The Thunder Peaks and the Storm Horns - Common Life in the Mountains
Before we entertain discussion regarding the flamboyant, significant, and bizarre creatures inhabiting the Thunder Peaks and Storm Horns, we must establish a foundation on which to build. That is because before one talks about the unusual, one needs to speak of the usual, so the difference between the two will be made more clear.
This chapter deals with normal plant and animal life in the mountain ranges. It details what one would find if one never encountered a vile monster or fabled creature from another plane. These are things everyone will see, hear, smell and face most everyday. This text is important because of the knowledge it imparts. With it, you will be better equipped to withstand the natural trials of the two mountain ranges of Cormyr.
The amount and diversity of growth on the mountains is great. A number of factors influence what grows where, but each plant serves some function in the ecosystem.
The greatest factor when discussing plant life in the mountains is the altitude. In general, the higher the altitude, the less plant life one is likely to encounter.
At lower altitudes, the plant life basically resembles that of the surrounding non-mountainous environment. The Thunder Peaks near Hullack Forest are themselves heavily forested up to the timberline. In fact, were it not for the gradually steepening grade, a traveler would never realize that a mountain was being walked upon. Likewise, the Storm Horns - next to the Farsea Marshes - teem with species that do not require the rich swamp environment and can survive on the comparatively arid soil of the mountains.
Above the timberline, which is generally the point at which only moss and tundra grow, sometimes inch-high flowers are found. Each stage of altitude has plants unique to that level. As the altitude becomes greater, the size and frequency of plants decreases. Trees become smaller, especially those close to the timberline, and plants become tiny.
Notable Plant Products
Many plants found in the mountains are not generally located in other areas. The reason they grow so well on the mountains is because of the thinner air and increased exposure to sunlight.
Bowen's Flower: This is a small flower that has tiny red and light purple petals and very thin stems. It grows very much like a weed and can be found everywhere. But, it cannot reproduce well.it never spreads over a large area, instead claiming just tens of square feet here and there. The plant is used in the concoction of potions designed to tranquilize humans. Such elixirs are also very effective for bugbears. The drink made from this flower has a mild sedative effect and is not very suitable for putting people to sleep against their will. The exception is bugbears. If the potion is slipped into their ale, they'll almost assuredly fall asleep within minutes.
Kirin's Leaf: This reddish-brown leaf is found on small trees called kirin near the timberline in the eastern ridges of the Thunder Peaks. The leaf is also used in potions, and when combined with certain chemicals and imbibed, the leaf has the effect of changing the temperament of the drinker. The effect is to generally reverse whatever mood the drinker is in. Sad people will become happy, angry folks will settle down. The potion never has been made strong enough to cause someone to behave or feel completely contrary to their nature. Good people do not suddenly start thinking about or enacting evil acts, for example. However, the leaf is an essential part of an elixir that can aid in the treatment of disturbed individuals, and it might be used to stop a bar fight here or there.
Bark of the Turis: This is an effective healing agent. The bark is very tough and difficult to peel from the turis tree, which is found at the top of the timberline in both mountain ranges. However, its removal is worth the effort. The underside of the bark is coated with a sap which when applied to cuts aids in their healing. Although the effect on a wound is hardly as rapid as magical healing, use of the bark over the passage of time prevents scarring.
In addition to unusual plants, you can enjoy a plethora of beautifully colored grand flora with large leaves, delicate flowers, and stems strong enough to be woven into cloth. A great variety of fruits and edible plants provide sustenance for many who live alongside the mountains.
Rules for Plant Products
Bowen's Flower: This flower, when powdered and mixed in a drink, will put someone to sleep in a number of minutes equal to the individual's Constitution score divided in half. For example, a person with a Constitution score of 18 will fall asleep in nine minutes. The subject will remain asleep for 1d10 minutes and can be roused by any stimuli louder than normal conversation.
Kirin's Leaf: When powdered and mixed with a drink, the leaf will change the mood of the subject in the number of minutes equal to the subject's Constitution, plus an additional 1d10 minutes.
Bark of the Turis: The sap will heal overnight any individual wound that is less than 4 hit points in severity. Further, it will heal scars caused by normal weapons at double the usual rate, leaving the skin unblemished. However, it cannot prevent scarring caused by magical weapons.
The lower regions of both mountain ranges harbor unusual plants that can be ground and made into spices. These spices sometimes can be difficult to find, but pockets and hidden areas exist where each spice described here can be found in abundance.
Ateris: Ateris is a good friend to those who journey to Marsember during the warmer months. This spice carries a heavy perfume that lingers and clings to clothes unlike anything I have thus experienced. The plant is ugly and thorny, being brown in color and covered by sharp, tough bristles over almost its entire length. But it has a blooming flower that has within it a bud that holds a powerful fragrance. This bud secretes an invisible substance, nearly intangible, yet if a bud is dabbed or wiped across any surface, that surface will smell pleasant for about two days. Ateris has a special use for when one needs to venture into an area that smells particularly bad. A small dab below each nostril will mask anything in the air, leaving one to smell only the sweetness of the plant. I would liken the smell to that of roses, but with only a tinge of the muskiness most roses carry. Ateris is much sweeter and more potent.
Care should be taken, however, not to get any pieces or dust of the bud actually inside the nostrils. The particles will likely overload the nose and cause a burning sensation. This happened to me once, but forcing water into my nose (no easy task) helped a great deal. Unfortunately, I lost my sense of smell for the rest of the day.
I have met only one person, a human, who is allergic to the plant. When he applied it under his nostrils his face broke out in a terrible rash that lasted a week. Other than this one unfortunate incident, I have not encountered any difficulty with the fragrance, and I keep a handful of buds secured in a cork-topped vial. Even releasing the cork for a few seconds is sometimes enough to rid any room of foulness.
