Hello again everyone. Today I would like to share with you all another memorable story that occurred during one of my older Pathfinder sessions in the Kingmaker campaign. As a side note, I promise there will not be any spoilers for the adventure path, so there is no need to worry.
To give a brief backstory, our DM informed us that this particular campaign involved a lot of wilderness exploration, and that it would likely take place over many years of ‘in-game’ time. As such, my group was encouraged to make characters who would be able to do something fun during their downtime, so I decided to roll up a half-elf summoner of Erastil, the lawful good God of farming, hunting, and family.
We were also told that we would be building our own kingdom as well, and with all that in mind, I figured it would be cool to become a farmer who raised exotic animals and sold them off for profit. After all, the forests were practically teeming with wildlife, and the idea of taming owlbears seemed like an amazing concept.
Now, for those of you who do not know, the cost of raising and caring for an animal is not really that expensive, and as long as I had the necessary farmland along with enough workers, I was basically guaranteed to turn a profit, especially since a fully trained owlbear sold for a whopping 5,000 gold.
Maxing out my Handle Animal skill and getting the Leadership feat became my top priority, and after a few good sessions of leveling up and saving gold, I was finally able to purchase a respectable plot of land for my farm. As my party continued to traverse the wilderness, I quickly began capturing as many owlbears, hippogriffs, and axe beaks that I could find, knowing that these animals were the easiest to rear and sold for a hefty amount of coin.
Fast forward a few years later ‘in-game’ time, and my farm was quickly becoming one of the most profitable industries in the entire region, housing a large collection of rare and exotic -- yet fully tamed animals. Needless to say, I was very happy with the way things were going, and now that my character was a high enough level, I soon began setting my sights on capturing a new type of animal: a roc -- which is basically a powerful gargantuan-sized eagle that, if properly trained, sold for an incredible 10,800 gold.
I figured it would make the perfect addition to my little farm, and I simply could not wait to capture one alive or, at the very least, acquire some of their eggs.
However, little did I know that fate had other plans in store for me instead.
During one of our exploration missions into the swamplands, our party had a random encounter with an adult black dragon who was apparently attempting to defend its territory from unwanted intruders. At the time, my party consisted of a lawful evil wizard, a lawful neutral cavalier, a true neutral alchemist, and myself as a lawful good summoner, and while my allies were not exactly the most ‘noble’ of heroes, none of them had any issues with killing this vile beast.
Although the encounter proved to be rather difficult, our party eventually managed to slay the monster without much issue, and as luck would have it, we also rolled high enough on our knowledge checks to know that dragons typically nested in lairs and enjoyed collecting treasure to store in said lairs. As such, our wizard quickly went to work and cast ‘Create Treasure Map’ in the hopes of locating the dragon’s lair and obtaining some much-needed loot. Thankfully, the lair in question ended up being only a few hours away, and we immediately wasted no time in seeking it out.
However, upon arriving at our destination and after going through what seemed like almost half a dozen traps, our party was disappointed to learn that the lair was mostly filled with dead bodies and broken equipment, with only a few jewels and gems scattered throughout the cave. Not wanting to miss out on any secret chambers, we quickly rolled our perception checks and proceeded to search the area while our wizard took it upon himself to appraise and gather the gemstones. As it turns out, there was at least one more thing of note hidden inside the cave, as our party eventually stumbled across a group of curiously shaped ‘rocks’ nestled away in the corner of the chamber. Upon closer inspection and after making another knowledge check, we quickly learned that these rocks were actually dragon eggs… black dragon eggs to be more precise.
Sadly though, most of the eggs looked as if they had been smashed or crushed from some prior event, but after taking a few moments to rummage through the nest, our party managed to discover that one of the eggs was still very much intact. This revelation immediately led us to discussing what we should do about the egg, as our cavalier quickly suggested that we should simply ‘smash the damn thing and be done with it’.
Meanwhile, our wizard and alchemist both agreed that we should take the egg back with us and sell it for a profit.
