Date of Birth:
Place of Birth:
Victor of Cayaboré, father; Lara of Cayaboré, mother (†); Gaius Dolph, half-brother; Taileen, sister
Barandas “the Magnificent”; Gabe, son of Karungal and Toriel; Flink from Tieferbau
· “Let’s be careful here, all right? Flink, come back here this instant!”
· “I have a headache…”
· “Gods? Who needs them?”
· 5503 “Call of the Dragon, Part I”
· 5504 “Call of the Dragon, Part II”
Though Cornell was born a noble, the same cannot be said of his father. Victor – then bearing the last name Deveyn – was a commoner who joined the Cayaborean army and distinguished himself in the war against Rek’atrednu (in 3143 A.E.) so much that the favor of King Armyron bestowed the status of nobility on him. This status permitted him to marry Lara, a noblewoman he had been in love with. Lara was of high birth, related to Hendrostezhan – then Steward of the Realm -, and therefore the new-born house of Victor received a comparatively high standing within the One Hundred (the noble families of Cayaboré).
By becoming a nobleman, Victor had to drop his last name and like all the aristocrats of the realm henceforth received the title “of Cayaboré”, as would all his descendants.
Lara wasn’t Victor’s first wife. Before her, he had been married to a commoner woman named Jadara, and with her he had a son, Gaius Dolph. (The name is a result of Victor’s ancestry. His parents came from the Blue Land, the Novum Imperium Romanum; therefore he has to suffer the occasional insult of being a “romanius”, just as his children do.) Jadara died in childbed, giving birth to her only son.
Gaius Dolph was only two years old when his father became a nobleman and re-married. He grew up in the sheltered life of an aristocrat and very much enjoys the idea that he is superior. All memories of the fact that he had been born a commoner are wiped from his mind; Gaius is very much the image of nobility, in all the bad ways imaginable. In the present day, Gaius is trying his hand at politics – a field where his father failed miserably.
The present day Victor has retired to his mansion, leading an embittered life after the loss of Lara (who died from disease). Occasionally he is called by the king to render advice, and sometimes he talks to Hendrostezhan, who still serves King Armyron as an advisor. Otherwise, Victor tries to convince his eldest son to become a good politician – but the only semblance of life comes through the tales of his younger son, Cornell, the one who seems to have inherited most from his father.
Young Cornell never had a reason to doubt this aristocratic origin. Born into a noble family, raised on the family estate of Knightswood, he might have turned out to be as high-minded as his half-brother. Instead, as a child he played at being a soldier, practiced with swords and showed no inclination whatsoever towards the softer interests of his brother. Many a tutor tried to impart some knowledge to the boy, but unless that tutor taught a practical application, the boy never listened.
“That child of yours, Lord Victor,” one tutor rambled on his way out, “is an abomination! He is as dumb as a peasant!” It should be added that after the last comment, the tutor was hurried on his way out the door by a kick to the backside.
Nonetheless Victor of Cayaboré began to worry about his son and had a close talk with Cornell. “Son, ye’ve gotta learn! Ye’re noble, ye’re aristocracy, an’ ye’ll have t’live with yer kind. So take that thick skull o’yers an’ put it into ‘em books!” he said and helped Cornell’s head to do so with a slap on his neck.
Whether it was the slap that righted Cornell’s attitude or a slow realization of the facts of his life, Cornell started to listen to the next tutors. They still found him a very slow learner, but at least he paid attention. Occasionally.
tempest… and a friendship
On his twelfth birthday Cornell received a very special gift from his father: a pup horsedragon. “This here’s Tempest,” Victor said as he gently put the reptile pup onto the ground, holding firm on her neck to keep her from slithering into the next dark niche. “She’s from me own dragon’s brood, so she’s a lot to handle. Think ye’re up t’the challenge, boy?”
The boy’s eyes grew wide, looking at the elongated, still very snake-like body of the horsedragon, the thick, heavy snout, and the big, round eyes as dark as haematite gemstones. “I will try my best, father!”
“Don’t try, boy,” Victor admonished, “do it.” And with that, he let go of the dragon’s neck. Tempest dropped her head immediately, clawed over the thick carpet and flashed towards the nearest couch.
She was fast, but like lightning Cornell jumped her, twirled his thin arms around her neck and heaved her off the ground. Her paws clawed the air, an angry whinny escaped from her snout as Tempest fought with the boy keeping her away from safety. A moment later her tail slashed heavily against Cornell’s feet; the boy lost his balance and grip on the creature, allowing the dragon to reach the desired dark corner.
