Bronze Never Bruises
Bronze Never Bruises - Charlidros Origin
Silver Keep was one of the biggest and most talked about cities in the northern region of Theldan. The ancient city was renowned throughout the land of Theldan as a place for holy people, where sinners became beggars, and all would prosper under the watchful view of the many gods. The reality was the rich and those born of high-blood ruled with little empathy from the tall towers overlooking the slums below. The streets were painted in dark red from the blood emptied daily from those fighting to survive. In the private and guarded section of the city to the south, where the streets were painted gold, the wealthy and high-bloods lived in a seemingly different world.
As you passed through the golden archway entering Silver Keep, you'd mistake it for a welcoming city, reading a religious passage from the god Bahamut covering the arch in golden letters, which read: 'To protect the weak, defeat the evils. To uphold justice, seek out injustice. To find inner peace, one must seek out their purpose.'
The majority of the civilians that lived in Silver Keep found their way there on religious pilgrimages or were simply born there. Generations of families were stuck in Silver Keep after their forefathers failed the trials and couldn't make the journey out of the dangerous mountains. The tales of the golden streets and endless parties are true -- if you make it higher above, into the glimmering towers. If you pass the trials even. But for the common folk, in the slums below, life wasn’t easy. The streets ran heavy with their own blood, sweat, and tears in an effort to survive. Daily fights took place for any food scavenged or handed out for fun from those in the towers above. While soldiers did roam the streets to stop utter chaos from breaking out, they would often turn a blind eye for games with gold and bronze wagers, or for twisted fun. Obtaining any amount of gold in the slums was almost certainly a quick way to sign your own death warrant. No one understood why the ones in the towers cared to let people live in the slums, as far as anyone understood they didn’t gain anything from it but amusement. Charlidros, a bronze-Dragonborn, grew up on those very streets coloured in dark red, in the shadow of tall towers above. Those streets raised him to be the man he is today.
Silver Keep was one of the toughest places to grow up as an orphan, but for this bronze-Dragonborn, life began almost unbearably harsh. Charlidros remembered nothing before the day he awoke in a haystack, seemingly dropped from the stars above. The bronze-Dragonborn remembered not his age, nor where he had come from before awakening. He recalled wandering for hours in search of someone to offer him shelter in the cold, rainy night of the slum's streets. The harsh reality set in as he was turned down almost everywhere he turned. Charlidros eventually stumbled and fell into a puddle, staring upon his own face for the first time. He stared into his own eyes as a tear rolled down his scaly dragon face in what he thought would be his final moments alive -- a life short-lived -- his life's memories being nothing but a collective of the last two hours. Charlidros collapsed into that puddle and life slowly escaped from him.
“C’mon boy, c’mon boy, you’ll be okay.”
Life was not over. Charlidros’ eyes flickered open as he realised he was no longer outside in a small puddle of death, but instead, inside a small room lit by a light candlelight. He couldn’t see much around him apart from an assortment of boxes in a corner, stairs leading upward and a small table next to the bed he lay upon. Staring at him from his left side was a human male who appeared to be in his mid-twenties.
“That’s right boy, you’ll be okay, now drink this” and the man held out a small cup of multi-coloured liquid for Charlidros. Accepting he was dead only moments ago, he found no reason to not drink, and so Charlidros took the cup and quickly gulped the contents. It was disgusting. However, his dying thirst had been quenched. Charlidros took three deep breaths before attempting to open his mouth to speak but found no words would form from his lips.
“Shh boy. Rest. You're safe here, we’re in my home... Well, under my home specifically--” Charlidros was listening as the words faded away from him, this man still talking; the world followed him.
