The monks of the Iron Rose were no strangers to abandoned children. A number of unwanted babies were abandoned at, or near, their gates every year. It seemed that the populace used the monasteries as a drop point for unwanted children rather than practicing temperance. Most of these babies were placed with families in the nearby village. Some were sent farther away to find homes. Thus, the discovery of an infant girl in the woods near the monastery's rear gates would not cause any stir or excitement. The master of the monastery saw something different in one girl, though -- something about her eyes. He decided to keep her where she could be monitored and guided. She was named Akiko, the autumn child, for she was found in autumn as the first snows of winter threatened.
Akiko was placed with a trusted family in the village and raised there until she was five years old. Upon her fifth birthday, she was taken into the monastery to live and train and learn there. The solitude and discipline of the monastery appealed strongly to young Akiko, and she thrived. The exposure to the cold after her birth did something to her brain, and she was not the smartest of the students. What she lacked in intelligence she made up for in determination and common sense, and she did not fall behind any of the students in either mental or physical lessons. When she became a young woman of 17, she assumed the mantle of a teacher at the monastery.
Then the dreams began. In the dreams, she was a strong t'ien lung dragon. Her golden scales glistened in the sun as she flew, and her multicolored mane framed her head magnificently. Sometimes she delivered messages for the celestial bureaucracy, and other times she led flights of lesser dragons and breathed fire and destruction on those who deserved it. Sometimes she simply flew and enjoyed the sky. Each of the dreams stirred in her a compulsion to seek out something, though she was never sure what.
Her masters at the monastery were prepared for her dreams, but surprised at their nature. They thought she had something of the shadows about her, not of the great dragons. She was advised to heed the call and seek out her heritage, for that surely is what beckoned in her dreams.
Not quite believing she was descended from the great celestial dragons, Akiko nonetheless set out from the monastery to find the meaning of the dreams. She wandered the land for several years on this quest, seeing much of the world. Soon after she started out, she discovered an awakening magic potential within her, and she spent some time developing her powers as a sorcerer. She never lost the discipline that was bred into her in the monastery and she found a more rigid and orderly way of using her magic. Her magic also developed along lines that reinforced her combat training in the monastery.
During all this time, the dreams continued. The further she grew into her magical powers, the more urgent the dreams seemed to her and the more they called. She recognized the calling and learned to use the half-awake time between sleeping and waking to meditate on the dreams and learn from them. In this way she came to see that she was being called to adopt the mantle of the celestial dragons somehow, and so she became a dragon disciple.
Akiko's progression as a dragon disciple has been slow because she was slow to believe that she really descended from the dragons. Life in the monastery emphasized the ordinariness of life and the experiences of common people. Magic was touched on, but never taught, and dragons were myths more than reality. She continued to develop her powers as a sorcerer, and from time to time she has made a leap of faith that allowed her to achieve more power as a dragon disciple.
This changed when she realized the power of magical flight. Upon her first casting of this spell, she soared into the air and felt the freedom that dragons feel. She was suddenly no longer tied to the ground and somehow spiritually no longer tied to her old way of life. She would never lose the discipline and outlook of a monk, but this new freedom brought a modification of that outlook.
Then it appeared. Golden scales glistening in the sun, sinuous body snaking its way down from the clouds, multicolored mane flowing in the wind, the t'ien lung dragon circled toward her. Her spell ended, but the dragon caught her with a strong wind and lifted her to meet itself.
"I am that from which you come," it told her, "and though you shall never become what I am, you have some of my nature within you. It has taken me some time to find you in this foreign land, though I knew that you had achieved power and understanding enough to comprehend what you are. From this time forward, you shall devote yourself to your draconic heritage, and in time we shall speak again."
Akiko felt herself lowered to the ground, and the great creature flew back into the clouds. During the whole time it spoke, and indeed the whole time it remained before her eyes, Akiko could not speak. The t'ien lung was too awe-inspiring to comprehend at first, and by the time she had gathered her courage it was gone.
Akiko now travels the world learning everything she can about dragons and about herself. She thought she knew herself very well, since she had meditated a great many times on her own nature. But she has only begun to see who she really is.
About the Author
Robert Wiese is a veteran of the RPGA offices, where he worked for seven years and has been a member since early 1991. In that time he has written over 60 adventure scenarios for the club, a couple of articles for Polyhedron, and the Living Force Campaign Guide (the last one with Morrie Mullins). He also got the Living Greyhawk and Living Force campaigns off the ground and into the hands of wonderful members to develop. Now he works at the University of Nevada at Reno in the Biochemistry department, proving that you never can tell where you'll end up.