Unfortunately, the buds do not last very long after being uprooted or removed from the host plant. The longest I have been able to preserve a bud in a corked vial is two weeks. Ateris grows naturally in many areas of the Thunder Peaks near Tilverton. When a patch of this plant takes hold on a hillside at the foot of the mountains, the scent will carry for three miles easily. The patches are not terribly difficult to find - especially if one has a keen nose and the wind is right.
Bentilan: Bentilan is a spice that was made famous by one of the more expensive restaurants in Arabel. It is found only in the eastern reaches of the Storm Horns, but is also grown by the restaurant as well, though where is a closely guarded secret. The plant appears as a small thin-stemmed flower that bears a tiny red-brown berry. This berry, when pulverized, makes a wonderful powder that greatly enhances the taste of most beverages, including water. When added to drink, it dissolves and brings a pinkish hue to clear drinks and turns most alcoholic drinks red. Whatever taste the drink is known for will come to the tongue in greater quantity. The spice carries a faint scent that dissipates quickly in the air.
If consumed by itself, however, the powder has a violently bitter taste that can even cause illness. If you are in the eastern portion of the Storm Horns, and a dull almond smell fills your nostrils, you are close to a patch of bentilan. The berries from the plant, uncrushed, are worth two Cormyrean silver pieces per pound. Merchants know places in Marsember and Suzail where the berries will command higher rates.
Maxoris: Maxoris is the favorite preservative of the caravans owned by a small merchant company based in Proskur. Maxoris is a white powder similar to salt, yet it has slightly larger grains and carries with it a faint aroma of musk. Meat covered and packed in maxoris will remain preserved for many weeks, far longer than meat will last when preserved with salt or other spices. The larger grains of the spice easily wash off the meat they cover.
However, this spice has a drawback associated with its benefit. No matter how thoroughly the meat is washed, it will carry a musty taste. This taste is not wholly unpleasant, but it detracts from the natural flavor of the meat.
Some people have a particular aversion to the maxorian taste, a severe enough revulsion to prevent them from eating meat packed in it.
This unpleasant taste has so far prevented it from becoming a commercial success for those who deal with it, but it does have its uses and following. Maxoris is most commonly used by travelers who must venture a long distance, yet who want to enjoy a healthy portion of meat during the journey and don't or won't have the opportunity to hunt.
Arctic explorers, I have heard, are especially fond of maxoris. In the cold regions they can't taste much of anything anyway.
Maxoris is actually the seed from the maxor plant found almost exclusively along the southern Storm Horns, near the banks of the Tun River. It is also grown near Proskur, along the Tun. Know maxor plants by their shoulder height and long, thin, drooping leaves that are almost fernlike. The seeds are contained at the top, within the bulb. Ten plants are needed to produce enough maxoris to thoroughly pack one pound of fresh meat.
Peral: Peral is a clinging vine that is the scourge of farmers and gardeners everywhere. It grows across the ground and literally chokes other plants at their base. Only trees with a diameter greater than half a foot can withstand the vine's assault.
While this vine is lethal to other plants, it contains a sap which is useful to humanoids. The sap is sticky and sweet, much like honey, and makes a wonderful ingredient in cooking, but only when a trace amount is used. It is most sought after for its adhesive characteristics. A touch of the stuff is enough to seal envelopes or other small items. The glue lasts for up to a week before crystallizing and crumbling to dust.
This glue is expensive because the vines are difficult to grow. The vines will only produce the sap when among other plants. The sap must play a role in the vine's strangulation. It takes three seasons of consecutive growth for the vine to mature enough to produce sufficient sap to make farming it worthwhile. Its expense makes it popular among the wealthy. A person, especially a merchant, who is able to deliver a note before the glue has crystallized is someone with connections and efficiency, and worthy of respect.
As in most regions of Faerûn, fauna in the mountains of Cormyr encompasses natural wildlife and monstrous creatures. I shall treat the animals first; the monsters require a section to themselves. (Would that it were so simple to separate them in life as it is on paper.)
The hills that form the skirts of the mountains have their share of abundant wildlife. This wildlife is really no different from that found on any other hillside in any part of the world. But the effect the animals have had on those who live near the hills is worth mentioning.
There has been a great deal of trapping of hill animals in recent years, and a particular demand for marsupials such as the opossum. It has become popular for people to sport purses made from the pouches of marsupials and other soft furry creatures. I am not one to advocate the complete banning of trapping and hunting, but the concept of storing my coins in a purse that once held babies is disturbing. I shall never fully understand the rationale of the fashion-conscious "elite."
Hunting and trapping of hill animals has likewise increased and branched out to include nearly anything with fur. This itself has had the result of depleting the native population of small animals that normally serve as a food supply for larger creatures. With the elimination of their food source, these animals have ventured closer to small towns and villages seeking food - perhaps drawn there by the scent from the carcasses of their usual prey.
Pelts are an exceptionally popular business in towns like Espar, Waymoot, Suzail, Thunderstone, and Tilverton, as they are closest to hill regions wherein the more popular animals live.
As the mountains of the Storm Horns and Thunder Peaks are made of rock, burrowing animals are rare. The hills around the mountains have many deposits of soils and loose ground in which all manner of small burrowing animals make their homes.
It is important to mention these animals for they, too, have had an impact on life around them.particularly in the area of Hooknose Crag, a pass in the southern area of the Thunder Peaks. These creatures serve as the only reasonable explanation for some recent events.
Just to the south of the pass is the Vast Swamp. Apparently many burrowing animals have actually dug their tunnels into the swamp. Their tunnels quickly fill with swamp water and assorted muck, and the animals dig farther in the opposite direction. Unfortunately, the muck has had the tendency to flow through the tunnels as well, resulting in large pools of fetid swamp muck collecting in areas of Hooknose Crag.
This has attracted all sorts of insects and vile creatures, and in some places along the pass it has changed the environment slightly, making it much less hospitable than it once was. Why there is a good deal of burrowing around the swamp, and why the digging itself seems to have taken a dramatic increase is unknown. I have surmised that there might be some threat in the hill country in the Thunder Peaks that has driven the poor animals south, toward the swamp.
