From an early age, she found that she had a special gift for making people believe that which was not true. Not just lies or falsehoods, but hallucinations and delusions. She began with small animals, rodents and other small mammals she would find in the jungles of her home. She would sneak up to them, slithering quietly, attempting to be as one with the jungle around her. Not a difficult task for those of her race. But her true gift would show through after the capture. She found that she could make the pitiful animal believe that she was its friend, a potential mate, or even prey. Anything she desired. She could also make it see its worst fears, nightmares conjured from the sadistic depths of her own soul.
She enjoyed this newfound ability. It brought her satisfaction to see the fear in her victims’ eyes, the terror that would often cause its heart to stop while being cradled in her hands. But as with most things that become easy, these activities soon turned uninteresting and blasé for her and she turned her sights to bigger prey. She began to practice her skill on the slaves around the jungle city of Hyssk, with the lowly kobolds and goblinoids. To her pleasure, she found that she could actually, in some cases, intuit their deepest fears and capitalize on them. It was something she had never felt with the small jungle animals she tortured. Sentient beings, she realized, could understand their situation, and their fear could be brought to a feverish pitch.
Nonetheless, she was a female in the city of the Yuan-ti, and she expected to become a priestess of her god at some time. If not for a certain chance encounter one tepid afternoon, she may have continued on with that mundane life, serving her god and remaining within the temples of the city forever.
But while out and about in the city one day, she came across him. He was a fairly normal looking Yuan-ti. But there was in his snake eyes a glimmer she had never seen before. Along with the cunning intelligence of her kind, she saw tales of adventure, exotic journeys, and buried secrets known but never revealed. She was fascinated by what she saw deep in that viperous gaze. It was the first time she had ever considered that there could be a life of adventure for her.
He passed by her on a causeway near the swampy lake on the southern edge of the city. He was her elder by 25 years at least, but she was too enthralled by what she saw in his eyes to not stare, to try and see if she could divine the secrets that he kept hidden behind those pale yellow slits. He noticed her staring, and hissed at her in warning.
“Be careful at which you gaze, little one. Sssome things are dangerousss to look upon,” he said.
She started slightly, as if coming out of a trance. Quickly lowering her eyes, she began to melt back into the jungle, trying to escape a risky situation as a snake would, fading into the ground.
His eyes followed her as she disappeared back into the swamps, and he snickered softly. Yet, there was something about her that tugged at his mind. Something about the way she moved away, as if she was disappearing much more quickly than should be possible. He momentarily though of following her, to see how well she might evade him, but quickly dismissed the idea. He had come back to his hometown to find a damned behir, not to follow younglings around.
The young female quickly slinked back to her burrow, the stranger’s eyes boring into her, urging her on faster. Gaining the entrance to her home, she quickly moved into a corner and tried to calm herself, to think on what she had just experienced. He had been something she hadn’t seen before. He had adventured and observed things that maybe no Yuan-ti had ever witnessed before. Had found treasures and subjugated new races. These thoughts tumbled around in her psyche, bouncing back and forth, tantalizing. Eventually she fell into a deep sleep, the pale yellow eyes of a snake transfixed in her mind.
She awoke the next morning determined to find the stranger again. To look into his eyes, and find answers to the questions they had provoked. She searched the entire area looking for him, but the stranger appeared to have left the city. She wondered what kind of adventures he might be having during his absence, and found her imagination begin to take flight.
It wasn’t until nearly a month later that she finally spied him, near the same causeway at the southern end of town. She followed him surreptitiously, keeping him just within view, trying to find a way in which she could see his eyes without being spotted herself.
For him, he could feel himself being watched, which in itself was not unusual in Hyssk. But what was unusual was that he couldn’t seem to figure out where the eyes were. Even using his magic to cast about for his observer, he could only feel a presence in a vague direction. He could sense that it meant no ostensible harm, but in Hyssk, one could never be too careful. Calling upon his magic, he turned himself invisible and stopped dead in the middle of the street, waiting.
She had been following him for nearly an hour when he simply vanished in front of her eyes. At first she thought he must have just stopped behind a tree, so she stayed put and waited for him to emerge. However, it soon became obvious to her that he couldn’t just be behind some tree. Frustrated at losing him, she quickly made her way to the spot she had last seen him, hoping that she could determine where he had gone. When she arrived there, she noticed nothing out of the ordinary. Her quarry lost, she began to turn in resignation back towards home, only to come face to face with the stranger as he broke his invisibility, standing no more than two feet from her.
