Balphaz Ciegrat and Sieghand Royal
Balphaz Ciegrat and Sieghand Royal ("Grat" and "Royal" as they were often called) were a pair of Slayer Dragons who lived in the late Sixth Age. An enigmatic duo, they were nearly always described together. They were known by many names: "The Two" (a reference to "The Ten"), "The Fisto Brothers", "The Murder Brothers", and a few less colorful aphorisms. They were both born in A.Y. 815 and even shared a birthday.
Balphaz was an orphan, abandoned at the Show-Lyn Temple at what the monks estimated to be only a few days old. He was raised by the monks, who believed him to be part of an ancient prophecy, and sought to train him from infancy to become a Slayer Dragon. Balphaz does not remember his childhood fondly, recalling that he was the only child in the entire temple, and was never really "granted" a childhood. He learned only basic literacy and mathematics, and spent most of his childhood being trained in martial arts and the spirtitual practices of the Show-Lyn. Balphaz would not meet another child until he was eleven years old. He was sent to Valley Gale Keep to begin his Slayer Dragon training at the age of fourteen.
Seighand had a far different, if equally dismal childhood. His parents were quite abusive, and he was orphaned at the age of seven. His father died in a rock slide and his mother hung herself. Seighand, who has a rather dark sense of humor, often commented that the two incidents were likely unrelated.
From the age of seven, he grew up in a combination of orphnages and on the street. He was a very "wild" child, often starting fights or stealing for no reason. He was known as a vandal and a generally bad egg, yet was still granted special dispensation to begin Slayer Dragon training at the age of fourteen.
Balphaz and Seighand met on their first day of training and became instant friends, inseparable from that day out. They shared a room and were known to be together almost every waking hour, having a deep connection no one could quite describe, especially in context with their rather tumultuous start.
Seighand, who typically went by his last name as "Royal", describes it thusly: "There's no question at all I was an angry child. I had a temper and a violent streak a mile long. I'd fight you if you looked at me funny. I had nothing in me but hate and violence. In one blow, Grat punched that right out of me".
Balphaz, who typically went by the moniker "Grat", had a slightly different view of events: "I first saw [Royal] long before he saw me; my first encounter with him was watching him threaten a smaller trainee, a boy a good head shorter who'd accidently stepped in his path. Royal was screaming in his face like an animal. My first impressions of him were that he was, well, I didn't have such a word in my vocabulary at the time, but I thought he was an ass. When it came time for sparring, I asked the master (trainer) to pair me against him. Being raised by the Show-Lyn and considered a grand-master of its ways, I did not wish to 'get back' at him or punish him; rather, I felt that by being his partner, I was protecting the other youths from him. I had expected someone of his dark hudo from across the room, I expected a good fight, I was... frankly shocked by what actually happened".
Royal recalled: "I think it's safe to say I had a bit of an ego... I say 'had' because he'd knocked that out of me, too. I was not half the fighter I'd fancied myself, I think for a very long time I'd had "fighting" and "winning" confused; I'd fight anyone I could, if I got my ass handed to me (which I did, often), I'd sneak up on him and take him from behind. Revenge, rage, it all consumed me. But Grat had none of that in him, and when it hit me, I felt that. He had so much power, he was the strongest person I'd ever met, but he was a rock".
Grat, too, found Royal intriguing. While he lost their first sparring match, Royal came back for another, and another. No one else at Valley Gale Keep was willing to face him, and Royal genuinely wanted to learn. At the same time, once Royal's anger had been punched away, Grat saw in him something he had himself never gained: passion. The two became fast friends, and had much to share with one another: Grat helped Royal learn the focus he needed to turn his drive into something, while Royal gave Grat a chance to have a childhood.
The two very quickly gained a reputation as "wild children": sneaking out of the training area, sparring at all hours, and generally causing mischief. Royal had certainly lost his violent streak, but was quite a prankster, and Grat was with him every step of the way. The two still excelled at their training, much to the chagrin of their masters; they would rise to any challenge placed before them, and still have enough energy left over to spend the night stealing everyone's left shoe.
Among the various requirements on the path to becoming a Slayer Dragon was to complete the Alliance's compulsory primary education or an equivalency. Youths from regions that lacked an education system could be exempted at the discretion of the trainers, but one such trainer saw this as a good opportunity to give the young boys a real challenge.