I, on the other hand, had another idea in mind.
I can’t exactly explain what compelled me to do it, but after taking a few seconds to consider my character, I realized that selling an intelligent creature into slavery did not exactly sit well with me. In addition, I also could not stomach the idea of destroying the egg, and leaving it here alone simply was not an option. Therefore, seeing as how I worshipped a God of farming, hunting, and ‘family’, I decided to take it upon myself to adopt the dragon as my own.
As you can imagine, my party was not exactly thrilled by this, as they immediately pointed out that I was depriving all of them from a great deal of gold by ‘adopting’ the dragon rather than selling it. In response, I offered to count the egg as my share of the ‘loot’, and even added to give each of them a free owlbear from my farm to keep or sell as they pleased, which was a rather considerable offer since I only had five fully-grown owlbears left on my farm at the time. They agreed to these terms and promptly proceeded to help me transport the egg back to my home.
Thankfully after the dragon encounter, our party was given another week of downtime to manage our businesses and mingle with NPCs. As for me, I quickly decided to use my time to learn everything I could about black dragons while delegating my farmland affairs to my cohorts and followers. I will admit, while I had previously never considered roleplaying as a ‘parent’ with this or any other character before, I soon found myself very excited by the idea of becoming a father to this little black dragon.
Unfortunately, after doing a bit of research, all that excitement was immediately replaced by dread as I discovered that black dragons were perhaps the most psychotic little bastards that ever existed in the history of… well… anything.
Even when compared to other chromatic dragons which were all pretty much evil in one way or another, black dragons were particularly nasty since they basically possessed a wicked and sadistic nature that could easily put Ted Bundy to shame. On top of that, black dragons were also incredibly violent and unreasonable, and would often inflict harm upon other creatures simply because they could.
As you can imagine, none of this was very encouraging information, and to make matters worse, the egg was due to hatch almost any day now. I realized that this was probably my DM’s way of saying that raising this dragon would be a very bad idea, but to be honest, I really did not care. My mind was made up and my course was painfully clear: I would raise this black dragon right or die trying.
When the big day finally came, I had already prepared one of my barn houses to act as a makeshift ‘lair’ and had stocked it with a large tub of drinking water and about thirty pounds of dried fish. I figured this would be more than enough to make a good impression with my newly-hatched dragon, and the barn was certainly spacious enough not to mention more inviting when compared to that filthy corpse-ridden cave. Now, keep in mind that while a black dragon is only the size of a house-cat when it is first born, I knew that over time it would get a hell of a lot larger. On top of that, I also realized that dragons for the most part were surprisingly very intelligent even at birth, and I did not want to expose mine to too many people too quickly especially given a black dragon’s natural psychotic tendencies.
As it turned out, that was probably a live-saving idea.
When the egg started to hatch I could barely contain my excitement, and as I watched the little creature crawl out of its shell, my character literally had to resist the urge to go over and pick it up. Thankfully I restrained myself and waited a bit longer so as to not frighten the poor thing with any strange or sudden movements. Eventually though, I decided to call out to it in a low and gentle voice, and I made sure to speak in draconic so that it could understand me as well.
“Hey there. It is good to see you.”
In response, the dragon merely blinked at me with its cold blood-red eyes.
“Don’t be afraid. I am not going to hurt you,” I said, before gently reaching out my hand to try and pet its head.
As I soon discovered, trying to pet a black dragon’s head was a very big ‘no-no’, the little creature quickly hissed at me before scurrying back to a corner hissing at me again. I suppose this should not have surprised me of course, but I figured my best option now was to roll for a diplomacy check and hope for the best.
Below average roll. Not a good sign.
In a nutshell, I essentially told the dragon my name and asked if it was hungry. It did not answer. Instead, the little creature just sniffed the air and started wandering around the barn. Unsure of what to do next, I decided to stay in the barn for the rest of the day, hoping that my little wyrmling might finally decide to talk to me. No such luck I am afraid, and with nightfall quickly approaching, I figured I might as well get comfortable and make a bed in the hay.
