The Sleep of Reason Produces Monsters
A dragonmark is a magical symbol that manifests on the skin, but its color immediately differentiates it from any mundane tattoo. A dragonmark is etched in shades of blue, green, and purple so vivid that they appear to glow, though the mark provides no real illumination.
A dragonmark is associated with one or more magical abilities, and a person who carries a dragonmark can exercise these powers. When a bearer invokes the power of a dragonmark, its colors shimmer and flow, and the skin grows warm to the touch. The mark grows warmer each time its power is used over the course of a day; by the time the bearer has expended his full allotment of spell-like abilities, the mark is fever-hot and cannot be used again until it cools. Shapechanging ability and illusions can mimic a dragonmark’s appearance, but usually cannot make it warm to the touch.
In keeping with their magical nature, dragonmarks are not simply skin deep. If a mark is cut or scarred, it reappears as the skin that bears it magically heals. If a warrior loses the hand that bears his dragonmark, the mark will manifest elsewhere on his body. Creatures under the effect of polymorph, wild shape, and other shapechanging effects retain their dragonmarks unless they specifically will them to be hidden.
Nearly all dragonmarked heirs first manifest the least mark of their house. When a character increases her dragonmark’s power, the mark physically expands. A typical least dragonmark covers an area 2 inches square on the skin. Lesser marks are typically 3–5 inches across, while greater dragonmarks are 6–8 inches. Siberys dragonmarks are vast designs that often cover the bearer’s entire chest or torso.
MARKED BY BLOOD
Dragonmarks are tied to bloodlines. The dragonmarked houses are the descendants of the families that first manifested the marks, and a character with a dragonmark can always find a connection to a dragonmarked house somewhere in the roots of his family tree.
Though the appearance of marks cannot be consistently predicted, approximately half the children born to dragonmarked parents eventually develop dragonmarks of their own. Common belief holds that parents with powerful marks are more likely to produce gifted children; likewise, children often develop the same powers as their parents. Within House Sivis, members of the Torralyn family typically manifest whispering wind, while Syrralans are more likely to possess the power of arcane mark. Houses often arrange marriages with marks in mind.
Despite these beliefs, dragonmarks are clearly about more than selective breeding. A child born to parents possessing least marks might later manifest the greater mark, or no mark at all. It is also known that the hybrid races cannot inherit the marks of their parents, so that a human cannot pass the Mark of Making to a half-elf child. A member of a dragonmarked house reincarnated as another race keeps his dragonmark, but children born to such transformed creatures never possess the dragonmark of the parent’s original race. Though legend states that Erandis d’Vol, the last known heir of the Mark of Death, was a half-dragon.
THE TEST OF SIBERYS
Children are not born with dragonmarks. Rather, a dragonmark most often appears in response to a stressful situation in which the powers of the mark could prove useful. A Jorasco heir feels her dragonmark flare to life as her best friend lies dying. A Medani scion instinctively realizes the meal he is about to eat is poisoned, and in an instant of burning pain, his mark appears.
The Test of Siberys—a rite of passage undertaken by the adolescent children of the dragonmarked houses—is rumored to induce the kind of extreme stress needed for dragonmarks to manifest. The test varies from house to house, and is based both on the powers of the mark and the traditions of the family. Outsiders, even those of dragonmarked houses, know little of what goes on in a particular house’s test. Though a person can fail the test and still manifest a mark at a later age, this is rare. As a rule, it is assumed that those who fail will never develop a dragonmark.
The Test of Siberys shapes the future of a character. A successful child emerges as a dragonmarked lord with a vital role to play in his family’s future; one who fails still maintains the privileges of her bloodline, but must fight to prove her worth in the mundane offices of her house.