This rather broad category of wildlife applies to those creatures that live not only in the mountains and hills, but those that live on the plains and travel into the mountains.
The Storm Horns boast a high population of such animals, mostly because of the security the king's forest provides. Deer is the most often encountered animal of significance to travelers on the plains near the Horns.
Although not an unusual creature to find in the lower regions of either mountain range, the bear has some interesting effects on the other animals living in the ranges, which need mention here.
The black bears are the most commonly encountered species in both ranges. They are not a threat to civilization, nor does the activity of humanoids appear to threaten the species. However, it has been discovered recently that some as yet unidentified predator has chosen the black bear as one of its primary sources of food.
Black bear carcasses are found regularly by mountain men in the Thunder Peaks near Hooknose Crag. The carcasses have been terribly mutilated, and most of the flesh has been eaten away by massive, powerful jaws equipped with long, sharp teeth.
The manner of creature that could be causing this is a mystery, for no known animal has a penchant for black bears.
Black bears are technically omnivores, being able to eat other animals and nuts and berries. But vegetation is their main source of food. Small animals are usually targets of opportunity for the bear. They rarely eat anything humanoid-sized.
Adding to the strangeness, there have been no discoveries of cave bears in such a mutilated condition. If a creature were living in the mountains and had a taste for bear, it would seem cave bears would be a natural, prime target, for they generally remain in one place and would be easily accessible.
Part of the reason why cave bears are spared might have to do with the fact that stone giants have a fondness for cave bears and regularly use them to guard their lairs, and the giants take care of their pets well.
Except in the company of stone giants, cave bears are rarely found in either mountain range. If angered, they can be ferocious and able combatants even without training. If trained, they won't hesitate to attack something larger and more fierce-looking than themselves.
Cave bears are also omnivores, but their diet weighs heavily toward flesh, making them natural guards.
Brown bears have been hunted in greater numbers by humans and demihumans in the past few years, thanks to a new industry in Thunderstone. It has become fashionable for some in Thunderstone to create clothing out of bear hides. The primary buyers of the clothes are travelers who pass through Thunderstone and the High Dale on their way in and out of Cormyr. It is these hunters who were gathering hide for clothing who discovered most of the mysterious black bear carcasses.
The brown bear has a greater taste for small animals than the black bear, but otherwise their diets are the same. Brown bears are more easily agitated than black bears and are more likely to attack a humanoid than not. Whereas a cave bear would likely eat its prey, the brown bear will usually just maim it and leave it to die.
Each mountain range has a large population of wildlife existing in the higher altitudes, surviving on whatever plants grow at and above the timberline. These animals are hardy, able to withstand cold temperatures, high winds, and meager foraging diets.
One of the more unusual creatures of this ilk is the red, sheep, so called because of the red-brown tint to its woolly hair. It's usually found in the Thunder Peaks.
These are bizarre crosses between sheep and goats. They eat plants, but they have been known to eat cooked meat. They never have been seen eating raw meat, however. A large herd of red sheep lives in the Thunder Peaks along the banks of the Semberflow. Travelers to the area note that hundreds of red sheep can be seen at one time, all crowding for the lush greenery that grows along the river banks. When approached, the herd will bolt quickly back into the Thunder Peaks, seeking the sheerest face they can. With startling nimbleness, they scale the face and take refuge on the smallest of ledges.
Alas, they are truthfully easy to hunt, for a crossbow bolt or well-aimed arrow can seek out even the most inaccessible red sheep. Once they find their ledge, they seem unwilling to move any farther away, feeling their sanctuary safe enough. These unmoving targets are easy shots for even novice archers. The hair of red sheep is extremely coarse and tough, almost to the point of being woolen. Their coat is wonderful material for winter cloaks and other protective clothing. It is warm, easy to weave into cloth when using the proper techniques, and (unlike common sheep's wool) does not smell when wet. More, it is unusually resistant to moisture. Red sheep blankets are also very popular, and they are sold in quantity in Tilverton.
The wild yak is another unusual creature inhabiting the Thunder Peaks. The yak resides mostly in the northern reaches of the Thunder Peaks, north of Tilver's Gap. They are also found in the higher peaks and in the southern Thunder Peaks as well.
I make the distinction between the wild yak and the domestic yak because there are significant differences between them. The yak is not usually found in either mountain range, so it is odd for domestic ones to be encountered here. Yet farmers in Thunderstone and Kulta swear by their animals, claiming they are superior beasts of burden. These domesticated yaks are very calm and sedate and do indeed make placid carriers.
But the yaks found in the peaks, those untainted by the influence of civilization, are wild beasts with fire in their hearts. They are not wont to investigate new things or wander into campsites. They stick to themselves and consider anything as big or bigger than they are a threat. When confronted, which to them could amount to a traveler merely standing on a hillside looking at the herd, the entire group of yaks, outnumbered or not, will charge to attack.
Their large horns and their practiced, nimble footing on rocky terrain make them a real threat to people. Once the charge is begun, any number of things could happen. The yaks could charge and not stop, throwing themselves toward the threat with abandon. They could charge just once, then flee with great speed, or they may charge, wait, then charge again. Yak behavior has been difficult for me to grasp, even after hearing numerous eyewitness accounts of their attacks.
Wild yaks change their locale with the season. During summer, they stick to the highest areas of the peaks, trying to find snow. They eat whatever grows there and will also venture downhill to where lush plants are, but only during the cooler dusk and dawn hours. For the winter, they go to the warmer valleys in the Thunder Peaks and sometimes travel along the banks of whatever streams are still flowing.
The wild yak has a thick fur coat that is highly protective. It is extremely warm and enables the yak to survive blizzards with relative ease. When caught in a blizzard, the yak will turn so its hind end faces the direction of the wind, whereupon it merely waits until the wind dies down and then continues on its way.