Oh, what a wonderful idea that was.
After being asleep for about an hour, I was abruptly woken up by the refreshing sensation of a little black dragon pouncing on my face, as the damn thing apparently decided that now would be the perfect time to strike against a ‘helpless’ and clearly stupid victim. It raked its claws against my eyes in a frantic attempt to blind me, but as you might have guessed, little cat-sized dragons were not exactly very strong. After rolling a quick strength check, I easily managed to pull the psychotic reptile off of me, and after taking a moment to collect myself, I immediately asked my DM if I could roll another diplomacy check to try and calm it down.
In response, the dragon ‘politely’ hissed at me before using its breath weapon to spray acid in my face.
Now, at this point, part of me was REALLY considering killing the little monster right then and there. After all, this thing clearly had no issue with trying to kill me, and it did not seem interested in listening to reason either. However, I knew that if I killed it I would be taking the easy way out, and I was not about to let myself be bested so soon. Therefore, if diplomacy would not work, I would try intimidating it instead. Now, keep in mind, I never intended my character to act as the party face, and as such, I never bothered putting points into any of my social skills. That being said, the only thing I had going for me was a high amount of charisma, so there really was no guarantee that my intimidate check would work.
To my surprise though, when attempting to intimidate a pint-sized dragon, a medium-sized half-elf with a good charisma score can be a very scary thing even with just an average roll.
“Cut this crap out or I swear I will skin you alive and make a Goddamn belt out of you!” I yelled in draconic, which instantly caused the dragon to squeak in alarm before skittering away in fear to the far side of the room.
Needless to say, things weren not going well.
Wanting to try and salvage the situation, I grabbed some dried fish and approached the dragon again, as it continued to quiver meekly in the corner, hissing and glaring at me the whole entire time.
“You food,” it said suddenly, in a slightly feminine voice although how anything can sound feminine in the draconic tongue is beyond me. “I kill you. I eat you. You no scary to me.”
I will admit, seeing this little dragon threaten me while cowering in fear really did make me feel sorry for the thing. It was as if this creature could not comprehend why I was so angry with it, and it also did not seem to realize that I had only been trying to help it. In that moment, I knew that no matter what, I needed to succeed. I needed to show this dragon how to live a good and virtuous life, and I would be damned if I let anything stand in my way.
I asked the DM for another diplomacy check.
Now up until this point, the dice Gods had not been very kind to me, and I knew that this next check could make or break everything. And so, with all that in mind, I steeled myself as best I could and prepared to make my roll, although not before delivering one hell of a speech.
“I am not your food. I am your father,” I stated in a firm yet gentle tone. “I am sorry for what I said earlier. I did not mean to lose my temper. However, you must understand that I will not tolerate my child acting like a homicidal monster. You are better than that, even if you cannot see it yet. I know that deep down you are destined for great things, and it is my hope to help guide your steps with a loving and gentle heart.”
Once I was finished, I tossed the dice from my hand and waited for the result, praying that I would at least roll something above a ten.
As luck would have it… natural 20!
The little dragon took a moment to consider my words, cocking its head to the side while studying my face. Its eyes seemed to regard me with a great degree of caution, but it no longer seemed to cower or view me as a threat. Then, after a long pause, the little wyrmling spoke.
“I not your pet,” it stated very firmly.
“No, you are not my pet. You are my daughter.”
“I not your slave!” the dragon declared hotly.
“Never my slave. Only my daughter,” I said in response.
“What does this mean?” It asked in a curious voice.
“It means that we are family, and it means that I love you.”
After a long pause, the dragon slowly crept closer and eyed the fish in my hand, before carefully leaning in to take a cautionary bite. I knelt there in silence as I watched my dragon eat, feeling like I had just won a monumental victory.
“You know, if you are going to be my daughter, then you will definitely need a name,” I offered to her gently, as I took a moment to gaze at her dark jet-black scales.
