The Dragonborn of Ember Cairn
Sep 22, 2021

Article by Egg EmbryDragonborn of Etharis

dragonborn inquisitor brandishing sword

Artist: Quintin Gleim

Dragonborn feature the refined dimensions of humanity, the endurance of dwarves, the elegance of elves, and retain the scaled hide and roaring lungs of their majestic forebears. They do not possess a dragon’s legendary size or massive wings, but to be dragonborn is to be blessed with the breath, brawn, and beauty of a dragon.

The largest population of the race reside at Ember Cairn in the Castinellan Provinces. They are among the most loyal subjects of this great theocracy. Within that nation, there are several commonalities in education and mental conditioning that unite the dragonborn. Each one of these proud people is brought up wrapped in the sacred teachings: divine service to the Arch Seraphs, the holy significance of the city of Ember Cairn, and their duty to show unmatched determination and virtue in all acts. With a legacy of pride in service, many dragonborn have taken up the call to be clerics, paladins, missionaries, and inquisitors, all crusading to spread the Arch Seraphs’ word. Other dragonborn find their purpose in carving granite. Their labor brings architectural prestige to their people, to all in Castinella, and glorifies the Arch Seraphs through their opulent buildings and lifelike statues. Beyond these highly visible roles, dragonborn take simple but no less important positions administering cities or farming the land. The most storied profession might be those rare few that make it their life’s work to transit the far flung diaspora of dragonborn back to sacred Ember Cairn. Making pilgrimage to their homeland gives the dragonborn community across the whole of Etharis, and numbers them among the great cultured peoples.

For many dragonborn, the call to service is even more spiritual and culturally rooted than for the other races. The draw of the Arcanist Inquisition offers the promise of removing their historic enemies through the suppression of heathen magic. Dragonborn, with their breath weapon and devotion to the Arch Seraphs, shun the magics of elves and humanity; the same magics that destroyed the first Ember Cairn during the Great Purge. Few dragonborn wish to know tainted magics, and those corrupted by it are often relieved to know there’s a way to save their immortal soul.

The Arcanist Inquisition is supported by every level of dragonborn society, save for those abominations that wish to practice magic. But their sacrilege is what forced the creation of the Inquisition in the first place. Despite some renegades, the crusade against sorcerers, warlocks, and wizards claim repeated victories. If the Inquisition is not stopped, one day Etharis will be rid of the bane of impure magics.

 

Dragonborn Lands

Before the Age of Expansion and their scattering, the dragonborn ruled Ember Cairn. Located in what is now the Shattered Peaks, the legendary city is considered the ancestral home of all dragonborn. But, during humanities invasion, their foes called upon thundering magics to sunder the lands and break the dragonborn. Despite their losses, the dragonborn proved to be hearty, surviving until the turning of a new Age. After the Castinellan Provinces came into being, the dragonborn were invited to rebuild their ancient city.

Rehomed in their historic lands, the dragonborn became the staunchest supporters of Castinella. They are productive citizens desiring to elevate their people, though always in service to the Arch Seraphs. Their ancestral hatred for magic, the power that once destroyed their sacred mountains and tore down Ember Cairn, is used as fuel to defend the provinces. Now they head the Arcanist Inquisition, providing an outsized number of its members.

Within the Castinellan Provinces, the dragonborn are true equals. Outside of their homeland, they are small pocket communities among a sea of warmbloods. Still, even in lesser numbers they create resourceful societies. While some of the diaspora answer the call to return to Ember Cairn or adventure more broadly, many dragonborn are content to remain as part of the communities they’ve known their entire lives.

 

Dragonborn Story Hooks

Angry Dragonborn

Artist: Suzanne Helmigh

Contextualized within their history, the current age is a return to prominence for the dragonborn. While they have not reached the heights of the time before the Great Purge, there is much to celebrate. Against that backdrop, there are still challenges and stories to be told like the ones that follow.

Shepherding pilgrims is an envied profession combining travel, adventure, and religious fulfillment. These souls journey beyond the borders of Castinella to recruit the dragonborn diaspora back to the holy city of Ember Cairn. Their mission is to reunite the dragonborn, restoring their sense of community and faithful service to the Arch Seraphs. Their travels take the shepherds to distant, exotic, and sometimes dangerous lands. Jin Viniki convinced several dragonborn serfs of the Bürach Empire to flee their Lord, hoping to reach the safety of Castinella. But the lord declared a hunt to bring back his wayward servants. Unless Jin can find help in this foreign land, he and his charges are likely to be returned to their master in shackles.

Dragonborn inquisitors possess a nose for magic. The best inquisitors hide themselves within suspicious groups, hiring on as simple guards to get closer to those that stink of sorcery. Their plan is dangerous but pure in its intent to capture the guilty. They disguise themselves, join the company of a suspected mage, gather proof, and then subdue and bring the wretched magic user to Ember Cairn for confession. Shi Zilang signed on with a group of adventurers. Her nose tells her at least one among them wields profane magics and must atone. After gathering evidence; unless she is stopped, Shi will hire mercenaries at the next city to facilitate the capture and extradition.

Dragonborn clerics of the inquisition are the bane of all magic users. But none more than a lich. Entire chapters of clerics and paladins dedicate their lives to the destruction of a single lich. For those that succeed, the pieces of the lich’s shattered phylactery are displayed inside a chapel as proof of their accomplishment. However, those trophies are not powerless trinkets. A funerary procession of undead plan to sacrifice a cleric inside such a chapel. If this desecration succeeds, the power will restore the lich. The order will require aid if they hope to repel such an attack.

