The Observant Fiddler
Backstory still in progress
Work in progress
Chapter 1: The Capricious Lady
Tone was born the son of a lesser Azlite noble of Atolhua. This lady, whose name Tone refuses to recite, was an experimenter of sorts, always on the search for trying new experiences before discarding them. She had decided that she wanted to try having a child, and going against the traditional distaste for humans, decided she wanted to try mating with a human. Buying herself the services of a breeding human slave, she soon had herself her son, whom she named Zipactonal.
The lady let her servants do much of the caring for the child, but she was curious about his development—thus she put him through a series of cognitive tests. Fortunately, the young meta-reptite proved to be very intelligent, quickly picking up many of the basics of language, nobility, and swordfighting. Despite his awkwardness and brazenness (which many attributed to his mother), the servants doted on him, and he in good care… for a while.
For it was not meant to last.
After ten years, the noble decided her testing was complete. It was clear that her offspring would be highly intelligent and would pass many of the mental rigors of the world, but that did not save her children from being young, cranky, and annoying. She decided she wanted to explore the science of art next, and chose to get rid of her previous experiment.
The most logical way to rid herself of her son would be to sell him. With the new fad of using children in gladiatorial arenas as sacrifice to Seena, it was most profitable to sell him as a slave for fighting. With her intelligence, she was able to get a good price for him—all the more capital to start learning how to paint.
And thus Zipactonal found himself in the gladiatorial slave pits.
Chapter 2: The Observant Taskmaster
Many slaves required many taskmasters; Zipactonal found himself under the whip of a silent taskmaster. The taskmaster armed them with stone shortswords and small wooden shields and told them to practice fighting, for they would be in the arena by the week’s end. Many of the children were fearful; to coax them to perform, the taskmaster promised that those who survived would be allowed to have one item of their choice that cost less than an Atolhuan gold piece. Zipactonal respected the taskmaster’s wisdom in trying to drive the children forward for his own profit, but Zipactonal formulated a plan to use the taskmaster’s offer to survive.
The taskmaster knew that his bargain with the children would largely go unfulfilled. Many of the weak children would die, and the few that survived their first event usually asked for a toy for amusement or a stuffed animal for comfort—small recompense for those who would soon die anyway. After all, stone sticks and wood boards would do little to protect these untrained children from the ferocity of young tigers and hungry bears, and he knew that. Yet he was a man of his word, and he always followed through, and would again, should any survive.
And one did. Ten children were sent to fight a pair of young tropic wolves—large enough to ensure that the children had no chance, but young enough so that the battle would take some time with blood shed on both sides—all the more amusement for the crowd, and all the more blood for the sacrifice. However, one of the children was quick and intelligent, putting the corpses of his fallen “comrades” between himself and the wolves, using the shield to protect himself and the sword to dissuade the wolves from continuing to hunt him. And within minutes, the wolves lost interest in the survivor, and the crowd lost interest in the fight. The boy was recalled and the wolves dragged away.
Upon returning to the pits, Zipactonal was marked for strength, having survived his first battle, which would signify that he had further battles to come. The taskmaster remembered this one—he had claimed to be the son of a noble, something that many slaves claimed in an attempt to escape, and something that was meaningless in these slave pits. The taskmaster approached him, and asked him what prize the boy desired. To the taskmaster’s surprise, the youth requested a book—a book on fighting that would help him survive. It would do no good if the taskmaster were known to go back on his word, so the next day, the taskmaster indeed did return with a basic handbook on battle.
As he watched with amazement, the boy tore through the book. The book was back on the ground within minutes. And to the taskmaster’s greater surprise, the boy spoke again, without respect or fear: “That book was garbage. Fetch me a new one.” The taskmaster paused, then laughed. No one had the gall to speak to a taskmaster that way, but this boy just did, and that garnered some respect. “Survive another fight,” the taskmaster said. “Then we shall see.”
And indeed, the boy did survive another fight, and yet a third, and the taskmaster brought more books, of slightly more value. And the boy continued to read and learn more—the taskmaster could see it when the boy fought. He wondered what value the boy might have as a fighter. However, while observing the boy, he realized something critical: the boy had no interest in winning and climbing the ladder as a gladiator. He simply wanted to survive.