This behavior, even present in domesticated yaks, has resulted in the saying of "go yakward" and variations of it among the folks of Thunderstone and Kulta. It has come to mean "avoid danger or unpleasantness." It is also used to refer to town leaders who refuse to see the farmers' point of view or who seem to ignore impending issues. When that happens, the farmers start talking about the "yaks" in office.
The serow is a rare creature found in the southern regions of the Storm Horns. They enjoy the warmest weather they can find, and so do not venture very far north at all. However, travelers to the region, especially near the coast of the Lake of Dragons, are likely to spot them.
Serow are small, goatlike creatures which have daggerlike horns. They can be found at pretty much any altitude in that region, though they tend to keep themselves in areas of thick growth.which limits them to lower ground.
Serow can be an especially helpful aid to travelers. Serow enjoy sheltering in caves, for the caves are good defenses against the elements, are always cool, and are generally safe from some certain (especially airborne) predators. Following a serow to its cave can be the measure that saves a group of travelers from an approaching storm.
Unfortunately, serow do not allow strange creatures into their caves. Anyone attempting to get into such a cave is likely to be attacked by the dominant male of the group. However, if the dominant male is defeated, the visitor will be seen as superior and allowed to shelter in the cave without being harassed. In my experience, defeating a serow is best done by putting it to sleep. A simple sleep spell cast upon the leader displays sufficient superiority to the rest of the group. The sooner this is done the better, for the serow respect prompt subdual.
It would be remiss of me not to mention the large cats that inhabit the Storm Horns. These large cats have been encroaching farther into civilized areas of Cormyr during the past few years. The largest number of them still live in the mountains, particularly in the northern parts of the Thunder Peaks. But reported sightings closer to towns and villages have increased.
This suggests that their natural prey, small animals, has been diminishing of late. Part of the reason for this might be the displacer beast attacks in the Tilver's Gap region of the Thunder Peaks. As the mountain lions moved (or fled) from that region and went south, they encountered more civilization and therefore easy access to food. They also have been seen venturing into the eastern portions of Hullack Forest, seeking to eat some of the food stores of the monster-clearing parties therein.
Cormyr, like all kingdoms, has animals that seem to hang on without consuming a great amount of food because prey is scarce or because of the encroachment of mankind. These animals will rarely see a "good year" as far as their food supply or increasing their range is concerned.
Cougars used to be resented most by Cormyte farmers, shepherds, and ranchers because of their raiding. Mountain wolves now hold that position. They live in the lower regions of the Storm Horns near the king's forest and also in the Thunder Peaks near Tilverton. They come out of the mountains during the night and feed upon farm animals.
An official hunting effort against the wolf is likely to take effect soon, similar to the one previously organized against cougars. The success of this effort remains to be seen, considering most mercenaries and fighting persons are accepting offers for more glamorous assignments, such as clearing monsters from the Hullack Forest.
Flying high above the lower peaks and hills of both ranges are mountain-dwelling winged scavengers.
Vultures: Several breeds of vultures have taken well to the environment offered by the ranges and thrive on the remains of the numerous deaths that occur there. Vultures are most often seen feasting upon the remains of the battles between the orc tribes in the Storm Horns. Further, they prey upon small animals in their natural setting, and they also rely on the demise of unwary travelers for food.
Human Scavengers: In addition to winged scavengers descending upon battle sites, a fair number of people seek fields of struggle to scavenge equipment and belongings from the fallen. These men have taken to using vultures and their like to find where battle sites are. Some of these greedy individuals have become adept at .reading. the vultures and can tell just by observing their flight and behavior how many creatures have died, and of what species.
I have been told by these men that the easiest reading is one that tells whether the fallen prey is already being picked over by land-based scavengers.
Monsters of the Peaks
The two mountain ranges have their share of creatures which claw their way through the jagged peaks. In my travels, I have had the opportunity to view creatures from various parts of this world, and I have taken note of distinct differences between like creatures that inhabit the Storm Horns and the Thunder Peaks.
The high peaks of the Storm Horns and Thunder Peaks are populated by all manner of avians. With a proliferation of standard birdlife found in other ranges comes a strong and interesting collection of unusual winged animals that merit description.
My first encounter with these bizarre crosses between bird and demihuman was during an expedition to search for a rare flower. I had just located the species I was seeking and had begun to sketch it. I was situated just a few feet above the timberline, near a spring that issued from the side of the mountain. There was a patch of grass and loose soil, and in that - my flowers.
I heard the flapping of wings and felt a rush of air about me. I looked and saw a large bird that had a 20-foot wingspan and an odd-shaped, slightly snubbed-nosed beak. But the creature also had muscular legs like a human and clawed birdlike feet. It had humanoid arms, but with exceptionally curled and long fingers ending in claws. From its arms grew its wonderfully red wings. Its body was likewise red, though a little darker shade.
It looked very much like someone had dressed up in a bird costume. I would have assumed just that, were it not for the fact that I saw it in flight. The aarakocra came up to me and peered at me strangely. It made a series of chirping grunts which might have even been words, then bent down and ate half of the rare flowers I was in the process of sketching. That inspired me to begin sketching the strange bird. But before I could get an outline, it flew away.
I returned to that spot many times and eventually was able to meet one again. I was prepared with a magical talisman that enabled me to communicate in any tongue. And it was my fortune that indeed the chirping grunts were the bird creature's native language. I spoke with this second bird and established good relations with it.
Aarakocra are a race of solitary intelligent birds. They range in color from deep to light red for males and deep to light brown for females. There is very little size difference between the males and females.
Their tribes number from 10 to 30 and are led by the eldest male. I do not know how many tribes of aarakocra exist in Cormyr, for even this aarakocra did not know. They stay away from civilization and other tribes of all creatures as much as possible, save for their hunting prey.
The hunting territory they claim seems to have no bounds. They use their ability to fly great distances to hunt wherever they can. I did hear this aarakocra speak about domestic animals as easy prey. When I told him that those animals were property, he seemed unable to grasp the concept of herding.
