Aptchi the Chef

This story is the background of a new Pathfinder character I came up with, who I may use as an NPC in my Meier setting.

Aptchi hatched about seven years ago.

Aptchi’s mother’s name was Eustela, and she was very unusual for a white dragon. Of course, as any dragon scholar knows, there are ten dragon breeds, and white dragons are the stupidest, weakest, and most pathetic of the bunch. Of course, that’s not saying much, since they’re still dragons who can bite your head off or freeze you into ice with their frost breath. But still, the other dragons look down on them. And white dragons themselves, seizing every opportunity to claim some kind of superiority, look down on those members of their tribe who show any kind of frailty or oddity. So when I say Eustela was an unusual white dragon, I mean that the other white dragons all laughed at her.

Eustela liked living in the warmest parts of Kamto, the frosty kingdom which white dragons rule with an iron fist. Already that was strange for a white dragon. She prefered the meat of unintelligent beasts to that of humans and other intelligent creatures – also odd. And she had been known to trade away part of her hoard, something almost unheard of in white dragons. For even though she got more valuables out of her trades, to part with any part of one’s hoard was considered un-dragonly.

Being so odd, Eustela was belittled and dishonored by her peers. She had no intention of changing her ways to  fit in, but she desperately sought any way to show the other dragons that she really was great. Her chance came when she caught a small group of human interlopers in her domain one day, and captured them all. As I mentioned, though they are stupid and weak by dragon standards, mature white dragons can still beat the stuffing out of humans who aren’t prepared, and Eustela wasn’t going to compound her dishonor by letting these intruders get away with their lives. But, lording it over the few creatures she could for this brief moment, she allowed them to beg for their lives. It turned out the humans were priests of the goddess Ielda, the Serene Princess, also called the Merciful One. They begged the white dragon in Ielda’s name to spare their lives, and promised that she would be blessed by the Merciful One if she did.

Much to their surprise, Eustela was intrigued. It occurred to her that here was a new way she could feel superior to the other whites: She could be superior morally! Shocking the humans who thought they were dragon fodder, Eustela agreed to spare them, on condition that they teach her all the ways of Ielda.

And so, Eustela was reborn into the light of Ielda. Now she could finally feel that sense of superiority every white dragon longs for – she was superior because she was pious and self-righteous. The other dragons laughed at her even harder, but Eustela no longer cared – she was now a patron of all that was right and good, whereas they were still squabbling in the darkness and evil, so they could go freeze themselves.

(Admittedly, it might be said that Eustela’s motives were a little less than pure. Maybe a lot less than pure. But still, the few humans who lived in her territory remarked how much nicer and less despotic she seemed now.)

Unfortunately, after many years of being the only holy (holier-than-thou, certainly) white dragon, Eustela realized that she still had one small problem. She was getting old, and she had no mate. Being solitary in her superiority had always suited Eustela, but now none of the other white dragons wanted anything to do with her, much less to give her eggs.  But Ielda was also the goddess of love, so she figured the Serene Princess surely wouldn’t mind if the dragon created some love – by force.

Yes, in the end, Eustela ran out of patience with trying to find a lover and simply captured a male white dragon who was younger and weaker than she, and forced him to impregnate her. After she’d done this, she felt guilty, and decided to try and deny that any such thing had happened. So she plopped her egg in the middle of some tundra somewhere, knowing that her wyrmling probably could survive on its own after birth anyway. And she went back to her cave, to continue claiming to be the one righteous white dragon (and cooling denying any accusations of misdeeds coming her way).

As for the egg, it did not hatch there in the tundra. For not two days later, a half-orc soldier called Tsadok happened upon the egg, and claimed it for his own, seeing it as just a big, shiny white rock. Later, that half-orc sold the egg to a wealthy trader named Jule Hong-Tzu for enough gold to get himself out of the army.

Mr.  Jule went to the city to try to sell it as a curiosity, but it was stolen from him by Gonev, a young halfling who was part of a street gang. Gonev took it to his boss, an catfolk sorceress who everyone called Miniryu, and was rewarded with a whole gold piece; the crime boss turned around and sold the egg to a smuggler who went by Sabato for a small fortune.