Now, for those of you who do not know, you can actually tell a lot about a dragon just by looking at their scales. On one hand, a good dragon’s scales are bright and vibrant, while an evil dragon’s scales are dull and dark and when it comes to a chromatic dragon, their scales are almost always universally dark. Therefore, if I had any hope of leading my daughter on the good and righteous path, then I needed her scales to shine like obsidian… or onyx.
“Onyxia,” I said. “That will be your name.”
Upon hearing this, the little dragon looked up at me with its bright crimson eyes, before slowly nodding its head in obvious approval.
“Onyxia,” she said. “It is good name. I like very much.”
And so, with that said, Onyxia was born.
I was feeling rather pleased with myself despite my rocky start, and I was confident that things would go a lot smoother now that I had formed a proper connection with my precious little dragon.
Oh how wrong I was…
After spending another day in the barn, I finally decided to give Onyxia a tour of my lands, hoping to familiarize her with the animals and staff. At first, everything seemed to be going just fine, with Onyxia following closely at my heels and listening intently to everything I said. She still refused to let me hold her of course which did wound me a bit, but I figured that for now, I needed to take baby steps. In the meantime, I wanted to make her feel as welcome as possible, and I knew that exposing her to other people would be the best way to go.
Sadly, as I guided her around the farm, I noticed that Onyxia was acting very tense, and she would constantly hiss and growl at almost everything that moved. Bringing her around my animals quickly proved to be impossible, as most of them treated Onyxia with a mixture of fear and hostility. This did not seem to bother my dragon of course, since despite the fact that she was only the size of a house-cat, she basically approached everything with a rather fearless attitude or, in other words, a complete lack of common sense. On one occasion, I literally had to use a handle animal check to keep one of my owlbears from attacking Onyxia who was hissing at the beast the entire time while hiding behind my leg quivering in fear. I knew this was just a by-product of a black dragon’s psychotic nature, but even so, I decided to keep her away from my animals for now.
Things did not go much better when I finally introduced Onyxia to my cohorts, she stared at them with her cold blood-red eyes, as if silently debating if she could kill them now or not. Needless to say, none of my followers felt very comfortable around her, but I urged them to do their best and treat my daughter with respect. A suggestion that I also encouraged with Onyxia as well. After finishing up with the tour, I calmly walked Onyxia back to her barn and made sure to restock it with fresh water and supplies. I knew that once my downtime was over, I would have to go out and start adventuring once again, which meant that I would be forced to leave my dragon all by herself.
Fearing that she might run away or worse, go out and hurt someone, I briefly considered locking up the barn with Onyxia inside it. However, as soon as I suggested this idea to my DM, I immediately caught myself mid-sentence and dismissed it entirely, remembering the promise that I made to my daughter: she was not my pet, and she was not my slave. She was my precious little girl, and I would treat her as such. I knew that if I broke my promise, or violated her trust, I would lose any hope of leading Onyxia on the good and righteous path and that was simply something that I could not afford.
And so, when it came time to head off with the party again, I left the barn unlocked and said my goodbyes, although not before reassuring my daughter that I would be back in a couple of days. I will admit, leaving my little dragon alone was perhaps one of the most stressful moments in the campaign thus far, but nevertheless, I felt supremely confident that I was doing the right thing. I would only be gone for a few days after all, and I was certain that when I returned, everything would be fine.
Of course, as you might have guessed, this would not be the case.
Now, I suppose at this point I could bore you all to death by recounting the exploits of my party’s adventure, but I think I will just skip ahead and get back to Onyxia. To sum things up though, our excursion into the wilderness proved profitable yet again, and as we continued to advance the plot of the campaign, our DM eventually gave us another break along with two more weeks of downtime. Surprisingly enough, we were all very eager to get back to our businesses, and I was especially excited about seeing my dragon again.
