Spoiler: Backstory Here
"I remember the time before the burning vaguely, as if it was a story belonging to others. I remember my clutch-mates, my parents, the stories of the ruined temple and those that had guarded it before us, the songs. I remember, even more vaguely, as through a haze of smoke, being chosen for the duty, taking the name of my father, bidding farewell to my clutch-mates once we made the ceremonies for our parents and laid their remains to rest in the ever-burning brazier. I don't actually recall the pride I know I had in my monotonous duty over what had to have been decades, but I nearly remember the care that I took in those duties.
"But what I do remember is the time of the burning. I remember trespassers invading my holy protectorate, intent on theft and desecration. I remember each of them, both before and after the burning, up to the time of the burnings of their own. I remember the confrontation with the lithe one, the warnings, her retreat and my relief that it was over. I remember the stocky one and the robed one, their pulling of the frightened lithe one back into the grounds, their taunts and overconfidence. I remember the battle, the robed one carefully studied into how to hold back my magics, the stocky one hacking into my flesh with his heavy blade, the lithe one piercing my flesh from behind with small metal fangs. I remember my confidence waning, my strength fading, my realization that I was over-matched and that I would fail in my duty. I remember defiance, refusing to attempt to escape, lashing forth with the last of my strength to bite deeply into the stocky one and fill his blood with my venom. I remember the final strike, the searing flame of robed one's final spell. I remember laying at the foot of the ever-burning brazier, my life fading from me, locking eyes with the stocky one that was coming to realize that death was flowing through his veins. I remember his anger, his sneered words to the robed one, the touch of unseen magic lifting my dying body and throwing it into the brazier. I remember his words, what must of been among his last, "Let the snake burn." And so I did.
"The burning, it seemed to last for hours, days, it still seems to last. The fire licking into my flesh, every scale blackened and peeled back, every tendon crisped and shattered, every bit of meat charred. I felt my eyes burst, my lungs filled with smoke and burned away, my cries of agony finally silenced, my ravaged mind driven beyond any thought but the desire for the pain to end, but it would not. The blessed brazier had powerful magics within it, and the temple desired it's guardians to remain. The fire and the smoke knit within my body, magically replacing that which was lost, but much was lost still. I am not now who I was before the burning, but in that brazier I was given power and agony in equal measure, and my existence continued.
"I do not know how long I was within the fire. When I learned I had the power to emerge, to slither through the air and smoke and flame, to continue to live after the burning, many things had changed. The temple was vandalized and looted, no trace of the invaders remained. I followed their path, emerging from the rock that the temple was nestled within, and saw the world outside as if for the first time. How small and hollow my existence before had been, how confined. Why stand guard over ruins and relics when there was all of this to see, to learn about, to experience. I felt no tether to my former life, no duty, no desire to return to the dead rocks. I wanted to see the world around me, and so I began.
"Revenge was not my intent, but the nearest settlement of the legged ones was holding a ritual for the dead, the stocky one I came to learn once I had disguised myself as one of them with magics and made inquiries in my curiosity. I searched the settlement for the others, finding the robed one easily enough as he was among others of his kind, preparing to sell plundered relics from the ruins of my life before. He didn't know me, and he was easy enough to deceive. I claimed knowledge of the relics and desire to pay handsomely for them, arranged a meeting outside of the settlement, and prepared carefully for his coming. I didn't expect the lithe one to be with him, but she was, along with a few others who I assumed were there to take the stocky one's place. None of it came to matter.
"My plan was darker than I would have considered before the burning, cruel for cruel beings. The alleyway had been covered in pitch, hard to see in the dying light, and easily ignored by the greedy legged ones. I beckoned them to gather at the center of the trap, showing them gold that I had taken from secret places in the ruins in preparation, to spurn them on. Once they were surrounded by the pitch, I threw off my disguise and lit the alleyway in flames, striking first against the robbed one with my venom. The terror helped the poison move quickly through his blood, his panic drove his magic from his mind as the others fell to my fire and fang. The lithe one tried to escape more than fight, but in the end, she tried to stand her ground defiantly as the flames encroached. "Let the snake burn," I uttered, and realization and terror broke her spirit, and she attempted to flee through the fire, only to find me among the smoke on the other side. She panicked, turning back into the fire and through it again, and again I was there. By the time she finally tried to attack, her strength was gone and the fire and smoke had all but taken her life, my strike was a mercy. The bodies I left among the pitch, the final moments of the lithe one and robed one were much like the final moments of my former life.
"I gathered the relics, most were there, and returned them to the temple. I knew their proper places, the rituals to consecrate them and place it all back into it's former order, but I didn't. That was my life before, a small and dark life that I didn't wish to return to. The temple had given me a new life for my service, and I returned it's artifacts, but that was the end of it, payment for services rendered. I left the relics in a sack at the foot of the brazier, and used magic to seal the temple forever within the rock, hidden away from the world as it seemed to wish for. That was the end of one life, the beginning of the next.
"The world is large and fascinating. I spend much of my time among the legged ones, disguised as one of them, as they have claimed dominion over much of it. I can earn a living among them easily enough, I can help them find the missing or capture or punish the cruel. I can help them to enter old, secret places and obtain treasures they greedily want. I have learned some of alchemy, I feel a kinship to it as I use fire and smoke to transform one substance to another. Mostly, I enjoy experience in a way I never would have wished to before the burning.
"I know that I am very changed, perhaps my heart was blackened by the flames as well. I am at times merciful, but at other times cruel, as I feel I should be. My passions flicker like flames, and die out like coals. I feel detached from the world I explore, perhaps what I really seek is some form of belonging. Whatever the goal, I search for it, bit by bit, and wonder about the mysteries of the world so bright after so long in the dark confinement of forgotten duties. I enjoy the uncovering of secrets, like the combat techniques of distant lands, and the solving of puzzles, like the intricacies of the science of alchemy. I enjoy finding what is lost or hidden, and knowing what others do not. I am driven to these small pleasures while I try to solve the question of what I truly seek, and hope to find."