The man that saved Charlidros was named Grant and he took Charlidros in and raised him for many years. Grant never explained much of himself. The little information Charlidros got was that Grant had been the founding member of a rebel militia group, and although he never explained why, he had come to Silver Keep only a few years ago, alone. Unlike most people in the slums Grant was of a kind heart and for some reason had taken pity and a huge risk on the small bronze-Dragonborn that night in the cold rain. Grant was something of a community leader in the slums. Those that hadn’t had their hearts turned to coal over many years in the slums turned to Grant for help, and those that would turn to violence on their fellow street-slummers feared him. Grant was there for those that needed it when the soldiers would simply be laughing or, even worse, when they were participating. The concerned Grant allowed Charlidros to stay in secret inside his underground storage facility for many years, but he couldn’t offer more than that. On Charlidros’ fourteenth year Grant explained it was growing exceedingly dangerous for him to stay in the small cramped and mouldy hole in the ground that held Grant's antiquated provisions, and he moved Charlidros to a small cabin. There Charlidros learnt to live alone and appreciate the serenity of his own thoughts and calming practice sessions sparring against a wooden totem he turned to dust over the years.
As a huge Dragonborn, Charlidros was the centre of attention wherever he went, standing out amongst the majorly human populace. The amount of attention did not help him at all when trying to steal some bread from local vendors, or when trying to avoid a beating from the local guard and their tortoures games. Life was hard, but Grant did what he could to teach him ways to survive. He taught him how to fight, how to barter, how to cook, how to earn respect and how to defend those around him that could not do it themselves.
By the time he was twenty human years, Charlidros had earned the nickname 'the dragon of the slums.’ People would call his name as he walked through the streets and he felt like a force to be feared by those who would harm the helpless. He had become a hero of the slums of Silver Keep alongside Grant. Eventually, the soldiers stopped their sick games in the streets, and the citizens of the slums formed more a unison. There was neither equality or peace in Silvers Keep, not while those towers still stood overlooking the streets, but on those streets in the slums, he was making a difference. His love of the community around him grew and he dedicated his life to defend them. But this peace wouldn’t last much longer.
Late one evening, Silver Keep began to overflow with a force of soldiers Charlidros didn’t recognise; they were not wearing a symbol he had seen within Silvers Keep before. Charlidros was watching and wondering as they flooded the streets when he suddenly felt a sharp tug on his arm and turned to attack whoever it was.
“Who the hell?!” he yelled as he swung around hand ready to grab whatever is reached. He quickly stopped when he saw Grants worried face staring back at him.
“Charlidros,” he said before looking around seemingly in search of listeners. He lowered his voice and turned back to continue, “Charlidros, follow me silently and keep out of sight.” Charlidros wouldn’t dare question Grant and so he did. Grant lead him through back alleys to a quiet and empty barracks and into the back room. Closing the door behind them, Grant turned to Charlidros, “you’re in danger, my friend.” As Grant began to explain the situation as best he could to Charlidros.
The Holy Guard that normally guarded the ancient temples several hours ride up the northern mountains had taken over the city. The holy guard protected, slept and lived from inside the temple lobbies, often praying for days on end inside the confined rooms within. It had been decreed that while in Silver Keep all those of magical decent or with magical abilities must spend time in the Silver Keep's abbey to be tested and understood, for the advancement of the Holy Guard. What exactly the politics were between those in the tower, those who passed pilgrimage, and those of the Holy Guard was unknown to Grant. He himself had only received whispers of the coming events minutes before they had stormed up the hill and into the city's streets. Grant had made it clear that Charlidros must stay in hiding, he wasn’t sure what they were doing in the Abbey, but it couldn’t be safe. When midnight came Grant smuggled Charlidros across the city back to his home and back inside that underground bunker, where he told him to stay, at least until the Holy Guard moved out from Silver Keep.
The Holy Guard started rounding up people from the streets for testing. Most would come willingly and without a struggle to the abbey. But after several days studying the city Grant realised that these people were not returning and the guards avoided the questioning from citizens, even Silver Keep's soldiers, some of whom had friends go missing were shunned by the rude guardsman.