They live in glorious vine nests which are decorated with beautiful pennants, flags, and banners. They seem interested more in the color of such things, rather than the designs that appear on them. I noticed several Purple Dragon pennants among their collections, as well as signets from Suzail, Eagle Peak, High Horn, Tyrluk, and even Castle Crag.
A wondrous feature of these avians is their ability to summon air elementals. Their second eldest male serves as the tribe's shaman. He, along with others, is able to call an elemental by dancing in a circle and chanting. The chanting is a terrible noise that is difficult for human ears to endure, but the summoning process is fascinating.
Once summoned, the elemental will do the tribe's bidding. It was explained to me that the elemental is used by this tribe primarily to investigate caves in the Storm Horns, for the aarakocra are terribly claustrophobic and will not enter caves.
To my great misfortune, they described a time when the elemental found a huge cache of shiny objects and colorful vines - a prime treasure for the aarakocra. They have not gone to the cache or recovered anything from it because of some great fear of retribution from whoever or whatever owned the objects, but I could not get out of them what exactly it was that they feared. They would only speak of a "great power" that would destroy the tribe if anything was taken from the cave. The cave, they naively told me, is located "a few peaks" west of what I surmised is the Bridge of Fallen Men.
The aarakocra, while terribly shy and private creatures, will sometimes choose to interact with others, including humanoids. The price for such interaction is always shiny material and colorful vines or cloth.
Although I was not able to see them in combat, the aarakocra seem very capable of handling themselves, even against armed humanoids. Their claws are sharp enough to tear through the toughest rope as though it was a strand of fine hair, and their beaks can crush a goat's skull as easily I would a pea pod.
These majestic avians have a much-deserved reputation. They are menaces to anyone on a horse, and their fearlessness in battle is legendary.
Most of my knowledge of the griffon prides of Cormyr comes from a man-at-arms of the Purple Dragons. It seems our king desired to have a griffon mount at one time, and he was among the group of Purple Dragons sent to attempt to find and bring a griffon to Suzail.
The attempt failed. The troop was set upon by a dozen griffons - the largest force any of them had seen attacking at once. Many believe the griffons had foreknowledge of the Purple Dragons. Who betrayed the soldiers - and how - remains a mystery. Their screeches panicked the horses the Purple Dragons were on and prevented the men from maintaining formation or order.
Nearly all of the horses were taken away in the first lightning-fast swooping attack. This ended the effort to secure a griffon for King Azoun IV. However, my friend was assigned to investigate the extent to which the griffons infested the area where the Purple Dragons were attacked, which was several miles northwest of Castle Crag.
It appears the griffons have staked a claim close enough to Gnoll Pass and the Moonsea Ride to seriously harass caravans. Their threat is growing, and it is likely the Purple Dragons will be assigned soon to destroy as many griffons as possible to allow safe travel.
The central lair's location is not known, though there have been many stories and suggestions as to where it might be. The most common thought is that a large cave exists due north of Castle Kilgrave, near the High Moors.
Obviously related in some strange way to griffons, these are crosses between eagles and horses. They are more tolerated, for they present less of a threat to civilization around the Thunder Peaks, which is where the strongest concentration of hippogriffs seems to be. It is believed that a herd of hippogriffs lives somewhere close to the source of the Immerflow River, which winds through the Thunder Peaks.
These creatures are more sought after as winged mounts than griffons, as the calmer nature of the hippogriff means easier training and more competent and trustworthy beasts to ride upon.
It was some years ago that I heard King Azoun owned a hippogriff mount. Still, I have not heard any news about it recently, so I do not know if it still exists, if it suffered some accident, or if it was forgotten about by the king and sold to someone else.
The Purple Dragons have taken a keen interest in the hippogriffs and are making a concentrated effort to secure enough young ones to make a special troop of winged mounted Purple Dragons. This force would be used to respond quickly to raids and, more likely, to serve as messengers between Suzail and locations on Cormyr's borders like High Horn and Tilverton. I am certain that the Purple Dragons know the location of the hippogriff herd, but they are jealously guarding that secret.
This foul cross between eagle and stag is a menace in the northern regions of the Thunder Peaks. These avians actively seek humanoid prey, particularly humans.
The perytons are fond of attacking caravans that pass through Tilver's Gap. In fact, it is not too uncommon for a large caravan to be attacked multiple times by perytons from different nests.
The peryton threat, combined with that of the occasional griffon attacks closer to Gnoll Pass, has made traveling from Arabel to parts east rather dangerous. This has increased the drive to have a special troop of wing-mounted Purple Dragons, described previously.
The fact that perytons cannot be harmed by weapons that aren't magically enchanted increases their threat to everyone. Perytons have been very selective in establishing their nests. They are careful to avoid contact with other winged creatures, even though they have no natural predators to be concerned about. They are using their intelligence to ensure that they have an unobstructed path to their prey and that their hunts will be made with minimal interference by others. It is because of this that the perytons are thought to have nested over Tilver's Gap instead of closer to Castle Crag. They do not want to compete with the griffons for food, nor do they want to attack prey that is constantly on guard for ambush by other winged predators.
Elminster's Notes: Interested readers may wish to reference the "Peryton" entry in the booklet about the Great Gray Land of Thar, there to read Talyssa Strongbow's insightful commentary.
This gargantuan bird is, according to my research, exclusive to warmer climes than what is usually found in either the Storm Horns or Thunder Peaks. Still, I believe a reason for their presence so far north of their usual habitat is yet to be found.
Rocs are sometimes tamed by giants: storm and cloud giants specifically, for various reasons. I know of at least one group of giants in the southern regions of the Thunder Peaks and I theorize that this group has or had a male and female roc with them. Perhaps those rocs made their escape or were let loose, but now for certain a nest (likely only one) of them lives in the Thunder Peaks.