He had been watching her approach him and recognized her as the youngling he had scared off several weeks ago. He was amazed that someone so young could have avoided detection by him for so long. While she had examined the ground where he had been standing when he went invisible, he had been quietly scrutinizing her, probing with spells in an attempt to explain how she had avoided him for so long. It didn’t take long for him to realize that she had a strong gift for illusion. For the ability to make people see what they wanted, or even what they didn’t. For hiding herself from prying eyes -- becoming that which surrounded her. He could sense it so strongly that he pulled his magic back quickly, worrying that perhaps she was beguiling him, intending to do harm to even a powerful wizard as himself by lulling him into false security through this devious façade. But as he continued to observe her, it became obvious to him that she was indeed what she outwardly appeared -- a youngling. Powerful magic lay beneath the surface perhaps, but still inexperienced and untried. He decided she could have her uses.
When he appeared right before her, she jumped and would have bolted if he hadn’t grabbed onto her arm.
“I warned you looking could be dangerousss youngling. But I ssee you do not lisssten well. Perhapsss I can find a way to makesss you lisssten,” he hissed.
She trembled in fear at the venom in his voice. She almost felt that just his voice would be enough to poison her. But despite her panic, she could not look away from his eyes, the pale slits that promised adventure and secrets untold.
“There iss one I know who will help you lisssten. We will ssee to that now.”
And with that he turned back into the city proper, heading towards the centre part of it. He hadn’t let go of her arm and she had to move her tail quickly to keep up with him. When they reached the corpse of an elf nailed to a tree near the center of town, he spoke several quick words, and a door appeared out of nowhere. He quickly opened the door and began to ascend the stairwell behind it, still dragging her behind him. She risked one quick glance behind her, thinking of escape, but the door had vanished, and there didn’t seem to be any other way out.
When they reached the top of the stairs they entered an apparently empty room. Here he let go of her arm and turned to face her again.
“He will help you, thisss one. I ssuggest you take note of all he tellsss you. One day, perhapsss, you will be the dangerousss thing to look upon.”
And with that, he turned back towards the stairwell and disappeared down the steps.
The female, left behind, looked around the room trying to spy the person to which the stranger had been referring. Eventually she noticed a slight shimmer in the air near the far end of the room. The shimmer slowly began to swirl, as if the light around it was slowly being manipulated. The shape of a small, wizened Yuan-ti started to become discernible out of the swirl, and began slowly moving towards her.
Surprisingly calm, she stood her ground, waiting for the phantom to arrive before her, studying it, trying to determine where the form began, and where it ended. When it was right in front of her, it stopped, studying her the same way a snake studies a mouse.
“Illusionists are mages that use illusions and phantasms to deceive and confuse their foes, while using the same skills to protect themselves from harm,” intoned a deep voice from somewhere amidst the swirl in front of her. “They are built on the strengths of avoiding battles rather than confronting them head-on. Do you understand?”
The female cringed from the foreign voice, sounding so detached, and without the hiss inherent in all Yuan-ti voices. However, she felt that any hesitation may well spell her end.
“Yesss,” she responded quietly.
“Good,” hissed a sibilant voice from right behind her.
She whirled quickly at the sound but almost instantly felt a bolt of magic punch into her back, slamming her up against the wall of the room. As she crumpled in a heap, she saw a vague blurry image of a smirking Yuan-ti sneering down at her. Then she blacked out.
When she came to, the same face was looking down at her. Expressionless, its eyes devoid of any emotion.
“Your firsst and mossst important lesssson: Do not believe anything iss ass it appearsss to be,” it whispered.
She nodded wordlessly, uncomfortably aware of how easily she had been rendered helpless.
The mysterious Yuan-ti moved over to a table which had appeared in a corner of the room sometime during her unconsciousness and leaned against the wall near it. Gingerly, she came to her feet and slithered slightly closer to him. Watching her come closer, his expression, or lack thereof, did not change.
“I am the massster illusionissst of Hyssk.” He spoke softly, as if used to people straining to hear his every word.
“That other brought you to me becaussse he believesss you may have a ssspecial talent with my craft. I took the liberty of tesssting you while you were.. indissspossed, and I have to admit that I concur with him. However, the path ahead will be long and arduousss. You mussst put assside everything elsse in your life and follow your sstudiess relentlessssly. Do you agree to do thisss?”
He said it all calmly and quietly, his eyes never leaving hers. She could sense expectation within him. Somehow, she knew that he wanted to train her, to teach her his trade. And she realized that she wanted to be taught it. But the sacrifices he asked of her seemed enormous. Could she really push aside the rest of her life to accept his tutelage?
