Twice have I been born, and with each birthing, I have gained a lifelong companion. The first companion was pain, learned the moment I was freed from my mother’s womb to the sight of my “father” standing over me with a drawn blade. Lord Bhrostra introduced me to my companion daily for years, finding new excuses to beat me and new ways to remind me that I was a blight on his house. Pain surrounded me in its warm embrace when my true sire, the elf Lairsaph, shattered my knee and left me broken, a gift to the men who hunted him so that he could escape while I paid the price for his crimes. That pain made me strong, tempered me against hardship, and set my foot on the path toward my second companion: the whispers.
Trapped in a dungeon for half a decade, tortured for the crimes of my sire, the whispers comforted me. They etched arcane runes in the hallways of my mind, told me the names of beings who could impart strength beyond anything I had dreamed of, and carved maps to ancient sites rife with power just waiting to be claimed. They’ve steered me toward ever-greater power since the moment of my emancipation: a scroll here, a spellbook there, a magic blade in the hands of an unworthy warrior. Each treasure a step closer to my destiny, each foe a whetstone sharpening me for the next task.
The whispers that brought me here, to this barren wasteland of bloodstained stone between the orcish hold of Belkzen and the so-called Gravelands ruled by hungry undead. They told me that there once was a mighty black dragon named Sharzathinek who served the Whispering Tyrant and that her lair was packed with spellbooks and magical trinkets. Such treasures came from a time before the Tyrant’s mortal life, ancient magic from an era when today’s archmages would have been seen as scarcely more than street magicians. The whispers also told me that Sharzathinek was, quite conveniently, dead, slain in a battle far from her lair. Hidden in such an inhospitable place as this, perhaps the lair and its treasures have gone unnoticed, waiting to be found once more by their rightful inheritor.
The lair should be close now. I had to put my horse down several miles back when its hoof caught in a rocky crevice and its leg shattered. Perhaps I could have set the bone and poured a healing potion down the beast’s throat, but I have used up most of the supplies it was intended to carry, and I would prefer to keep my precious healing resources for a true emergency. The horse screamed something fierce before I ended its misery, and while the dragon whose trove I’m searching for is supposedly long dead, some other deadly creature undoubtedly hunts in these lands. Not even the orcs wander into this desolation, but something tore apart a band of ghouls just a few miles back. Something with claws, teeth, and… acid.
The whispers surge in my mind, reassuring me that Sharzathinek is long dead. I needed not the reassurance; a dragon as old as that one wouldn’t merely have torn the ghouls apart, its claws would have scored the stone, and its breath would have melted rock into toxic vapor. I suspect that Sharzathinek left behind a clutch of eggs or wyrmling spawn, a lesser dragon that has likely claimed its mother’s horde. I don’t fear such a lesser creature, though I’m not so foolish as to risk encountering it unprepared.
I hear the faintest beating of wings far above me in the storm-wracked sky, and I use a scroll of protective magic to ward my body and equipment against acid. My blade leaps to hand with a thought and with it an array of powerful spells. No simple sword, my blade is fused with a powerful staff whose combat spells augment my specialized array of magic.
With my body warded and weapon in hand, I scan the skies. Was that a flicker of a bat-like wing, large enough to hold a draft horse aloft? Or had my nerves simply fooled my senses? The whispers assure me it was no illusion, so I do the only thing that makes sense. I scream into the darkened skies, “Come then, beast! Come and face your better, wyrm! I have more important tasks than wasting time with you here in this gods-forsaken corner of nowhere!”
The taunt works. I hear the faint beating in the distance become a deafening hiss, like the linen sail of a great ship tearing under the force of a hurricane. Foolish creature, too consumed by its own arrogant superiority to mask its approach. As it swoops towards me, for just a moment I feel the heavy dread of dragon-fear attempting to cloud my mind, but I brush it aside. I unleash a blast of lightning from my blade, wreathing its body in crackling arcs of electricity. I hold on to that power, grasping a fraction of its potential to wreath my blade in lingering electricity. The beast spews acid as it unleashes its deadly breath, but I sidestep the worst of the blast. The few droplets that reach me fizzle and fume before being extinguished entirely by my protective wards.
As the creature’s momentum carries it past me, I step through space itself, appearing at its flank and driving my lightning-sheathed sword into its flank. It roars as the blade parts its scales and jolts of electric energy sear the exposed muscle and nerves beneath, but I’m not done yet. Stepping into the blow, I drive the blade further even as I unleash another blast of lightning. I can feel the electricity pulling my blade deeper as the monster’s body spasms uncontrollably, and I know that I have dealt it a mortal blow. Then its tail slaps me across the side of my head, sending my body twisting and tumbling.
Illustration by Miguel Regodón Harkness from Pathfinder Secrets of Magic
I woke up a few hours later with a splitting headache, my hair matted to my scalp with blood. The dragon’s body lay nearby… Headless? I may be skilled and deadly but surely my spell wasn’t that devastating. Crawling, and then walking as I regained my equilibrium, I moved next to the dragon. As I inched closer, I noticed that its head had broken through a thin layer of dirt and shale into a cavern beneath. In the darkness below, I saw the glitter of gold and gems as well as the occasional reflective silver of weapons and armor when a line of lightning cut through the sky above. Good thing I brought some rope.
About The Author
Michael Sayre is a designer at Paizo who previously worked on the Organized Play team. He’s also a prolific freelancer, having contributed to numerous Paizo books and publications from other publishers, such as Lost Spheres Publishing, Rogue Genius Games, and many other companies in support of the Pathfinder RPG and other table-top game systems. You can find more of Michael's short fiction in our Organized Play blogs and in the introduction for the iconic alchemist, Fumbus.
About Iconic Encounters
Iconic Encounters is a series of web-based flash fiction set in the worlds of Pathfinder and Starfinder. Each short story provides a glimpse into the life and personality of one of the games’ iconic characters, showing the myriad stories of adventure and excitement players can tell with the Pathfinder and Starfinder roleplaying games.