It started some hours ago, maybe days. The dark, desolate shell that incased me had become my only reality. Small patches of light where the shell was thin illuminated my world only slightly, mostly in earth colored hues. But it was enough to know that it was daylight outside. I knew I had been confined for at least a day, for it had been night when the shell had been completed, and morning when I entered.
Gao, the initiator of the rite, told me to take no food, no water, no clothing into the shell with me. The ritual would last of all of one hundred hours; a little over four days. At first it was difficult to accept how I was supposed to survive for that long inside the shell—there was no ventilation. But he told me that magic protected the initiates.
The dragon god's magic was strong, I knew, and he used it for noble purposes. I wanted to serve him like the true dragons, his followers. I wanted to be like them, have the wings and soar. But moreover, I wanted fix the damage I had done.
My guardian, an old alchemist, had taught me much in the ways of magic, but he had been corrupted many, many years before I had came into his life. He claimed that his purpose was to help destroy the dragon god, that their deity was evil. And for so long, I had believed him. We would crusade against the dragons, destroying them in fell swoops. Entire forests were ridded of them.
And then I met Gao. His strength could not be bested even by the alchemist's schemes and his treacherous armies. The dragon defended his forest, and defended his cave, and destroyed the alchemist. And then he turned to me. I fully thought he intended to kill me as well. But I was wrong. Gao took pity on me and offered me a way of redemption.
What was I to say to that? He had killed the only father I had ever known, my teacher and mentor. I wanted him dead! I wanted to see his blood spilled and his head mounted in the alchemist's hall. I told him as much, unsheathing my blade. "Very well," he told me. And then gave me a single, clear shot at his heart.
At that moment, I had no idea why I did not take that shot and thrust my blade into his chest, save for the wounds I had suffered in making it to his cave. My hatred for him burned as hot as his fire. Instead I collapsed, nearly dead from loss of blood. The next thing I knew I found myself lying prone on a mound of evergreen needles.
From then on, it seemed, my life was filled with ancient dragon texts meant to reeducate me. He told me stories of dragons long past who gained fame even among men. He taught me his language, and let me read from his library the history and literature of dragon society. Then, when it was all said and done, he asked me once more if I wanted redemption. I wept.
That was how I came to be in this shell, waiting and meditating for days on end. How many more hours had passed? How many more days, if it were days? The minimal daylight I received was slightly different now, like the sun had switched angles. There was just enough light to see by now, too.
That was a good sign for me. The ritual was working and the dragon god had claimed my servitude. He was changing me; my eyes were keener, and I felt odd—like something was growing out from me. Softly, I could hear Gao humming one of the ancient dragon tunes in his own language, now mine. I strained to hear better, not being able to make out which particular song it was.
And then like a crack of lightning, the shell split. The song was a ritual one, signaling the end of the Dragonborn rite. The sudden luminosity hurt my eyes, now fully accustomed to the dark. I squinted, trying to make out Gao in the mess of colors, fully vibrant and too dazzling to look at. The sun beamed off his golden scales and the toothy smile broadened farther.
By his gesture, I stood, shakily and awkwardly testing the weight of my new body. The shell had cracked in half completely leaving me standing naked in the open air outside Gao's cave. My body had changed, my life had changed… Altogether, I had changed into something remarkable. It was the second birth, a new beginning.
My old armor was waiting, polished and fitted for a full blooded human. I shook my head heavily and pulled on a loose pair of trousers. There would be no need for my old shell any long. Tomorrow I would go to town and buy myself new weapons, a new shield… That It was no longer mine, for I had become something more than just a human.
I told Gao of my plans and he laughed deeply, and for some reason, I shared in his levity. No—there was no reason to go to town. He told me I did not need to buy armor, nor a shield, nor a weapon. He told me the smith would not make weapons for a creature like me, with these strange new appendages and bronze scales. He had fashioned new armor for me instead, taking the enchanted gold from his hoard and putting it to use. It was light, airy even, but tough as dragon-hide, he told me. And it belonged to me, someone who had been redeemed by grace.