“When I have finissshed my ssstudiess, will I be able to adventure?” She asked it without thinking, but as the words came out of her mouth, she realized that was what she wanted of her life: to explore new lands, find new treasures, and to enslave new peoples.
The master illusionist smirked slightly, “Youngling, when you have finissshed your time with me, you will be powerful beyond your dreamsss, and yesss, you will adventure.”
The master’s eyes took on a threatening tone, and his voice became barely audible, but rumbled from deep inside him, “If you live.”
“Then I accept.”
It was said without further thought, without further study of the master, or her environs, or her current place in life. She could become powerful, and go out in the world to find new magics, new power. Maybe she might even become the equal of that stranger with the secrets in his eyes.
The master had expected her answer, “Good, the training beginsss at once.”
And so it was that she began her lessons in illusionist magic. She learned how to disguise herself completely, imbue herself with powers that were not there, and to make the beings around her actually believe her deception. Her master worked her hard, but no harder than she worked herself, always driving to learn as much as she could possibly discover.
Her training went on for near to five years before the master stopped her one day, seemingly out of the blue. He informed her it was time for her to go and learn on her own. That only through the experience of the world outside Hyssk could she further herself.
He suggested she start in the somewhat nearby city of Drow, named Dobluth Kyor. He intimated that although the Drow could not teach her much more in the way of her magic, the town itself would help her. Beings of similar purpose frequent that town, he said, and she would learn greatly from her association with him.
So it was that the very next day she began slipping through the dark jungles of the Chult continent towards the Giant Turtle that could take her where she needed to go. Her journey was rather uneventful as she escaped from swarms of mosquitoes and the odd viper through the use of the magic and other tricks her master had taught her. After gaining passage on the turtle, she lay back to try to gain a hold on her life as it was. Five years ago, the stranger had literally dragged her to destiny. To the illusory magic that was her birthright, and her fate. Now she wondered what had ever happened to him. That she may one day find him, and perhaps, make him an ally. Not a friend -- for the race of Yuan-ti had no such term in the meaning familiar to humans -- but perhaps a collaborator in those convoluted schemes that can only be hatched in the mind of a snake.
Such were her thoughts as she entered Dobluth Kyor, in search of her future.
Nearly 15 years later, she looked back on the episode of her erudition and smirked to herself. Naïve perhaps she had been, expecting to be an equal with others in the Drow town. Instead, she had found indifference amongst its inhabitants, even hostility. She knew now that it was to be expected of races that did not interact with each other much, where each race was firmly convinced that they were superior to all others. It was difficult to get used to at first. But she worked hard there, gaining knowledge and amassing experience. Soon she was exploring deep into the darkness of the Mir forest surrounding the town, or venturing into the shallow depths of the Underdark beneath the city where she would delve into the mineral-rich mines and the magical bazaars that existed there. She adventured as she had always dreamed, and she enjoyed it. But as she adventured, she gained knowledge not only of the world around her, but of her own magic and capabilities. And so, almost before she realized it, she had silently become a power amongst the individuals that resided in the greatest houses of Dobluth Kyor.
Soon, the stranger who had started her on her journey of self-discovery sought her out. He was a powerful figure in the home of these outcast Drow, and believed that she had finally become powerful enough to assist him in his many deeds. It was not the surreptitious encounter that had marked their two earlier meetings. This time he sought her out by using his magic to pull himself through the planes of existence and stand immediately before her. She, of course, had gained similar magics along her journeys, but having never learned his name, was unable to use them to find him. Apparently, however, he had been watching her for some time.
As they stood there studying each other, the stranger snickered slightly, “Ssso, you lived. I sssupposse I expected that. My.. acquaintancesss and I are planning to make a trip into a cold, giant-infessted land to recover some trinketsss of which they have no usse.”
His eyes didn’t leave hers, and she thought she detected a hint of dark amusement behind them. “I believe you are ready to come with usss.” He said it as a statement of fact, not a question. He continued to look at her, waiting on her reaction.
She searched his eyes, looking for some sign that he was using her, for his fun or maybe for some darker purpose. But she could sense nothing with her psionic powers, or her magic, and the thought of adventuring with the person who had started her down the very path she now walked was too much to pass up. So she said the only thing that made sense. “Let uss go get some trinketsss.”
And so they traveled with companions who were in their way equally powerful and wicked to the frozen land of Jotunheim, slaying two of the frost giants’ gods and returning home with plentiful booty. It was a trip that was forever engraved in her mind as the beginning of the end of her fate. She had been accepted as an equal by the stranger with the secrets in his eyes.
