ok”, he replied “having to deal with dwarves is always a pain, but this new suppler has some of the best iron ore I have ever come across. I can’t wait to see what you can smith with it” Leonid paused after that, realizing he was talking of a future that likely would not happen. He offered a pained smile, which Andriy returned, then they sat in a comfortable silence simply enjoying being in the company of good friends.
At the end of the evening they said their goodbyes and began the walk home. The simple dirt road followed the river to their home. The air was crisp, but not cold, the weather calm, a thousand stars decorated the night sky. It were as though the gods of old were gifting them one final night of their life, before everything changed.
They left before sunrise the following day, with everything they could manage packed into a cart that would soon become fire wood. Following Yuri’s instructions they managed to find the cave come that would become their new home after 2 days of travel.
Had they not known exactly where to look, there is no way they would have found the caves. The entrance was halfway down a 100 meter, almost sheer, obsidian black cliff. An almost perfectly circular opening around 10 meters in diameter looking out directly to the ocean. With the sound of crashing waves beneath them, they had to be extremely careful traversing down the ancient narrow track that had been cut out of the face of the cliff.
Once inside the mouth of the cave Svetlana said “well, this is going to be miserable when it storms, but hopefully safe”.
“Maybe there is some better shelter further inside” Andriy replied “ there has to be more of it than this for rumors of great dragons living here to have been born. I don’t know, something about this seems right, like I have connection to this place somehow”.
“You’re reaching Andriy, but I appreciate the sentiment” Svetlana smiled at him & they moved to explore their new home.
The mouth of the cave went back around 20 meters before narrowing and veering off to the left, following the tunnel with a torch for light, the discovered a great chamber to the left and a smaller chamber to the right. Past this chamber on the right was another entrance to the cave, this one however had a roaring waterfall covering it and it would not be feasible for them to use it. At the far end of the great chamber, which they soon came to call their Grand Hall, there was evidence of a tunnel that appear to have been intentionally collapsed at some point in the past. To the right of that was a tunnel which had another reasonably sized and very well sheltered chamber that they decided to use for sleeping. The tunnel ended with two small rooms on either side, both of which had heavy door frames, but no doors.
After a few months, the cave started to feel like home. Andriy, Yuri & Leonid had come up with an arrangement where raw materials would be left for Andriy to recover & the weapons he crafted would be left for Leonid to find. This way the famous blacksmith would still be supplying the empire & his absence from town would be less likely to cause someone to come looking for him.
Then one stormy night, they day they had been dreaming of happened, their daughter, Samityuru, was born. She had beautiful blue iridescent scales and golden eyes, a perfect fusion of her parents ancestry. In that moment, holding their newborn child, feeling that spiritual paternal connection, the sacrifice and the risk were all worth it, no matter what happened from now on, neither of them would regret this day. They said thanks to Bahamut & Tiamat, it almost felt like in this moment, a little of the first world was restored for them.
Svetlana after resting a while carried little Samityuru to the mouth of the cave. The wind was howling, thunder crashed in the distance, although the waves beneath them were almost as loud. “This is quite the storm we have brought you into my darling, you are going to have to fight for everything in this cruel world, everything other than my love. I will do everything I can to keep you safe, I just hope it is enough.” As if to emphasize her point, a massive bolt of lightning streaked across the sky forking into countless branches & the loudest clap of thunder she had ever heard clapped above her.
Andriy came to her side “we should probably take her inside, we don’t want to get her sick on her first day alive” he said gently. They turned and returned to the safety of their caverns, the flashing lightning reflecting with brilliance of his golden scales. “Look as us” he said with a smile” two blue dragons and a gold, living in a cave, we are making the legends true” he laughed.
For years they lived a happy, if isolated life, little Samityuru would do her best to help her father with his smithing work and her mother with the crops that she somehow managed to grow on the cliff top, away from the cave, but close enough to take care of. Her parents spoke mostly in draconic to her, but made sure to teach her some basic common too. Sami was a fast growing child, by the age of 4 she looked much bigger than her parents remembered seeing other children of her age. Sami would now go with her father to the material exchanges and with her mother when she dropped off excess produce to be sold in town. They hoped that in just a little while longer, maybe they could risk returning to town & trying to find passage away from the empire.
Then one day when the three of them were out hiking across the peninsular, the moment they had feared for years came to pass. As they were reaching the top of the hill where Andriy did his material exchanges, a troop of 50 soldiers crested the hilltop. There was no where they could go, nowhere to hide, they were quickly surrounded with swords and arrows pointing at them. They did not know if someone sent them or if it was random chance, there was no way to fight though. Even if they were to risk exposing their magic, as ever Uther’s troops would win by sheer force of numbers.
And so, as was the law, Samityuru was taken from her parents as a small child, not even five years old as there was no way for her family to pay the hefty taxes levied by the kingdom. The reason for the law was two fold, Dragonborn make for some of the finest warriors and also there is a deep superstition within the empirical aristocracy that somehow dragonborn will magically turn into dragons and overthrow the reign of King Uther. This was part of the reason why the young recruits all had their tails surgically removed.