Sabato took the egg south with him, hoping to sell it in the Bocan Islands, the New World where markets were less restrictive. But during the voyage, his ship was beset with pirates, who killed him and took the egg for themselves. At the next share-out of plunder, the pirate quartermaster, Zuchev, claimed the egg as his share. Zuchev, you see, had the arcane knowledge to recognize the shiny, white rock as an actual dragon egg, not just a pretty stone. Unfortunately, he did not have the knowledge to actually hatch the egg. But it didn’t stop him from trying. He kept it warm continuously, and even tried putting it in magically hot fire. But no luck.

Before Zuchev could figure out how to hatch the egg, his ship fell under attack by a privateer and pirate hunter called Amield Charmaine, a halfling. Zuchev was killed by a cannonball before the boarding action even began, and Captain Charmaine laid claim to the egg. She figured out that it was an egg too, because of the way Zuchev had packed it carefully in hay surrounded by coals, but she had no interest in actually keeping the thing. So she sold it to a noted dwarven treasure hunter for a fair price, telling him it was a dragon egg.

This noted dwarven treasure hunter decided hatching the egg would be a good idea too, but he was clever enough to ask for advice on how to do it. His friend, a male human bard, pointed out that as it was a white dragon egg, it probably needed cold, not fire, to hatch. There being very few cold places in the Bocans, they got their mutual colleague, an enigmatic halfling sorcerer, to help. He provided a blanket which was perpetually freezing, which was laid over the egg, and they kept the egg and blanket in the hold of the dwarf’s ship. Sure enough, after a few seasons, the egg cracked open, revealing a tiny, ugly white wyrmling born at sea. And the crew decided to call him Aptchi.

The first thing Aptchi did upon hatching was cry out for food. Not knowing what to feed him, the dwarf took it to his galley, where he promptly demolished the place, eating basically anything he could get. They managed to control the ugly little wyrmling eventually. But he would roar and cry out piteously whenever he was removed from the galley, so they just left him there to keep the ship’s cook, a one-legged dwarf called Qyle, company.

Aptchi’s spent most of his first year of life in the galley, although he did come out now and then to look around the wide world. Despite the fact that he was a white dragon, the crew took a liking to Aptchi at  once, for he was loud, brash, and rude – but not, it seemed, evil. He had short, malformed wings, and people wondered when he would grow old enough to fly. Soon they realized: he never would fly. Remember Zuchev, the pirate quartermaster? It turns out that his fire damaged the baby dragon inside the egg, which usually forms surrounded by the appendages that eventually become the wings.

If you remember what I said about white dragons at the beginning, you’ll realize that a flightless, non-evil, product of rape who was trade as treasure half a dozen times would be regarded as so pathetic that, if Aptchi ever returned to his own kind, they’d probably just kill him on sight. So of course, Aptchi never will go back.

After a while, Qyle the cook decided to retire. Before the dwarf captain was able to look for a new cook, Aptchi himself requested the job. He was too young and weak to be much help in battle (and he was hopelessly craven besides), but from having watched Qyle cook literally from birth, Aptchi thought he could do a pretty good job.

In fact, he turned out to be even better than Qyle. One of the advantages of having a dragon with cold breath in the galley is that he can keep food fresh for a lot longer than you would think possible. Where most crews on long voyages were restricted to salt pork or the like, Aptchi’s ship could enjoy fresh greens or preserved meat well into the voyage. So while people initially balked at having their food cooked by a little white dragon, in the end they grew to appreciate him. They even gave him a small share of the profits, as they would for any member of the crew. Of course, Aptchi has never spent any of his earnings, preferring to start up his own little hoard, which he keeps in a heavily trapped sea chest.

Aptchi is now seven years old, and has grown to the size of a halfling. His brash and snappy disposition hasn’t changed a bit, but he does love it when you compliment his cooking, and even more if you give him some treasure. He’s given vague hints about his mother’s background to his shipmates – it seems he is aware of his mother’s nature and of the circumstances of his own conception, but he’s never shared all the details yet, and it’s not clear if even he knows the whole story.

Recently, that same halfling sorcerer who helped to hatch Aptchi looked in on his friend, the dwarf treasure-hunter, and got to meet the young white dragon for the first time. The sorcerer suggested that, even though Aptchi couldn’t fly, he could still have himself a bit more adventure if he traveled beyond the confines of the dwarf’s ship. So now Aptchi is looking for a new venture – even if it’s just a new ship to be cook for. If only someone would look past the color of his white scales and his salty demeanor…

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