Over the coming years, they traveled together to hundreds of different places: from giants of cloud and sky, to those of dark and stone; to the land of demons, or orcs, or elves, or magical flames; to cities sprawled across the earth, and even to the outer planes themselves. But from all these places, there was one certain breed of creature to which they had found a special pride in slaying. Dragons, those colossal beasts who fancied themselves their own gods, were killed only for the sake of being killed.
And through it all, the alliance of the two strengthened. They began to rely on only each other in their adventures, often traveling with only one or two others. It was during one of these small 2-person trips that she truly became indebted to him.
In the land of the fire giants, there is a great river of magma. It often deters the travels of those who reach it unaware. And so it was for the 2 as they sat on the edge of Yggdrasil the World Tree, contemplating how they might break through the giants’ defenses in search of ore, hide, and magic.
It was he who suggested the plan, something she had never really considered. She used her magic in a way she had never contemplated before, and it worked. She casually moved about the lands of the fire giants at will, escaping notice from even the most observant of foes. She slipped through their defenses as a ghost would, barely recognizable as more than a shadow on the ground. And when she returned, she possessed trinkets aplenty: magical ores; an enchanted hammer ripped from the carcass of a foolish Duergar who crossed her path; furry hides torn from slain griffons; and delicious roc eggs, to help savor her victory.
From then on, she found she could bring her magic to bear for such things, and much more. All through the lands she moved, a shade, barely remembered, and dismissed just as quickly. All thanks to the stranger she now thought of as her mentor, and her strongest ally. He had unlocked the final door of her fate, and she relished in the power now at her disposal.
But as with all things, the end must arrive.
Upon a fateful day of pillaging that began like many others before it, she and her mentor had infiltrated a castle of weak-minded humans, ostensibly to find some magic that had been hidden away in the dungeon vaults. They found their way into the darkest depths of this castle and came to a blackened door with several guardian creatures behind it, espied by their practiced ability to see through solid barriers. Knowing they could not destroy the creatures in a straightforward confrontation, she volunteered to go on alone to explore behind them, perhaps to find some secret to their doom. Instead, however, she found herself trapped within an insidious maze that lay just beyond.
Not believing that this could possibly occur, her mentor followed her into the maze to reveal an exit, only to become similarly trapped. They explored the maze for hours searching for a way out, but both came to the same conclusion: it would take outside intervention for them to escape. So they directed their thoughts out to those who they had traveled with many times before, seeking their aid. Soon, a small party was gathered, including a Drow assassin who was thought of as the master of his trade.
Eventually, after several failed attempts and many close calls, the small band of allies overcame the monsters and found the secret to the maze, freeing both prisoners. And in doing so, they found not only escape but a passage deeper into the castle depths. Following this newly revealed route, they came upon the treasure they sought, and with it, a mysterious tome. Stymied as to the book’s purpose, the Yuan-ti who was her mentor bent to pick it up.
As soon as the tome left the floor from whence it had rested, it began to shake violently and emit plumes of dark, acrid smoke. Within moments the fumes had coalesced into a mighty dragon who had been bound by the magic of the tome and who was now intent on destroying the small band. The party quickly pulled themselves together and managed to defeat the dragon. But strangely enough was the magic of the tome, that only moments had passed before a new tome -- exactly the same as the one before -- had reappeared on the floor. Her mentor soon realized the power that could be unleashed if he could but collect several of these tomes, and control the draconic magic that lurked within.
Using his magic, he safely collected the ancient book by carving away a segment of the floor where it lay to ensure that the artifact would not accidentally summon another angry dragon upon him. Over the coming days, he collected several of these tomes, intent on using the dragons within them for his own purpose. The good-raced people of Faerun had lived in power for too long. It was time for a new order -- for the races of chaos and death to make themselves heard in the world.
And so it was that he walked disguised into the middle of the greatest city in Toril, Waterdeep, the City of Splendors, and unleashed his dragon servants. The raging drakes quickly went about their appointed tasks and rampaged through the city, slaughtering all who came within reach. There was great euphoria amongst the evil clans of the world as they magically witnessed the slaughter through the eyes of he who would become known simply as “The Dragonbringer”.
However, the good races of Toril have the power of their gods behind them. Too soon, the evil dragons were turned to dust by the powerful human and elven deities. In their wrath, they discovered The Dragonbringer, eventually obliterating him.
After this incident, the Yuan-ti who was now a master illusionist herself attempted a struggle with the gods, but to no avail. Their power was peerless and she knew she must eventually submit.
But she also knew that as long as she lived, the story of The Dragonbringer would never be forgotten.
He was her mentor, her ally, and perhaps he was the closest thing to a friend a Yuan-ti could ever know. He was The Dragonbringer. And she -- she was his disciple.
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