However, as I arrived back on my farm, I was instantly greeted by one of my cohorts who informed me that we were currently suffering from a very serious problem. Apparently in my absence, my little Onyxia had finally learned how to fly, and ever since doing so, she had basically been on an unstoppable rampage. She had terrorized the staff and caused chaos wherever she went, and this all eventually culminated in Onyxia torturing and killing one of my owlbears by flying overhead and spraying acid at the beast until it inevitably dropped dead, succumbing to its wounds. My cohort went on to explain that it took Onyxia almost thirty minutes to kill the poor creature, and that she did not even bother to eat it at the end.
In other words, she had killed it just for fun.
I was furious and devastated all at the same time, and to make matters worse, the owlbear that she killed had been one of my mated pairs. For those of you who do not know, when an owlbear finds a partner, they essentially mate for life and they certainly do not take the death of their partners lightly. Knowing this information, I immediately asked my cohort to show me where the owlbear was, and as we approached the location where this tragedy took place, I soon began to hear the distinct sound of another grown owlbear crying out in grief.
When we finally arrived, I saw that the fallen owlbear’s body was covered with burn marks, and as it quietly laid still and lifeless upon the ground, its mate slowly circled its body and howled toward the stars. Every now and then, the living owlbear desperately tried tapping on its mate’s body to try and get it to move, and each time it remained still, the owlbear simply wailed in pain before repeating the process again.
“Where is my daughter?!” I asked. Fury raged in my voice, to which my cohort promptly pointed me straight towards the barn.
I wasted no time in heading in that direction, and when I finally opened the doors and stepped inside, my eyes were instantly greeted by another horrifying sight. The barn was in a sorry state from when I had last left it, with numerous scratch marks lining the walls and several wooden beams sporting freshly-made acid burns. In addition, the corpses of numerous half-eaten animals, rabbits and other small vermin decorated the ground in a sickly display. Onyxia stood by the water trough completely covered in blood and was currently in the process of making holes in the wood.
“Onxyia, come here this instant!” I commanded. The dragon calmly glared at me with a rather annoyed stare before moving away from the water trough and coming to stand beside me. “Why Onyxia? Why did you do it?”
“Do what?” the dragon asked, obviously confused.
“The owlbear. Why did you kill that owlbear? I know that you did not need it for food.”
“I am dragon,” she explained, as if that statement answered everything. “I do not need a reason to kill. I was just having fun.”
In that moment, it suddenly dawned on me that Onyxia had no idea what right and wrong truly meant. From her point of view, being a dragon basically allowed her to do whatever she wanted, and her natural urges constantly drove her to committing evil and violent acts. I knew that if this continued, there would be no way for me to change her current state of mind, and as such, I resolved to try and teach my daughter a lesson in humility.
“Come with me,” I said, before leading her out of the barn and heading back towards the dead owlbear.
As we approached the scene again, its mate was still wailing and howling out in grief, which did not seem to bother Onyxia in the slightest.
“Why we here?” my daughter asked impatiently.
“I want you to see this,” I said. “I want you to witness the tragedy that you caused.”
“So what? I killed it. It made me feel strong,” Onyxia declared proudly.
“Do you still feel strong now?” I asked, giving my daughter an incredulous look.
She considered this for a moment but did not answer right away, as the owlbear let out another long and anguished screech.
“That one is very noisy. I go kill it now,” Onyxia said, as I noticed that she purposely tried avoiding my question.
“You will do no such thing,” I said in response, which immediately caused my DM to ask for a diplomacy check.
As luck would have it, I rolled a 16 and Onyxia stayed put, listening to the horrid sounds of the broken-hearted owlbear grieving over its mate.
“This is not something to be proud of, my daughter,” I calmly explained. “Causing pain to others is not a sign of strength. You have acted dishonorably, and brought shame upon us both, and it is because of your actions that you have wounded me as well.”
For a long time, Onxyia said nothing as she gazed at the owlbear, listening to its mate wail away in pain. She still seemed indifferent to the misery that she had caused, but after waiting in silence for a little over a minute, I noticed that her body was starting to shake and shiver with rage.