With the help of some of Valley Gale Keep's higher-ups, he had the boys enrolled at the age of fifteen in a prestigious private school. They were required to complete the last four years of compulsory education and graduate within the top one hundred of their class, all while keeping up with the training regime at Valley Gale Keep.
Royal recalls the event: "We really only had two words..."
Grat weighed in: "Challenge accepted".
The two boys were a little old for starting year and were at an extreme disadvantage. The school they'd been enrolled in was generally seen as a jumping-off point for Ivy-League students. It was a prep. school with very challenging courses. Meanwhile, Grat and Royal had between them about a fourth-grade reading level. Neither boy had ever used a computer, Royal could barely write, and and Grat had up till then done most of his writing with a brush. He learned the basic skill of penmanship, but mostly practiced calligraphy as a form of meditation. Royal had stopped going to school at age ten, and had never earned passing marks in his life.
He had this to say on his schooling: "We weren't really about to let anything stand in our way. Not reading problems, not speech impediments, nothing. When I was on the streets, if I saw something I wanted, I took it. Grat taught me to keep that attitude. Well, I wanted to be a Slayer Dragon".
Grat had a similar optimism: "The monks had taught me that obstacles are things to be overcome. They taught me transcendence. I knew it was going to be hard, but I also knew I could transcend".
The first semester was the most challenging, as the boys effectively had eight years' worth of schooling to catch up on, modern technologies to learn, and their own interests to pursue. In the second semester, they joined the school's wrestling team (only adding to their packed schedule) but had a considerable amount of fun at it. They never engaged in the school's social activities, though they were quite popular as they repeatedly brought home trophies and awards for wrestling.
It should also be noted that the boys were already burgeoning wizards, and had taken on the task of teaching themselves magic.
Royal reminisces about school: "It was a hellish time. We had a full schedule of classes, seven hours a day, homework, ninety minutes of wrestling practice, and at least two or three hours of good old-fashioned excercise. We not only signed up for the hardest classes the school offered, we'd made it our personal goal to earn every last point of extra credit offered. So, you know, we're getting up to twenty hour days there. Then we have Slayer Dragon training on the weekends. Couple in all of that with the ordinary social pressures of being a teenager".
Grat faced somewhat different challenges: "I can't say the long hours were particularly taxing, as it mostly involved sitting upright in a comfortable chair. Compared to meditating in various positions... I actually found schoolwork itself relatively relaxing. I taught myself to read a-page-at-a-glance and that freed up a lot of time. I think I had considerably more difficulty with the social aspects of it. I was a tall, extremely muscular youth with a shaved head, so a lot of the kids were afraid of me. Oddly, they seemed more disconcerted by me than they did Royal, who was the real mean one. Honestly I couldn't connect with the other kids... our experiences were so different, to me half the things they ever said were just... white noise".
There were drawbacks, of course, and while they did complete the task, there was struggle. Royal said: "A lot of it is kind of a blue. We'd stay away, sometimes for days at a time. You figure out that you can use healing magic... it exhausts you, but somehow you don't need to sleep anymore, and if you're as strong as we were, you push through it and keep going. That's how we found out that if you stay awake for fourteen straight days, you literally go insane. I learned this at sixteen".
Despite all odds, the two did exceptionally well scholastically, and graduated valedictorian and salutatorian. A running joke whenever it was mentioned throughout their lives was that it didn't matter which was which, as the two men always insisted that they were "basically inter-changeable".
Following graduation, the two young men were effectively considered a lock to become Slayer Dragons. The rest of their training and even their remaining Trials were considered a formality. This left them free to focus on their skills, and the two became very powerful raw-form casters (likened to Enver Hoxha). They became especially adept at highly complex raw-form techniques that had the complexity of greater-path spells but the sheer force of raw-form.
Balphaz Ciegrat was anointed first at the age of twenty-two; Sieghand Royal followed two years later. Even during that interim, Royal was essentially considered an honorary Slayer Dragon.
Grat and Royal had only a small overlap in training with Hokori, who arrived at Valley Gale Keep the same year Grat was anointed. Royal had very little interaction with him, not needing a title to be Grat's perpetual partner, but both of them recognized Hokori's potential. It was, in fact, Royal who suggested Hokori become Ian Riley's attache. Drawing from his own experiences, he felt there was no reason Hokori could not take an active role in the order even though he was not yet anointed. After all, Royal had spent two years that way.
Neither made any attempt to oppose Hokori's appointment as Pendragon. As Royal put it: "I don't know how to use a sword anyway, and if they give it to Grat, people will be able to tell us apart!".