I was living near Thunderstone when I heard stories of huge birds swooping down upon herds near Kulta. At first it was feared that hippogriffs from up north had come down south, but as reliable descriptions came in I knew it had to be rocs that were on the hunt.
They have tremendous appetites, especially where young are present. For this reason, I feared a quick depletion of the area's livestock. I decided to make an expedition into the Thunder Peaks to see if taking a mercenary force to the roc nest would be feasible. I found the location of their massive nest with surprisingly little difficulty. The nest was composed of whole trees.
I beheld a sad sight. Although rocs are a threat to our livelihood and are dangerous, they are majestic creatures worthy of admiration and respect. The nest had only two rocs, a male and female, which were in pitiful shape. They looked to be suffering from some sickness, for their feathers were matted and falling out. Their eyes, each as big as my chest, were dull and lifeless. I crept up to them and they made no effort to repel me from their nest. I examined them closer, and saw several half-eaten cattle and horse carcasses. I surmised that someone had tainted or cursed their own livestock and set some out as bait for these birds, hoping that they would eat them and become sick and die. Although a clever plot, the result was a loss to nature.
Taking pity on them, I healed them magically, though my skills weren't enough to allow the massive animals to recover completely.
The mountains of Cormyr are also home to a variety of pawed animals which thrive in the environment.
This eight-legged, furry, badgerlike animal is one of the most unusual creatures I have seen. It is renowned for two things: its ferocity and its hide.
The aurumvorax is a carnivore, but it also supplements its diet with gold and other precious ores. The introduction of these metals into its body results in a stunningly beautiful golden hide and dense bones. It has silvery eyes and coppery claws and teeth. The aurumvorax lives a solitary life in hills and along the timberlines on mountainsides. It should be noted that no aurumvorax comes near aarakocra tribes, for the shiny coat is too great a prize to resist and the birds will go to any length to acquire the beautiful gleaming hide of an aurumvorax. For this reason, the aurumvorax cannot be found around Skull Crag and a few other places in the western Storm Horns.
This hugely valuable animal has had a significant effect on both animal and humanoid alike. When word leaks that even one of these creatures exists, a massive effort to become the first to acquire it becomes paramount. Troops of mercenaries dash out of their homes and cities and head for the hills in search of "walking gold," as the aurumvorax is often called.
The nobles of Suzail often fund expeditions to find an aurumvorax, for to arrive at an official function or party clad in the pelt of a golden animal is a fine thing to experience, I am told. For this reason, seeing an aurumvorax is an exceptionally rare thing near Suzail. Nobles' efforts to secure pelts have depleted nearly all aurumvorax in the southern Storm Horns. Aurumvorax still can be found in the northern regions of the Storm Horns and the southeastern portion of the Thunder Peaks.
There have been recent tales of aurumvorax taking on new prey. Generally, the animal seeks prey that is of the same size or smaller than itself. However, there have been some strange tales about aurumvorax chasing and overtaking small horses. It is apparently using its speed to greater advantage to garner meals.
In addition, although the aurumvorax has only the most basic animal intelligence, there appear to be some of them who have been able to seek out stores of gold in caravans and from passing travelers, having learned that most of them carry at least some amount of precious metal on their person.
Thus far, I have heard two tales from people who claim they were ambushed by aurumvorax. The animals ran out from under cover and went straight for the horses' legs. Once the mounts were felled, the aurumvorax sniffed out any precious metals and ore on the person of the travelers, generally ignoring the flesh in favor of the richer-smelling ore.
Both of these ambushes were said to have occurred just west of Archenbridge, along the Dawnpost Road. Whether they are true is anyone's guess. The knowledge to be gained is not worth the journey.
I have had the occasion to view an aurumvorax lair. It was a very small, narrow tunnel leading to a tiny natural cave no bigger than a closet. The aurumvorax had burrowed through the solid rock to reach the cave it must have somehow known was there. Within the cave were the bones of many small animals and their hides. The aurumvorax seems to eat only the fleshy insides of its prey, discarding the rest. Because of their low numbers, they do not present any sort of threat to their supply of food. They will never overhunt their territory.
The eyes of the aurumvorax have been used in talismans associated with seeing into the future. I myself have not had the occasion to test this theory, but I have heard much praise from a merchant in Arabel, who insists his talisman can give him information on nearly anything associated with silver, such as whether an expedition to find a new vein of silver in the Storm Horns will be successful.
We classify this multiheaded creature as pawed, due to its leonine forequarters. The hindquarters of the chimera are those of a large goat. The chimera has three heads: a goat's, a lion's, and a dragon's.
Chimerae lurk only in the deepest lairs of the Storm Horns. They are known in the Thunder Peaks, but more of them seem to live in the western mountain range. The dragon head of the chimera influences the whole creature to live in a subterranean environment, while the lion head urges the creature to leave its lair and hunt for prey wherever it can find it. For this reason, chimerae may be encountered anywhere within a cavernous structure in a mountain range.
It is not unheard of for a chimera to make its way outside a mountain and search for prey on the surface. However, since the chimera is an omnivore and adaptable, it will eat vegetation when there is no meat available. The main motivation for leaving a mountain or venturing close to the surface would be influence from one of the other heads - most likely the lion.
Once on the surface, the dragon head influences the others to allow it to use its wings to take to the air, and from there the dragon and lion heads cooperate in hunting for prey. The chimerae do have a language, but no one to my knowledge has tried to communicate with them to any extent.
These green-eyed, six-legged panthers of death have had surges of terrible activity in the Thunder Peaks north of Tilver's Gap. Even a raiding party based in that section of the range has a heraldic-styled displacer beast as its symbol.
No one is certain how, but a few years ago displacer beasts were introduced into that area. They started traveling throughout the range between the Moonsea Ride and the Northride. Because of this, the region has a much lower population of natural life than it would normally have, with the exception of winged creatures which have been able to escape the wrath of the displacer beast.