Charlidros was doing all he could in his small home to survive and keep sane. A small hole in the ground was not a place for a nearly full grown Dragonborn. He kept busy most of the day by working out or practising sword and whip techniques -- his two favourite weapons. On this particular day, he had decided to clean, to the best of his abilities, his little home when he heard a scream from a young child outside. Charlidros stopped moving the boxing he was carrying at the time and moved slowly towards the stairs leading upwards so he could hear better. Sounds of jostling and yelling were making their way closer to the outside of his hideaway.
“Please sir,” he heard a woman’s voice pleaded as she got closer. “He’s just five, just a child, please take me to the abbey instead… please.”
“Mummy, please don’t let them take me, please.” came the frightened voice of the child the woman was talking about. Charlidros moved back and sat on the ground for a moment weighing his options. A loud whack roared through the air from above as he heard the boy yell out in fear.
“Now, bitch, we’ll take him silently and without another word out of your whore mouth, or we can make it hard for you… and for him. So, how would you like it?” said one of what Charlidros assumed was two members of the Holy Guard, hearing just the laughter of one other.
“Please… I beg you,” the woman started before being whacked again by the soldier and crying out as she hit the ground, the sound of which rang through Charlidros’s ears as he stood tall and reached for his broadsword. The Dragonborn slowly stepped forward, trying to be as silent as a bronze-Dragonborn can be, taking small steps with his giant feet. As he reached the top of the stairs he could hear the men clearer, and there was definitely only two. Just to his immediate right outside the door above him he could sense them, smell them; they were within grasp. Charlidros could hear one of them still teasing the woman on the ground.
“One more word from you wench, and I’ll take him this boy to the abbey with one less limb for all I care”
A silence passed, and then a small whimper from the woman.
“What bitch? Did I not--”
“No, it was just a--” the woman splashed-forth in what must have been a mud puddle as she pleaded with the guard.
“What’s your name lad?” came one of the guardsmen. “What’s your name lad, cmon?”
“Don’t look at her. Your name, son, or do you want me to beat her to a rotten pulp in front of you?”
Charlidros had heard enough. Reaching forward on the door above him he applied pressure to the wood leaning against it, as he held the cold metal handle lock in his left hand, and his practice -- but still equally dangerous -- broadsword in his right hand. Taking one deep breath he released the lock from the inside and burst outside in the darkness of the late afternoon launching high into the sky, the fresh air hitting his nostrils like the morning bread, for a second he lost himself being free from that small prison-like space. Landing on the ground with a solid thud, Charlidros brought his broadsword down slicing with power. The Holy Guard member was hit, surprised and stunned, and also sliced in half as his torso fell into two pieces upon the mud below. Charlidros looked down to see he had landed just in front of the boy in the mud, he was small and wearing a bag cut and made to cover his body -- typical slum attire for the poorest. Screams erupted from the boy's mouth as he saw the body hit the ground in front of him.
“Boy, it’s okay,” Charlidros said as he moved forward with his hand, forgetting for a moment the other member of the Holy Guard, giving him just enough time to escape around the corner down the end of the alley. He swore under his breath. The woman picked up her boy and fled in the opposite direction while Charlidros was left standing in a bloody mud pile, broadsword in one hand, fear dripping off the other as he knew he had just sealed his fate.
“Charlidros!” It was Grant approaching from the end of the alley the guard member had just disappeared into.
“What the hell have you done?” Grant stopped in front of Charlidros staring at the two pieces of human meat in the mud.
“They were about to butcher a child, Grant, I could not…” Charlidros looked at his bloody sword, weighing it up, “I could not let that happen.”
Grant put his hand upon his Dragonborn friends shoulders and said, “my friend, you know what happens next unless we find you a way out of Silver Keep fast.”
Charlidros nodded. “I’m aware, Grant.”
“I knew something like this would happen one day… it’s okay, Charlidros, follow me.”
