"You think you know glory, just because you have survived a single day of battle? To feel the fires of dragons like the fury of Io as the ground tears apart around you, to wet your blade with the blood of worthy foes, to be the first into the breach; that is to know glory. That is what it means to be Dragonborn." -Avatar of Io
Imposing, strong, and draconic, dray cut an impressive figure among other humanoids. An average dray, also called dragonborn, is tall and strapping compared to the normal human, although the basic shape is the same. Also distinctive from human counterparts is a dray’s dragonlike head, scales, fangs, and claws. Despite a passing resemblance to reptilian creatures, dray are warm-blooded beings rather than cold-blooded reptiles. Their bodies are hot enough to seem feverish to human sensibilities. This keeps a dray more comfortable in cold temperatures. A lack of body hair coupled with a large mouth that can be opened to release body heat means that a dray is no more vulnerable to hot temperatures than a human. The scales that cover a dray are tougher than human skin. Although these scales make a dray less susceptible to small, incidental wounds, they don’t protect against damage dealt by weapons and similar purposeful attack. Dray also typically lack the inborn elemental resistances true dragons might possess.
Like true dragons, however, dray hatch from eggs, usually laid singly or, more rarely, in a pair. Hatchlings are quickly capable of standing and walking, but their teeth take a few months to come in. During this time, the mother nurses her offspring. She slowly weans the child to soft and then normal food, which for dray is usually more meat than other edibles. By the end of the first year, a dray hatchling has the mental and physical development of a 3-year-old human child. A dray matures quickly throughout his or her youthful development. At about 12 years of age, the dray is a lanky version of his or her adult self. Over the next 3 years, he or she fills out into an imposing adult form. A likeness to dragons gives dray physical might. Dray also carry an almost supernatural bodily potential to tap into and develop draconic traits. Most develop a breath weapon, which is dangerous by the time a dray reaches adulthood. Still, an individual dray might manifest more draconic traits than another. One might do so at birth. Such a change could instead come as the dray’s soul quickens in the crucible of a spiritual path or as the body adapts in the wake of mighty deeds.
Dray psychology centers on a draconic nature tempered by strong cultural ideals. The inner draconic spark is expressed as intensity coupled with a well-developed sense of self. From this sprouts a resolve born of an honest desire to be the best one can be and to be worthy of one’s heritage. Tradition focuses the dray ego with principles of personal excellence, accountability, honor, and wisdom. Strongly emotional, dray approach life with a natural enthusiasm. Passion comes easily, and dray readily invest themselves in the tasks set before them. At its simplest and perhaps basest level, this fervor expresses itself in extremes of feeling— dray don’t hide anger or joy. Such emotion also surfaces as ferocity in battle, especially when dray feel their resolve faltering. When failure comes into view as a possibility, dray become more tenacious. This is partly because a healthy self-image is common among dray. Few dray are timid or reserved, except as a matter of showing proper respect to others.
Guided by personal morals, dray look out for themselves, along with those creatures and items they value. They have no trouble asking for what they need or taking time to improve their abilities. And they expect others to do the same. How else can associates and friends rely on one another? In what other way can society be expected to function? The paradox in the dray belief in a strong group dynamic is that, like dragons, all dray are fiercely independent. They learn to be so in their upbringing, focused as it is on individuality. So this conviction is an outgrowth of personal pride. Dray see the strengths of a group they are part of as an expression of their own strengths. The group’s failures and successes become those of the dray members within it, reflecting on them and their choice to be a part of the group. Coupled with such pride, dray carry a high personal standard. When a challenge comes, dray rise to it. They set their sights on success and keep going until no options remain to prevent failure. This trait isn’t as simple as a disdain for flaws and lack of success. Dray want to contribute and to be seen as valuable by those they value. They consistently want to show that their confidence in themselves and the reliance others have on them isn’t misplaced. Consideration of how they can become better at whatever they do, whether by further fortifying assets or shoring up weaknesses, is part of dray thinking. Responsibility is also a piece of the dray mindset. This can be an expression of their attachment to others involved in a situation. It’s also attributable to the cultural value placed on respect, for self and others, and good judgment. No dray gives his or her word lightly. In fact, dray often value honoring their promises and fulfilling their obligations more than their lives. Good judgment is, therefore, required of dray. They must assess the options before them and make the best choice. A failure to do so is just that—failure.
As an expression of all these personality aspects, any dray aware of his or her abilities might realize he or she can’t hope to succeed in certain circumstances. Dray show wisdom by not giving their oaths to accomplish what they know they can’t. They show virtue by admitting their sense of the state of affairs and offering to help as best they can. They show courage by trying to accomplish the impossible anyway, when the cost of inaction would otherwise be too great. Such positive expressions of dray nature are common especially among heroic dray. But, as with all fallible creatures, negative expressions also abound. Passion can lead dray to brutality, hasty decisions, and unrighteous vengeance. Greed and worse forms of selfishness can grow from a misguided ego. Blind ambition can follow a commitment to excellence, as can a willingness to evaluate others severely or to undertake foolhardy deeds. Although such twisting of virtue can be a seed of wickedness, most of the time it never goes so far. An individual dray might not see some of his or her failings, but such negative behavior never truly descends into evil. And a lot of dray villains display a subset of dray scruples, especially courtesy and respect to enemies.
Dray trace their modern cultural leanings to the hale days of Arkhosia, when the precepts of dignity and progress were paramount in the dray mindset. In Arkhosia, strong clans arose and formed ties that yet endure among dray bloodlines. Within that lost empire, dray knew their greatest glory and became instilled with an everlasting sense of their place in the world. War with Bael Turath and the loss of Arkhosia served to hone dray into what they are today.