All animals smaller than a displacer beast, which is generally 10-12 feet long and 500 pounds, were hunted with a vengeance. For this reason, many have theorized that the introduction of displacer beasts was done for a specific purpose - to clear the area. But why anyone or any group would want to accomplish such a task is yet unknown.
The population of reptiles in the Storm Horns and Thunder Peaks is low. Although unusual, some reptiles are very interesting, deadly, and certainly worth discussion.
Famous all over the world as a creature that can turn one into stone, the basilisk should also be known for its two other lethal features: its poisonous bite and its ability to spit acid.
Basilisk poison has been made famous ever since the death of the chief host of the Silver Knife restaurant in Arabel. His demise brought attention, as he was a popular socialite in town. The cause of his death was determined to be basilisk poison, a toxin not commonly used. Where basilisks were once feared, and the very mention of them made people stay far away from reported sightings, the basilisk is now being hunted actively. With the introduction of its poison into increasing popular use, the demand for basilisk venom sacs has increased.
An active trading market for basilisk poison sacs thrives in Arabel. A call grows for the creatures. eyes for use in magical ingredients (though such a use seems to have its origins in fancy more than any sound technical need).
The location of a basilisk is difficult to ascertain, for they are solitary creatures and tend to roam throughout the ranges at will. Nyaril, a merchant house in Arabel, is said to have maps indicating the travel routes used by basilisks.
This lizard, so-called because of its large protruding horns, is an unusual find in the southern Storm Horns.
A tribe of aarakocra told me about a red dragon that threatened them, and that the dragon lived in the southern reaches of the Storm Horns. Minotaur lizards are often found near red dragons, and it might be the case that the lizards followed the red dragon from wherever it came, preferring to keep close to it and suffer through the clime of the Storm Horns, which is unlike their usual tropical haunts.
The lizards are known because of their horns. The horns are impressive indeed, but aren't used in hunting. Instead, the horns are used by the lizards for mating and by humanoids for various purposes. A prophet is said to be living in the Storm Horns who uses the minotaur lizards in his predictions and has been able to train one of the lizards to do his bidding.
Despite the proliferation of creatures which fly or walk close to the ground, a great number of humanoids live in the Thunder Peaks and Storm Horns which have an effect upon each other, civilization, and the animals living near them. They have differing levels of societal organization and intelligence, but they are all best grouped into the humanoid category.
These creatures are well known throughout all the world, for they are found everywhere. They dwell in subterranean lairs, but just about any underground dwelling will do as far as they are concerned.
I found many bugbear lairs within the Storm Horns and Thunder Peaks. These bugbears are much like bugbears all over the world, but they perhaps have to contend with a greater variety of other hostile and powerful creatures than bugbears of other mountain ranges face.
Bugbears are being constantly harassed by grimlocks. The foul grimlocks have been conducting many raids against bugbear lairs searching for bugbears to eat. Repelling these raids has taken up a great deal of most bugbear tribes. resources. They can no longer effectively raid caravans going through Tilver's Gap or Gnoll Pass, each of which are historically heavy with caravan activity.
Because of this, their stores of treasure are depleted - a terrible thing for the bugbears, who prize shiny, valuable objects. As a consequence, bugbear morale is lower than normal. Their ferocity and hatred toward the grimlocks has increased, and this has slightly unbalanced them and diverted too much of their energy.
I was looking for a pool of water rumored to exist near High Horn, a pool that some said had special properties that, if not magical, certainly had some kind of natural medicinal value. While searching, I came across the camp of a traveler. The nature of the equipment and how it was laid suggested that the camp was at least semi-permanent. There was no one there, but all the equipment was still in place and unpacked. I looked through the wares and found my attention drawn to the person's clothing trunk.
There were all manner of sizes, shapes, and colors of dress within. They were all of very high quality, yet there was only one of each garment represented. I surmised that the clothing had been stolen and I had happened upon a thief.
I was about to walk away when I discovered movement out of the corner of my eye. Until I die, I will swear that the shape changed form from a smooth gray, thin object to that of a Purple Dragon soldier. The "soldier" and I talked for a while, and he gave me some excuse for the camp. I walked away and there was no hostility between us.
These gargantuan humanoids are rarely seen. They tend to live generally secluded lives high in the mountains, away from civilization. Finding evidence of them is difficult. Actually finding their lairs is nearly impossible.
Dwelling in the clouds, these giants do indeed live in the Thunder Peaks. I myself have seen the castle of one clan of cloud giants. The castle itself was small by their standards and was really not much more than a large stone house. Still, since it was built to their scale, it was vast indeed.
This clan lives in the southern regions of the Thunder Peaks and stays away from civilization as much as possible. However, one among their number is seeking to establish regular trade with Thunderstone. Apparently some merchants in Thunderstone have been contacted, but they are keeping their conversations with the cloud giant secret.
The cloud giants I met are a peaceful, happy lot. They do not differ much in their behavior or mentality from noble Cormyreans.
My relations with them were brief, but very good. I found them hospitable and would not hesitate to attempt to visit them again. They said they know of other cloud giant clans in the Storm Horns, but I could not get any more information than that from them. An interesting aspect of their world view is that they, for some reason, tend to have at least a kind of minimal respect for Cormyrean law. One of them commented that he would be reluctant to walk the streets of a Cormyrean city with his sword, given the law that prohibits the open wearing of arms.
These one-eyed giants are a dying breed in the Thunder Peaks. At one time many of them may have lived in the Peaks, but they have been hunted by humanoids and many other potential predators to such a degree that they are unable to maintain their strength in numbers. I would also add that their low intelligence hampers them from formulating effective strategies for preservation.
Most of the remaining cyclopskins live in a nomadic tribe that wanders along the eastern edge of the Thunder Peaks. There might be other cyclopskins, but they have hidden themselves well from the rest of Cormyr and have no effect on other tribes. No true cyclops are known to walk in either mountain range.