As night arrived, the Holy Guard began marching into the slums in search of a bronze-Dragonborn. The search wasn’t going to be a challenge, Charlidros stood out anywhere. But Grant had put in place a plan to get Charlidros out of the city in case of a situation like this. As they made their way, in shadows and care across the city, Charlidros began to think heavily about Grant; his friend; his father figure; his teacher; his role model. He had never asked much about Grant's past but now he wished he had, he will soon be without him for the first time in his life and he wasn’t sure if he was ready. Charlidros did his best to keep his thoughts and emotion to himself as this was not the time. Grant had contacts within the largest and most feared rebel-militia group in all of Theldan, The Gilded Fist, and they had agreed to take Charlidros in and continue his training. Grant was vague on the details, or how he even knew the Gilded Fist.
"There simply isn't time to explain now, my friend. Move faster"
The pair made their way to the east wall, to a crack in the wall that smugglers often used to bring in supplies for a trade of slave labour or other means, things those in the towers above would not allow. You may be free to leave and enter Silver Keep at will, but the harsh and dangerous environment that surrounded the city and the days trip to anywhere past them left those within the walls with no choice but to surrender to those in the towers above.
“Go through here, head due-west and stick to the city walls until you reach the end of them. Then, and this is important, stay in a straight line Charlidros, a straight line, okay?”
“No, quiet.” Grant coughed a little, seemingly holding back tears, “Straight line boy and then for a couple hours walk. The Gilded Fist have a secret base built into one of the mountains to the west of here. It's a supply post for their ranks, but you will find company there, and new friends."
“I understand Grant, but when will I see you again. I have so much I--” Charlidros was cut off by the voices of several Holy Guard members yelling out in rage at the sight of Charlidros and Grant standing at the wall.
“Grant, come with me,” Charlidros begged, ignoring the incoming horde of Holy Guard members; swords raised; bows cocked.
"Hey," Grant gave his friend one last sly smile.“What’d I always say? People doing wrong, you need to punish someone who’s out to do evil? Charlidros, what do you do?”
“Give them the old’ one-two” Charlidros responded with a smirk and flare of his nostrils.
“Now go,” Grant said with one final push sending Charlidros through the cracked wall, sending him tumbling to the bottom. Without a moment’s notice a riot had broken out between the Holy Guard and the citizens Charlidros had grown up defending, finally making a stand to defend him, and their city. The last thing Charlidros remembered hearing from below before turning to head west was the sound of Grant leading a charge into a wave of screaming Holy Guards.
Charlidros never found out the fate of his dear friend, Grant. But he did stick to Grant’s instructions that day and found his way to the Gilded Fist’s secret mountain entrance where he met a middle-aged man and woman. He told them who he was, but was recognized immediately as the Dragon of The Slums.
Men write tales of dragons not to scare their children but to warn them, a dragon's scales never change colour, their colour comes from their ferocity.
Over the following ten years, Charlidros trained with the Gilded Fist and became a champion within their ranks. The figurehead for its 12th Legion. Charlidros excelled in every field, either tactical or physical in warfare. Tales soon became a legend, stories of a bronze-Dragonborn that cut down waves of men with his cat-of-nine-tails which whistled through the air, wielded with precision like none other. Not a day went by where Charlidros did not think of the people of Silver Keep, promising one day to return to the city and find out the truth behind the abbey, the Holy Guard, those in the towers above the slums and most importantly, the fate of his dear friend, Grant.
The Gilded Fist expanded and, for fear of the Holy Guard, moved their operations further south. Charlidros most recently had been stationed at the town of Ashcroft. The city was using the Gilded Fist as protection, as the city was not run under any religious hierarchy like many others in Theldan, it was not afforded cheaper and easier garrisons of men. It had been quiet so far but there was a stillness in the air that Charlidros knew very well, it always happened just before a fight, and like every other fight he had been in before, he was not going to start losing them now.