Each of Zipactonal’s fights ended similarly; he did not fight to kill, but simply to make the animals lose interest in him. He knew that those who were successful would continue to fight more difficult fights until they eventually died in sacrifice to Seena; his hope was that he would lose the crowd’s interest, and be thrown into the pits and left to his own devices. Little did he know that he would more likely simply be killed.
The taskmaster knew, though, and he was a Saurite of some wisdom. He had seen many slaves die in his time, young and old alike. This was the natural order of things, or so he had been taught, but secretly he had regrets. Not for the weak and useless slaves, who cringed and provided little. But for those who were skilled and able, but had ended up in these pits anyway, like a Saurite friend he once had, who had been an excellent cobbler. One mixup with the law, one landed punch, and the cobbler had been thrown into the pits. Within days, the cobbler was dead, gutted by the blade of another slave desperate to survive.
In the night, the taskmaster approached the boy, and explained—if he threw his fifth fight, he would likely be sacrificed, as he could provide no more amusement for the crowd, and Seena wished for strong sacrifices, rather than the blood of the evasive. However, there was a possibility that he could get be purchased rather than sacrificed, if the price was good enough and he was deemed worthless enough. The taskmaster knew a couple looking for a smart boy to purchase as their own, but it would take time; the boy would have to do more than just survive the next battle, lest he be dismembered at its end.
And thus the Saurite and meta-reptite colluded. Zipactonal defeated a young bear who had tired after killing the other children. The crowd roared, and he felt an energy of life—but he knew that he could not get addicted, lest he eventually die like the others.
A sixth battle—thrown—and then a seventh, won. The taskmaster returned, saying that the couple had offered a reasonable fee, and would purchase a slave soon—he would have to make himself worthless again—but only enough as to not be immediately sacrificed. And so in his eighth battle in eight weeks, he teased the crowd—never quite succeeding, but never quite failing afterwards. And when the boars were recalled, he was marked again, this time with the symbol of weakness, and he was thrown back into the pits with his forehead marked twice.
The taskmaster returned. And true to his word, two reptites followed, saying that they had claimed him as their slave, to labor in their library. As he followed the couple, he looked back one last time at the taskmaster, in thanks. The stoic taskmaster simply looked back, without a smile.
They never saw each other again.
Chapter 3: The Supportive Pair
Thankfully, the reptite couple that purchased Zipactonal were caring. As it turns out, they wanted to take him in as their own son, for the wife was infertile. Adopting was beyond their means; purchasing and freeing a slave was much more reasonable, especially as they were secret worshippers of Ahava.
It was here that Zipactonal’s love for books was truly fostered. The couple, despite being of modest means, had a significant book collection, to which they constantly added. Zipactonal was their son, but to others, he served as the library’s caretaker. Here, he was able to learn how to care for the very books that fed his knowledge, the knowledge of the world around him, the life of nobles, the existence of magic, the majesty of nature.
During this time, Zipactonal also learned of music. The husband was an amateur violinist, and Zipactonal quickly learned to pick it up as well. Soon, he exceeded the husband, and the couple frequently asked the boy to compose little melodies for them, which he was glad to do.
Then the sky changed.
For as long as anyone could remember, the sun and stars had been lost to the reptites. Some of the books that Zipactonal had read described patterns that existed before. And one evening there was a loud boom and a great tremor, and new colors swept across the sky, and Zipactonal saw them: the old patterns, slightly changed, but very much still there.
A sign of change.
Chapter 4: The Hopeful Hawkman
TL;DR: Learning of the underground slave rebellion and Miles the Aasimar
Chapter 5: The Evil Loa
TL;DR: The rise of Auditor; the fleeing of the slaves to Dragonfall; the battle at Dragonfall
Chapter 6: The Little Dragon, part 1
TL;DR: Living at taverns and absorbing the foreign local life; the defense of the White Dragon during the Sacking of Dragonfall
Chapter 7: The Little Dragon, part 2
TL;DR: The beginning of Tone’s life as a musician and songwriter; use of his Disguise skill to sneak into Eustan operas; eventually his recruitment by Aptchi to put together the Dragonfall Six