After fleeing the temple, Brandis was quiet for a time. As night fell and camp was made he seemed to make up his mind about something, and approached his companions.
“I… endangered you all. Trying to fight Uranbrulf was foolhardy. I was blinded by hate and pride. I’m… truly sorry, and I feel I owe you all an explanation.”
He drew a shaky breath as Mykel, Chris, Torrick, Vic, Reed, Corcus, and Kesher turned their attention to him as he sat down near the fire pit where they had gathered.
“I was born in a small town in Abaerd called Sindao. I doubt it exists anymore. I was born into a life of servitude… to Uranbrulf. You see, for a long time Uranbrulf had protected the town from the undead hordes, and in return the dragonborn townspeople all but worshipped him. To feed him they kept-”
Brandis’ jaw clamped shut as his eyes briefly flashed red. He drew a hissing breath and continued.
“The dragonborn kept humans. Like livestock. To feed to that red bastard Uranbrulf.”
Around the fire pit, fists clenched and brows furrowed, sympathetic in indignation.
“And I… among my duties in serving Uranbrulf I had to bring his meals from the town to his cave. …Lines of humans, shackled and broken… I took them straight to that red bastard to be eaten. For years.”
Brandis hung his head for a few moments to hide his wet eyes.
“My mother was an outsider, a refugee. She was around until I was about five. She gave me my name. She taught me to hate the dragon and the dragonborn… before she was taken to Uranbrulf’s cave. The slaves, the others, had been there for generations. Resistance bred out of them or beaten out. Nameless and brainless. But they were still human, dammitall.”
“Uranbrulf always had a human servant, a child, to perform various tasks. Mostly for his amusement. He liked to see a human bringing his meals to him, the-” A flash of scales showed under Brandis skin. “Once his servants grew large enough to be a mouthful, they too were eaten of course. I was chosen to be his servant, randomly, after my predecessor had met his end.”
Brandis grew a bit more relaxed now, a bit detached. He had told them the worst of it.
“Once, when Uranbrulf had fought off a particularly nasty undead attack, I had to staunch some of his wounds. I was covered in his blood, head to toe. It burned and stung, but more than that it…. changed me somehow. I’ve since learned what happened to me then. Bathing in the blood of a dragon, as I inadvertantly did, let’s you share in its power. That’s why I had the potential to be a sorcerer. And I think it might answer some questions you must have about my appearance when I get… agitated.”
“Anyway, some of the rest you all know. The Master found me and trained me, returning in secret to the town every year or two to give me new instruction and to check on my progress. Then the order to kill Uranbrulf.”
He shook his head at this, perplexed.
“But now that I know the the true power of an ancient dragon, I have to wonder at the motives, or the sanity of my beloved master.”
“Regardless, at the time I was full enough of hate and pride in my new abilities that I attacked Uranbrulf. I surprised him, needless to say. In fact, to say I surprised him would be an understatement of colossal proportions. It must have been as if a tiny mouse suddenly pulled a greatsword from nowhere and lopped of your arm.”
Brandis smiled and basked for a moment in the memory. Before being sobered by the fresher memory of his recent defeat.
“I suppose it was mostly shock and surprise that allowed me to take his eye. And luck, a lot of luck I’m sure. After his eye was gone he fled, desperate to get away from me. He didn’t even notice that I was near death myself at the time.”
“After that I went down to the town, told them that I had driven away their fat red god. I freed the human slaves, and together we raided the town for supplies, then loaded as much of Uranbrulf’s gold as we could into carts and wagons. We made our way to the coast, and parted ways at a port town.”
His face was mournful now.
“They looked at me… not with gratitude, but with fear and at least a little hate, well-hidden. They had seen me take their parents, their children, their siblings. Take them to Uranbrulf to die. His servants were always hated, outcasts, with good reason. More than that, they had seen the red glow of my dragon blood when I came down from the fight with Uranbrulf.”
“I don’t mind. I deserve their hate for what I did. Freeing them is only part of what I must do to redeem myself. While Uranbrulf lives I still bear the guilt. I still have their blood on my hands. To be free of it I need my- our revenge.”
Now was a face Brandis had never made before. Uncertain. Lost.
“But now… I don’t know what to do. I can’t killl Uranbrulf. I can’t. I can’t surprise him again, and even if I could he is far far stronger now than he ever was when I knew him. I don’t know…”
He shook his head.
“But anyway, I am truly sorry for endangering you all, and I’m thankful you are all safe. If you’ll excuse me I think I’ll try to get some sleep.”
He knew he would get none.