Clans and family bloodlines are still preserved among the dray, and both are important. The difference between the two is subtle. Family is defined by one’s actual blood relatives as far back as records go. Clan is a federation of families, unified in the annals of time, often for forgotten ends. All dray revere their honored ancestors, family, and clan. They perform their work with an eye toward what their deeds say about their lineage. Such ties can define peace and enmity, as well as cooperation or antagonism, among individual dray. Families and clans have reputations, good or ill, that can have little to do with the living scions of the bloodline. The desire to live up to a laudable legacy or overcome a besmirched birthright can define a dray’s life. Some dray instead embrace infamy or flee from the responsibility imposed by the past. Others make their way according to personal values, perhaps aiming at becoming the most capable and admired dray among the elders of a clan, thereby becoming the clanmaster. When doing so is possible, all dray of a particular clan look to their clanmaster for guidance. Clan elders have ways to contact a distant clanmaster. The clanmaster also has loyal dray agents to act in his or her stead, and to serve as messengers. Keeping contact can be difficult, but dray of the same clan more easily form cohesive coalitions and enclaves. Marriages are defined by age-old pacts among clans. Dray parents with weighty responsibilities look to such relations for help fostering children. A whole ward in a large settlement might be filled with dray from allied clans, and each clan could have its own hall like in the old days of Arkhosia.
All this focus on clan comes from the fact that, while family bloodlines can be extensive, the dray family unit is very small. The typical one contains only two dray: a mated pair, or a parent and child. Dray wed to procreate. Although notable exceptions exist to this generality, wedlock ends as soon as the offspring from a union is 3 years old. If the parents have no reason to maintain proximity, one of them, usually of the same gender as the child, raises and trains that youngster in the ways of people, family, and clan. Honor demands that a parent teach a child well, and that adults care for the young. Through storytelling, tutoring, and demonstration, the parent instills virtues and skills in the child. Although this process serves to educate, it also gives the youngster’s fiery spirit a focus. Without such direction, the fierce nature of a dray comes to the fore, resulting in feral savagery. When rightly trained in dray ways, however, a juvenile learns that honor requires respect for elders and other worthies, focused and sincere effort, reliability and fulfillment of oaths, and integrity. At an early age, he or she understands that chosen actions can bring credit or disgrace to self, family and clan, and even all dray. Even dray crafters and laborers grow up with discipline, play inspired by lessons and tales of derring-do, and an admiration for brave and principled deeds. All learn a thing or two about fighting and soldierly ways. They learn to be bold so that they can challenge themselves and those who misuse authority. Where dray are a small portion of the local population, which is the norm, such tiny families are common. But where an integrated enclave exists, the process is different, and some dray claim, resembles what life was like in Arkhosia. In such a community, dray foster children communally. Adults watch out for and teach the young, and the young enjoy a broader exposure to an array of dray role models. A single parent still maintains authority and responsibility for a youngster, but in these situations, the other parent is often close at hand and has some influence as well.
Independence is nurtured in dray youth at every turn. When, at 15 years old, dray adolescents transition into adulthood, they are expected to have integrated the teachings of their childhood into their conduct. They have a healthy respect for capable individuals of all races, even those they oppose. Their esteem for themselves and their forebears guides them in all they do. Responsibility for their actions transitions from them and their parents to each individual alone, even though a dray’s deeds reflects on upbringing and heritage. Principled behavior and instilled daring mean dray adults are different from their counterparts among other peoples. Dray society produces fewer petty criminals, but more outright villains—dray are more likely to be bandit lords than pickpockets. Conversely, dray are numerous among adventurers. They also find places more regularly in the company of those who have unusual or specialized skills, artistic or venturesome. Regardless of what they do, whether among other dray or not, dray are conscious of how they are responsible for what they do. A dray weaponsmith aims to be the best, to push the boundaries of his craft, to sell weapons in a scrupulous manner, and to honor those who use his armaments by creating implements of worth. The dray soldier, in turn, honors armorer, commander, and clan, by performing his or her duties well. He or she does so by taking initiative in training and on the battlefield, and by helping comrades. Failing to recognize such interconnectivity is a failing of character. This system of honor with awareness and answerability was the strength of the dray when, in Arkhosia, they served dragons.
Dragonborn issue from the same spiritual line as mighty dragons. Since the earliest days, dragonborn have nurtured their raw fury into a fighting spirit and a proud martial tradition. The empire of Arkhosia formed from these roots, and it expanded at times based as much on the power of its military force as on its civilizing influence. In Arkhosia, dragonborn served dragons in numerous capacities, from vizier to archmage, oracle to valet. The most important roles performed by dragonborn, however, were as agents in a dangerous world or as defenders of the homeland. Soldierly ways passed through the generations, as did the ability to tap one’s inner draconic nature.
Particular dragonborn masters hone body, mind, and spirit through martial practice to perfectly tap into the inner dragon. Some come to this knowledge on their own; others gain it from teachers eager to train younger dragonborn in ancient traditions. Only a few master the techniques well enough to become legendary heroes or villains. Whatever their personal history, the untamed blood of dragons flows in their veins. Their veneration of their warrior ancestors has manifested as a supernatural tie to this heritage. Dragonborn hear the call of the dragon within. Its ferocity courses through them. Woe to those who harm them, for the shedding of dragonborn blood rouses the ire of their draconic heart.