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He is introduced in the first book as the lead scientist of the letumosis research team at the Eastern Commonwealth royal research labs. Near the very end, when Cinder is imprisoned, he reveals to Cinder that she is Princess Selene Blackburn, the lost heir to Luna's throne. It is revealed that he knew Logan Tanner on Luna, but when he finally tracked him down, he was already going insane and all Erland could get was that she was a cyborg somewhere in the Commonwealth. He set up the cyborg draft as a front for his searches for Princess Selene. He gives her a new foot and hand, complete with a projectile gun, flashlight, screwdriver, knife, and universal connector cable. He then proceeds to tell her to escape the New Beijing prison and meet him in Africa.
In Scarlet, Dr. Erland is not present but is deemed a traitor to the crown after footage of him visiting Cinder in prison is brought to the attention of Emperor Kai.
In Africa, Erland sets up a system that allowed Lunars to come to him for experimentation in return for payment. He learns during this time that letumosis has begun to mutate and will affect Lunars; who were once immune, at a much quicker rate. Eventually, Cinder comes to Africa, in the company of a lunar guard and lunar soldier, much to his dismay. He joins them on their attempt to kidnap Emperor Kaito during his wedding to Queen Levana; he and Thorne set off an alarm at the research wards. It is at this time when he makes a solution for Thorne, who had been temporarily blinded in the attempt to rescue Cress.
While making the solution, he catches sight of the mark of the mutated letumosis on his skin and locks himself in quarantine. He is able to say goodbye to Cinder and the others before they leave and reveals that Cress is his daughter whom he wished he could have spent more time with. He encloses information he found on a port to give to Kai, including the fact that letumosis was created for biological warfare by Levana, in order to weaken Earth. He is suspected to die not long after they leave but not before Levana can take his blood for research in hopes of possibly weaponizing the plague to affect Lunars as well.
Dmitri Erland is described as an old man and habitually wears a gray cotton newsboy cap with a herringbone pattern. He is shorter than Cinder, and it can be inferred that he is a short man. In his and Cinder's first interactions, "a white lab coat hung from his shoulders as it would a model skeleton." "Lines drawn into his face suggested he had spent many years thinking very hard over difficult problems." His eyes are "bluer than the sky," and at another time, "sea-blue." Dmitri has crow's-feet when he smiles. He wears a pair of tiny silver spectacles, yet when questioned by Cinder why he doesn't just get corrective eye surgery, he responds that he likes the way that spectacles feel.
He is shown to be kind and sympathetic, as he shows many signs of dislike towards those who see cyborgs as inhuman, and treat them as second-class citizens. He seems to be self-conscious about his subpar stature.
- He is seen as a fairy godmother figure in the books, particularly the first book Cinder.
- His name, “Erland”, is an anagram of his real last name, “Darnel”