The Tyranny of Dragons: Dawn of Heroes
Draconic humanoids from another world, the dragonborn of Faerun are proud, honorable, and relatively rare. Slaves to dragons on their world of origin, they are now a free people looking for a place and purpose in their new world.
As with all stories of the ancient past, tales of the origins of the dragonborn are hazy and sometimes contradictory. Each reveals something about the dragonborn in its telling, however.
One story relates that the dragonborn were shaped by the ancient dragon-god Io at the same time that Io created the dragons. In the beginning of days, Io fused brilliant astral spirits with the unchecked fury of the elements. The greater spirits became dragons— creatures so powerful, proud, and willful that they were lords of the newborn world. The lesser spirits became the dragonborn. Although smaller in stature, they were no less draconic in nature. This tale stresses the close kinship between dragons and dragonborn, while reinforcing the natural order of things— dragons rule and dragonborn serve, at least according to the dragonborn’s former masters.
Another legend asserts that Io created the dragons at the birth of the world, but dragonborn did not yet exist. Then, during the Dawn War, Io was killed by the primordial known as Erek-Hus, the King of Terror. With a rough-hewn axe of adamantine, the behemoth split Io from head to tail, cleaving the dragon-god into two equal halves, which rose up as new gods— Bahamut and Tiamat. Droplets of Io’s blood, spattered across the world, became the first dragonborn. For some who believe it, this origin story supports the view that dragonborn are clearly inferior to the dragons that were made by Io’s loving hand, while others emphasize that the dragonborn arose from Io’s own blood— just as two draconic deities arose from the god’s severed body. So are the dragonborn not, therefore, like the gods themselves?
A third origin story posits that dragonborn were the firstborn of the world, created by Io before the existence of other humanoid races, which were pale imitations of dragonborn perfection. Io shaped the dragonborn and fired them with his breath, then spilled his own blood to give them life. The first dragonborn served Io as companions and allies, filling his astral court and singing his praises. The dragons he made only later, at the start of the Dawn War, to serve as engines of destruction. This view of dragonborn history is shared by those who believe that dragonborn are superior to other races and thus should be the masters of dragons and not the other way around.
Despite their differing conclusions, a common theme binds all these legends together: the dragonborn owe their existence to Io, the great dragon-god who created all of dragonkind. The dragonborn, all legends agree, are not the creations of Bahamut or Tiamat — and so they have no predetermined side in the conflict between those gods. Every individual dragonborn, regardless of one’s particular draconic ancestry, makes a personal choice in matters of ethics and morality.
Dragonborn hail from Abeir, the primordial twin of Toril. On that world most of the dragonborn are slaves to their dragon masters, though many won their freedom and formed nations of free dragonborn. During the Spellplague, the two worlds intersected and one of those free dragonborn nations, Tymanchebar, was transported to Faerun. It displaced the nation of Unther, and out of the ashes of these two kingdoms, the surviving dragonborn formed Tymanther, a new dragonborn nation in Faerun.
For a time, the dragonborn of Tymanther sought to integrate with their new world while maintaining their own traditions and culture. These efforts gave the nation and its people a reputation for being honorable and worthy of respect. Only a few generations later, however, the events of the Sundering returned Unther to Faerun, and the formerly displaced land sought to reclaim all it had lost to Tymanther. Reeling from this disaster, the remaining dragonborn in Faerun now find they must work even harder and with fewer resources to find their place among the people the world.
Every aspect of dragonborn life is dictated by the race’s code of honor and strict adherence to tradition. Dragonborn society is highly ordered, with each member expected to do one’s utmost for family and clan. This loyalty and sense of duty sustained the dragonborn during their long history of enslavement and also enabled them to form communities and nations of free dragonborn.
In dragonborn culture, the family is made up of one’s direct relations, while a clan is a collection of families brought together by alliance, intermarriage, or shared history. Although they are rarely forced to choose one over the other, the clan’s welfare is more important to most dragonborn than the family’s. The promise of honor within the clan drives them to acts of heroism, daring, or excellence, all meant to bring glory to the clan first and the individual second.
The aftermath of the Sundering has tested these principles, leaving some clans fractured and decentralized. Some dragonborn in Faerun seek to recapture the sort of connection they had with a now-lost clan or family by forging new relationships among their non-dragonborn allies and companions.
Dragonborn in Faerun have the racial traits of dragonborn in the Players Handbook.
Their code of honorable behavior and unswerving loyalty serves the dragonborn as a kind of faith, and, according to the traditionalists among them, that outlook is all the religion they need. Because they were forced to worship their draconic masters in times past, dragonborn are generally skeptical about religion, seeing it as a form of servitude. The skeptics believe that no matter how their original god, Io, brought them into being, that ancient deity is either long dead or uncaring about their fate, and the dragon gods that supplanted Io seem primarily interested in amassing soldiers for their ages-old conflict.
Still, some dragonborn do hear the call of the gods of Faerun and choose to serve them, and are as loyal in this faith as they are to any other cause. Bahamut and Tiamat have dragonborn worshipers, and both Torm and Tyr appeal to the dragonborn sense of honor and order. Similarly, Tempus and the Red Knight appeal to the warrior spirit in some dragonborn, and Kelemvor speaks to some of the inevitability of death and the need to live well in one’s allotted time. Religious belief is an intensely personal thing the dragonborn who espouse it, some of whom are as devoted to their faith as they are to their family and clan.