By Tooth And Claw Dragons


The legend of Cipher, a half-Kingdom demon born of War and Famine, as told by a xeriin who's family has known him - or of him - for generations.

Most stories start out with 'once upon a time', yes? Perhaps this will start there. Once upon a time, there was a demon. But not just a demon - a rare demon, born of two Kingdoms, but this one was not mad like all the rest. He was sane, as his parents sacrificed themselves to arts that wrapped his soul in protections, enchantments that kept the chaotic madness at bay. He held the blood of both Famine and War in his veins. A forbidden child. A child of destiny.

This child was named Cipher, and grew up like any other demon; he was raised in the Kingdom of Famine for his first few years, but was highly ridiculed and feared for his blood. When he did not develop the abilities of a normal demon child, he was shunned - and his foster family took him into Felnova to escape. This was thousands upon thousands of years ago, and there was no great fear of demons in the dragon Realms at that time.

Here, he became a squire to the famed knight Sir Giruvegan, a Lord of lands to the north of Vystriana, one of the first Icemarkians known to date. He taught the boy how to become a man, taught him the ways of war, and how to handle a sword. It was when Cipher was around adolescence that he was given the opportunity to help forge his own blade - Regalo, bright twin to Visis - alongside the royal Martyr, better known as Slain. These two legendary swords are envied by all, and are said to hold the power of the very gods within their black and white metals!

I digress. As it was told from my ancestors to my grandfather to my father and to me, now it is passed from my claws into words upon this page. In Icemark, Cipher grew to be a bold, strong warrior; and even before he discovered his gift of magic, he was an accomplished swordsman.

One night in a terrible snowstorm, there was a howl to chill the blood and quake the bones. A great shape moved in the snow, and caught the demon unawares as he returned from hunting to his home. It was a worgen: a man-wolf much different than the wolf-kin of our kind, mad and furious, hungry for the kill. Cipher, unafraid, faced the man-wolf and slew him, casting the body into the snow. The worgen was possessed of insanity that faded with his life, and peace came over the beast at last. They buried him deep in the ice, and his bones are said to sleep there still to this day.

Wondering at the man-wolf, Cipher set out to track it back to whence it had come. The young demon followed its tracks until the snow hid them and yet still pressed on. He could smell the man-wolf with his demon senses; senses far greater than those even a xeriin may possess. He found their end in great mountains called the Dark Lights or some such foreign name; towering peaks covered in feet of snow. An entire tribe of worgen confronted him, and this demon won out over them all. Leading this tribe back to Icemark, he presented them to his mentor, and the worgen warred no more with the Icemarkians of the north. Now, they are closely bonded - and will ever remain so, due to the demon's victory.

When Cipher at last returned to Kurai, he joined the Famine army for pay in Felnovian coin. Thinking to bring riches back to his home in Icemark, he led a raid to capture or kill Death demon assassins heading for the Famine Fortress. But the force was much larger than anticipated; they were attacked, and all were slain... save for the young demon, who was taken prisoner.

Why the Kingdom of Death took an interest in the young demon none may ever know. However, what little is known is this: he was given to a creature called a Demonic Reaper and left to die. However, it was at this time that the young demon realized his power. Realized his magic. Realized... that with a little sacrifice, he could defeat this monstrous foe. And that he did.

But it was not without price. The magic corrupted him and the beast both; it corrupted and destroyed everything it touched. The beast died, yes. But Cipher was heavily wounded and fled for his life. Through a portal he went, into our world; the beautiful Realm of Xaeri. Here, in this very forest, he collapsed and nearly succumbed. Our people were... afraid, at first. Fearful of the strange white-haired man that did not appear to be of the Kin. But our gods, who still walked the land freely in those times, took pity on the dying young demon.

In our tales, those that are not Kin may be granted an animal spirit. These spirit-given not-Kin are called Anima; and thus was Cipher changed. His wounds healed under the gaze of Lady Naerex, She-Who-Sings-The-Colors-Of-The-Wind, and the animal spirit joined with his own. He was graced with the soul of the eagle, and from then could summon great wings of blue and white, like a cloud-swept summer sky.

That is when my people, my family, came to know the young demon. But his sickness was one that the Anima could not cure; and thus he stayed with our tribe of forest-Kin for many moons, many seasons, until he was well. Years and years he spent beneath our trees - even after he was healed full well. We called him by the name He-Of-Cold-Truths, for his path - his story - had taught him many.

But then, the young demon became sick once more. So ill he got that my people feared he would die, and prayed to the gods that they might save him from such a malady. Indeed, Naerex did return late one night to tell him of what he needed to do. His magic, she said, was strong; strong beyond what any mortal should have. He could not use it too much, or too little. At that moment, he needed to use it - to free himself of its grasp before it took his life. Not wishing to put us in danger, he left Xaeri - and he never returned to our tribe again.

But my family, we are very persistent. My forefathers tracked this demon, kept our eyes and ears out for news of him; and news did come. He fought in many battles, many skirmishes, but always disappeared for some time after each one. It was only when our land was gripped by the Bloodreign War was he seen back under our trees, but this time, it was not for us did he fight. He came with the demons, and attacked Kin and kind. Many died. Many fled. It was dark times. And yet... the young demon stopped, it is said, and turned sides - fought the demons he had come with, though it is unclear why.

Some say he fell in love with a xeriin, one of the Kin, though it is unknown who or what she was. Others believe he saw the devastation his magic - then refined, more controlled, very powerful - caused, and did not wish to harm those who had helped him so many years ago. No matter his reasoning, the young demon vanished not long into the War. And until now, our family has heard nothing. For long centuries we believed him dead. And yet here, in my lifetime, He-Of-Cold-Truths returns!

But it was not beneath these trees. I have not seen him; not yet. But I will, do not fret! I will be the one to bring back word to my people, my family. Where was he seen, you must wonder? In the land he called home long before ours. The land of ice and snow in the very north of Felnova. Cipher was in the city of Ibenia, and his magic saved them all.

Yes, I think I will find him. I will leave this book in the care of my pairbond, and my son, Kizuatha; He-Who-Speaks-Tongues. He has also been given the writer's art. In case I should not return, the continuation I will leave to him.

Cipher, He-Of-Cold-Truths, the blue-winged soldiers of the red-moon Realm... the Kin-Friend, beloved of my family, cursed child grown to wear a hero's mantle. His story will continue, I believe, until the end of days.

Written/Told by: Jota, the Heart-Of-Flame, xeriin storyteller
Contributed by: Verridith

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