“I… I do not like this,” she said suddenly, as her tail began to twitch in obvious annoyance. “Make it stop. I do not like. Make the noises stop!”
Again, the owlbear howled and pawed at its dead mate.
“Why… why you do this? Why you make me look at this?!” she asked, before turning her head to gaze at me with dark accusing eyes. “I was proud! I felt good! But now I no feel good at all?! I hate you! You trick me! You take away my fun!”
Her words cut deeply, but I did not let it show, and before I could manage to give a response, Onyxia suddenly turned and ran back towards the barn. I followed behind her slowly, wanting to give her a little space, yet when I finally arrived back in the barn, the little dragon was in the process of ‘rampaging’ once again. She was scratching at the walls and hissing at the air, while scurrying about the room in obvious distress.
“I hate you! I hate you, I hate you, I hate you!” she screamed. I stood there waiting patiently and never saying a word.
When she finally calmed down, I told Onyxia that tomorrow I would help her clean up the barn, for I would not tolerate my daughter living in her ‘lair’ with a bunch of half-eaten corpses. She did not bother answering me, but she did not refuse me either, yet when I offered to give her a bath to try and clean her up, Onyxia purposely moved away and started shaking her head.
“You’re covered in blood,” I pointed out. “Let me give you a bath.”
“I do not need one,” she started to say, but when she noticed my disapproving stare, she finally relented. “I do it myself.”
After that, I decided to devote the rest of my downtime to teaching my little dragon about right and wrong. Although admittedly, we did not exactly make very much progress. I could tell that the lessons did not really interest her, but on the plus side, I no longer had any issues with Onyxia killing the animals or harassing my staff. Instead, she basically treated everyone with a cold indifference, sneering at my followers while avoiding the livestock. She still possessed a terrible temper and treated everyone aside from me like ants, but at least she was not disrupting our work or causing any more harm.
In addition, after cleaning up and fixing the barn, Onyxia actually began taking good care of her lair, as she purposely avoided scratching it up while at the same time making sure to dispose of corpses and bones properly. However, this certainly did not stop her from taking her anger out on trees, as she quickly made a habit of scratching and tearing up a lot of the surrounding plant-life. Realizing that I needed to help her blow off some steam, I decided to take my daughter out hunting with me, and as I soon discovered, this probably the best idea that I had ever had thus far.
Onyxia loved hunting, although admittedly this was probably because it finally allowed her to kill things without consequence. Still, I figured this was a great way to strengthen my connection with her, and it also provided the perfect outlet to properly channel her anger. However, with the end of my downtime swiftly approaching, I decided to do something special before I went off adventuring again.
After picking a secluded spot somewhere in the woods, I invited Onyxia to play a little game of ‘hide and seek’, explaining to her that I had hidden about a hundred gold coins somewhere in the area, and told her that if she could find them, she could keep them for her lair. Now, if any of you are wondering why I did this, keep in mind that all dragons are drawn to treasure in one form or another, and as such, they typically enjoy hoarding such treasure and keeping it in their homes. Up until this point, I knew that Onyxia did not have a treasure-hoard of her own, and I felt that it was finally time to correct that mistake.
Needless to say, my little black dragon greatly enjoyed the game, and as we made our way back to the barn with her hundred gold coins in tow, I explained to her that from now on, those coins belonged to her.
“I will never steal from you,” I reassured her softly. “Whatever treasures you collect belong to you alone. All I ask is that you do not go around stealing or obtaining treasures through treachery, for I promise that wealth acquired in such a way will only tarnish the value of both your collection and yourself.”
Onyxia did not speak for the longest time, yet when we finally reached the barn house and she prepared to step inside, my daughter slowly turned to me and spoke two simple words.
“Thank you,” she said, before turning on her heels and disappearing into the barn.
And that, ladies and gentlemen, was the very first time my daughter thanked me for anything.