Many years of combat training followed with only some basic schooling. There was mental conditioning designed to eliminate the emotions of fear and empathy. Attempts were made to erase the memory of the parents of children who made up the ranks of the permanents. Which included being given a new last name, Samityuru and her company were all given the surname Antonov, after an illustrious general from previous generations.
For dragonborn their life in the military compounds also included brutal testing to ensure there was no magic present in their ranks. For in addition to the fantasy that dragonborn could turn into actual dragons, there was a much more palpable fear amongst the military command structure that dragonborn possessing magic would be far too powerful to control. Fearing that they would rebel and cause a catastrophic adjustment to the established aristocracy and their way of life as a people, magical dragonborn were executed as soon as they were discovered.
Samityuru was almost instantly adept at combat. She was used as a child assassin, then as a battlefield courier. She grew so large so young that she was put in to the infantry front lines at the tender age of 13. Her first battle was a brutal and bloody affair at Yosh Oeni in Tunalkatha. The last remnants of her ability to feel fear left that day as she turned into a whirlwind of death as King Uther’s forces finally brought rival King Yaraduth to heel.
What Sami lacked in maturity, she made up for with rage. Her seemingly ever present intense anger fuels her on the battlefield. It also caused occasional problems in the barracks, but generally speaking she got on well with her comrades, the only thing she enjoys as much as a good joke is a good drink. Years and years of bloody battles followed, the ever ambitious king always seeking to expand his kingdom, or reclaim what had been lost to his neighboring rivals. If permanents were able to hold rank, Sami would have been high ranking indeed. She was renowned and honored amongst her peers for her accomplishments in battle, despite her lowly civic status.
The only way for permanents to leave the army was either at your funeral of by the express permission of the king. The army was a life sentence for people like Sami, but that all changed one day at a civic celebration.
It seemed to Sami like the entire city had gathered in the large town square. The sound of feet and horses on the stone floor echoed from the walls of the 5 story buildings that surrounded the square. The buildings were mostly shops with manufacturing and living spaces above them. The architecture was simple, but the buildings were always kept clean and in good condition.
She had been selected to be a part of the kings guard for the day, a simple task she thought, for who would attempt to hurt the king with the entire city around him? It seems the king’s old enemy from Tunalkatha thought differently. A tiefling assassin had been hired to make an attempt on the kings life, the cunning creature was disguised as one of the kings guards, using the crowd for cover he made it through to the front of the assembly. Had he tried to use a weapon instead of magic he may have got away with his crime, however there is no magic allowed in the king’s guard, his famous paranoia for once actually paying him dividends.
Samityuru, keen eyed as ever, spotted the unfamiliar face in the very familiar red and black uniform beginning an incantation. As the air began to move unnaturally around the tiefling Samityuru acted instantly, on pure instinct. She grabbed a hatched that she always carrier on her hip and flung it downward at the tiefling, it lodged in his sternum, instantly dispelling the magic that had almost begun to take effect on the king. The tiefling lived long enough to give up his employer, but not a second longer. Just another day at work for Samityuru, but not so for the king.
King Uther had been understandably shaken by the event and in his gratitude offered to grant Samityuru one wish. She almost blurted out the only thing she had ever wished for, to see her parents again, but in a rare instance of restraint she paused. She knew in that moment she could see them again, assuming they were still alive, but that would be the only time. So instead she asked for her freedom, for release from the army. Her wish was granted, but when she asked if they would tell her of her parents, she was told no, the grant was for one wish, not two. She may have her freedom, but she might never know her parents, where she came from or who she she really was.
After this Samityuru packed the few belongings she had, her basic weapons & clothes & a few coins and set out to try and find her parents. Following every rumor on the location of dragonborn that she could find.
Vyshorod World notes / Images
Chatkama peninsula – Kamchatka Peninsula, Russia. Hebrides architecture.
Kliuchi – Linton, North Yorkshire but with Hebrides architecture.
Cave at the far north was a gold dragons cave, hence Andriy’s connection.
Vyshorod – Capital Talin Estonia, Warsaw, Zagreb etc
Tunalkatha – rival king Yaraduth. Fertile to the north, arise central, desert to the south. Architectural inspiration location ideas Tunisia & Cappadocia, Turkey
Odeca – hilly country, warring tribes. Fertile to the north, arid to the east.
Forrest to the west is known as the haunted forrest, people don’t go in there
People of note
Yuri – Loxodon village cleric
Alexi – bartender / owner of the Fountain Inn
Leonid (a merchant) & Oksana – their son Dimitri
Uther – super restrictive on the use of magic, but has a special secret quad of wizards / sorcerers etc. Has been king as long as anyone can remember yet appears to be in his early 50s, which is how everyone has always remembered him
The citizens who are in his favor love the place, think it is the greatest country ever & are very passionate about it. those who are outside his grace live miserable lives. There is a lot of forced labor, especially in the military, conquered lands always supply fresh troops.