A frown passed over Victor’s face – and vanished when he saw his son diving after the dragon and wrestling her out into the light. Tempest’s jaws flashed forward, closed on the boy’s arms furiously, but Cornell ignored the pain, focused on subduing the dragon. (Of course, if the pup had been a bit older, she would have had her sharp teeth. But then again, Victor would never have exposed Cornell to that kind of danger.)
The two fought for over half an hour, until finally both sat panting on the floor. Cornell leaned against the couch, Tempest’s head in his lap, one paw on the boy’s leg.
From that day onward, they would forever be friends. Although their playtimes often ended with wounds, Tempest quickly learned how to hold back from seriously injuring her master, and years later others would comment on how odd it was to see Cornell asleep, leaning against the bulky flank of the adult Tempest, her heavy head snaked over into the man’s lap, peacefully snoring.
Having been an officer in the corps himself, Victor had known that his son would follow in his footsteps. When Gaius declined the offer – in not too uncertain terms about the value of soldiering -, his natural next choice was Cornell. And the younger son was enthusiastic about joining the corps and excelling at what Gaius considered beneath himself.
He was quickly inducted, with Tempest assigned as his personal steed (not at all uncommon among the nobility). To Cornell’s great regret, study was also expected of him, not only physical drills and training. “A good dragonrider,” one of his teachers said, “knows all about the land. He has learned about the gods, about magic, and most of all, he knows about our enemies.”
Victor drove the message home with a wry, “Told ye learnin’s good fer ye.”
His own desire to excel drove Cornell to study his books as hard as he studied the art of riding a dragon, of fencing, of unarmed combat. He never became a fast learner, but once he got a piece of information lodged in his skull, it seemed never to get loose.
At the age of nineteen, he received his commission as a lieutenant in the Dragonrider Corps. Proudly he attached the insignia to Tempest’s harness, laughing happily at the horsedragon’s attempt to twist her head about to inspect the new addition – and then tear it off.
During the next year he served in regular patrols along the eastern border to the Topay Coalition. It was a soft duty. The Coalition was in no mood to send incursions into Cayaborean territory, so the young lieutenant only had to chase the occasional bandits, render assistance to merchants whose wagons had broken down, and so on. Soft duty, indeed. And boring.
It changed when a man murdered a trader’s wife in Kerrigan. The man was a thief who had broken into the trader’s villa. His wife surprised him, and the thief killed her in the most gruesome way – then he ran. The local police had no trace, and so they called on the dragonriders. Cornell was on duty at the time, investigated the scene of the crime, then he took Tempest into the air to pursue all traces.
The trail led him on a merry chase, but Cornell didn’t give up. There is a saying in Cayaboré that a dragonrider will always catch his prey, and Cornell of Cayaboré intended to prove that saying. For two weeks he pursued the killer and nearly caught him in a border town – then he vanished, and all signs pointed towards the criminal’s escape into the Topay Coalition.
The problem was that no dragonrider was allowed to cross into Coalition territory. All kinds of international trouble would be likely to have broken loose, that much Cornell had learned from his studies. And so he flew Tempest into the nearest stable, instructed the keeper to look after her (underlining his orders with several ducates), then he assumed the guise of an ordinary traveller and crossed the border on an ordinary horse.
Four weeks later he returned, still in disguise, but the criminal – bound and gagged – followed on a second horse.
dragonrider… and spy
Having excelled like that brought Cornell to the attention of the superior ranks of the dragonrider corps. Aside from being awarded a medal for going above the call of duty, he also found himself promoted to captain – an unusually fast advancement, but it came accompanied by a new assignment.
From now on Cornell would rarely wear his uniform and almost never get to ride Tempest again. Instead, he would be sent out by the corps on covert operations outside of Cayaboré, the most varied of assignments, all targeted at promoting the safety of the realm. In effect, Cornell had become a spy.
Victor, one of the few fully informed about his son’s new status, nodded slowly when he heard the news. “Looks like ye’re gonna see the world, son.”
“Father, it’s… It’s not what I expected when I joined up!”
Victor shook his head and snorted. “None o’the service ever looks like ye thought before. Son, ye’ve got a chance to help your homeland, really help it. So get on a horse and do it. Fer Cayaboré, fer the king, an’ perhaps fer yer father, too.”
Cornell frowned. Being away from home for months or years at a time was not a joyous prospect, but the mission briefing he had been given a little earlier was important indeed. If Cayaboré, if the king needed him – and his father agreed -, then he shouldn’t refuse, should he? (Not that he could have done that. His sense of duty forbade any more than a few complaints here and there.)
And so he followed his father’s orders, said good-bye to Tempest (underlined by a playful bite by the dragon which earned her a slap on her sensitive nose), saddled his horse and left Hallowton.