Kind Dragonborn priest

Artist: Emanuel Silva

Dragonborn priests are spiritual leaders guiding their flocks away from the temptations of tainted magics, towards the pure light of the Divine Seraphs. Their sermons are rallies against mages and their prayers are a curse to all wizards. Despite the polarization of their beliefs, dragonborn priests are members of their community who uplift and inspire hope in their flock. Priest Xing Pisea watched his congregation grow over two decades. That was until spreading rumors that a powerful witch was planning his assassination using a magical spear changed his priorities. To safeguard his congregation and his life against the dark designs of the witch, he is seeking any protection that can be hired.

Kimzi Sal is eight years of age and an unintended sorcerer from a cursed bloodline. She’s innocent of any crime save being a child who has yet to learn control. Nevertheless, her casting exposed her powers to her uncle, Iamen Sal, a paladin having made the Oath of Zeal. Dragonborn paladins are revered among the peoples of Castinella, embodying the virtue and religious devotion of their race. But a paladin having made the Oath of Zeal is truly terrifying, no honor, no pride, no decency, nor mercy keeping them from executing their righteous duties. With Iamen and his fellow paladins tracking Kimzi and her mother, Cashi, they need the pity of heroes to protect them against an insane uncle and his sworn cohort of zealots.

Former Captain Jomili Buiz is cursed with a folklore name: The Haunted Sorcerer. A citizen of Castinella, Jomili was a captain of the Castinellan army, devotee of the Divine Seraphs, and a supporter of the Arcanist Inquisition. When an undead attacked her command and killed her brother, his spirit did not depart this world. Instead, her brother’s ghost answered her prayers to return to her, but at the cost of branding Jomili a heathen sorcerer. Forced by this twist of fate, she fled the army as an enemy of the state. Yet, the knowledge they possess of the inner workings of the Castinellan army represents a prize that the Charneault Kingdom would pay a great bounty to obtain.

Smiths Tools

Artist: Marius Bota

Dragonborn make excellent blacksmiths that rival the dwarves, but are quicker in their trade given their natural breath and greater resistance to the heat of the profession. A dragonborn forge is a model of efficiency that no other species can hope to replicate. Their craft combined with their speed leads many dragonborn forge masters to the heretical temptation of forging magic weapons. Gia Mzighi’s black magic forge is the most infamous of those underground businesses. Last night, it was robbed of many wonders including a special order from the local faeries, a wechselkind meant to replace the hatchling of the Lord Inquisitor. Before Gia’s illegal item can be discovered and her fate sealed with the Arcanist Inquisition, she’s offering a massive reward for the return of the wechselkind with no questions asked.

A lapsed inquisitor is an ostracized dragonborn full of regrets. Living in a society that idolizes the Arcanist Inquisition, the decision to abandon the institution makes the oath breaker a pariah within all the Castinellan Provinces. When they are revealed to clerics, paladins, or other members of the Inquisition, the lapsed inquisitor’s best hope is being called names and showered with all manner of ill treatment. The alternative is much worse. However, when assassins attempt to take Quil Haunk’s life, it’s clear that he knows too much to be allowed to “retire”. His only avenue to escape is getting aboard a foreign bound ship far from the reach of the Arcanist Inquisition. The only payment he can offer is a map to a treasure worth more than gold; the vault containing hundreds of the magic items that the Inquisition confiscated.

Granite is an unforgiving stone, but for a dragonborn architect, it is the sacred material forming the new Ember Cairn. Flecked walls, veined statues, and a sense of dragonborn design come together to glorify the Divine Seraphs. In addition, the structures must be constructed so the holy city may double as a fortress in case of a second Great Purge. Engineer Fize Miguli’s crushed body was found in a park decorated with monuments to the history of the Arcanist Inquisition. Without witnesses it might go unremarked, but he’s the fourth engineer killed in a similar fashion in the park. Who is murdering these artisans, and why at this park?

 

GM Thoughts

Dragon Engraving

Artist: Anna Verhoog

In terms of power, the dragonborn of Etharis play very much like the dragonborn of any fifth edition setting. The primary difference is their geographic concentration and devotion to The Arcanist Inquisition, a unique element of Grim Hollow. Their fervent hatred of sorcerers, warlocks, and wizards puts dragonborn in conflict with many adventurers; all this despite their veneration of the Seraphs, the divine embodiments of goodness and order.

How the GM and players choose to present their dragonborn is open to their discretion. Nevertheless, should your table decide to play closer to the history and feel of Etharis, these dragonborn have a powerful and unifying backstory. A home, a defined culture, and a driving purpose as part of the Arcanist Inquisition. While this article focuses on their homeland of Ember Cairn and their relationship to the Inquisition, that does not mean you can’t explore the different colors of dragonborn and their unique cultures. There are pirate tales of seabound dragonborn, draconic vampire hunters stalking Ostoya, or cold-blooded conquerors warring across Valika, all of which await an enterprising GM.

Regardless of what adventures you bring the dragonborn into, their backstory gives their place in this setting weight. Their hatred of magic is rooted in their history and makes them ideal enemies. Add to that, they’re politically connected and physically powerful, which means they have the potential to be the principal enemy of a campaign. The only question for your game is, how will you utilize your dragonborn?

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