Ettin have lived in the stories of tots for many years. All manner of fables have been constructed about the loathsome, disgusting two-headed beasts. As for reality, only vaporous, fleeting stories of sightings here and there reach anyone's ears. I myself never have seen one in person, I only gazed upon the sketches of other mages fortunate enough to have met one and lived.
The only accurate historical account of an ettin involves one that was able to raise a band of goblins and orcs and use them to conduct raids against Thunderstone and Hultail. But this was many years ago, and that ettin is most assuredly dead.
This disgusting race lives up to its reputation as the most wicked and loathsome of giantkind. Unfortunately, The Storm Horns and Thunder Peaks are not without a small native population of them.
These giants have typically taken over many abandoned dwarven mines found in both ranges. They hunt whatever passes near their lairs and kill whatever is still within the mines when they enter. Their appetite is not equal to other giants of the same size, which is fortunate. They nearly always torture their prey before eating it, and the horror they could spread if they had ravenous appetites would be devastating. Instead, they eat a living animal once every few weeks and subsist on plant life, including fungi and the like, for the rest of the time.
These giants appear to have no value whatsoever to other living things around them. They seem to have no predators, for nothing even wants to eat them. Their bodies are completely deformed, head to toe, and this probably dissuades anything from actually biting into their flesh. They taste rancid, no doubt, and are likely toxic.
Their greatest impact on society is the capture and torture of those adventurers unlucky enough to explore an abandoned mine that has a tribe of these ugly brutes in it.
Hill giants are common in both mountain ranges, for the Storm Horns and Thunder Peaks have ample places for them to live. Also, the ranges have an abundance of the kind of food they usually hunt for, which means any animal - even dragons - large enough for their giant stomachs.
Hill giants are known to hunt green dragons and vice versa. Green dragons live in both ranges, so ongoing, active fighting between the two groups continues, though it's nothing so large scale as a war.
Given that hill giants fear magic and have been known to kill mages with great ceremony and celebration, I have not made a great effort to discover where their lairs are - or where they are mostly concentrated. My various sources of information suggest that they are essentially scattered throughout both ranges, not populating any one region more than another.
Mountain giants represent more of a threat to humanoids and other creatures. They are more intelligent than average giants, and they are able to organize themselves more efficiently. But this threat is contained by the nature of mountain giants, which is generally peaceful. They could easily subjugate other, lesser races into raiding parties, and combined with their intelligence, they would be a formidable force. However, they are hesitant to trust anyone from outside their own families. They prefer to hide themselves from affairs of others.
These giants have the natural ability to summon other large creatures to their aid. Such creatures usually include ogres, trolls, and even hill giants. But, such a summoning usually only takes place when the mountain giants believe they are going to be facing a serious threat in combat, and when they feel added manpower, however inferior to their own, is needed.
Stone giants are the most civilized of giants outside of the nearly mythic cloud and storm giants. They are of average intelligence and live in communities for protection. They have art, contests, trading, and many other trappings of organized civilization that other giants lack. The number of stone giant communities in both the Storm Horns and in the Thunder Peaks is most likely not more than a dozen, so the total number of stone giants is very low.
These are intelligent, savage communities of subterranean creatures that feast on raw humanoid flesh. They are a scourge to many races both within the mountain tunnels and caves and to those who enjoy the warmth and relative security of surface life.
Grimlocks have adapted particularly well to their environment-induced blindness. They can hear and smell well enough, so that they can effectively "see," though for only a short distance. But many things which we humans and other humanoids cannot smell or sense are known by the grimlocks.
They feast upon any raw flesh they are able to find. They regularly conduct raids into other humanoid subterranean lairs searching for young, old, and otherwise abandoned living bodies.
They are fierce in combat and enjoy many natural abilities which enable them to withstand all but the most competent adversaries. Unfortunately for them, their level of organization during actual combat is poor. Though they attack en masse, they lack the discipline of other races and do not manage themselves well. More intelligent and disciplined races are able to overcome their natural abilities and defeat them in combat.
Dwarves, who have an extensive mine network in both mountain ranges, are often forced to defend themselves from the grimlocks. The dwarves have come to know how the grimlocks fight, for the savages seem never to vary their tactics, or as most dwarves might say, seem never to develop any in the first place.
At first look, it might be thought that grimlocks are ripe for education in the ways of war, that a particularly charismatic leader might be able to sway them over, and a new and terrible raiding force might be created. This cannot be the case, however, for the grimlocks are fearful of dealing with other races in such a manner. Indeed, there have been dwarves who have attempted to do just such a thing, as well as giants and other races who dwell within the Storm Horns and Thunder Peaks who have tried. None have met with success.
There appears to be no solution to dealing with the grimlocks in either mountain range. While they are sometimes easy to defeat in combat when they attack, it is difficult to find their lairs to carry out extermination campaigns, for their natural abilities include blending in with their surroundings, making them virtually invisible to passersby. The only hope lies within tainting the food they eat. I have heard reports of the foul creatures being ravaged with disease from foul meat.
Many kobolds lurk within both ranges. They are particularly concentrated along the Thunder Peak mountains bordering Hullack Forest and the Storm Horns along the king's forest.
As kobolds are wont to do, they menace humans and demihumans alike. They spare no one from their tiny but ferocious wrath. Although certain forces like the Purple Dragons tend to overlook kobolds and their involvement in affairs, the small race has been playing a larger part in Cormyr.
Their primary involvement has been with the troglodytes that also raid Hullack Forest. The kobolds recently have been under the employ of the troglodytes as spies, saboteurs, and scouts for proper ambush sites. Ambushing is the preferred troglodyte method of attack.
This cooperation between the two groups is very unusual, for troglodytes are not known for hiring any other races, let alone kobolds. The two races have not historically associated with each other much, except from opposite ends of swords. It is therefore theorized that a charismatic leader is influencing both the troglodytes and the kobolds to associate with each other and to work together.
A strong concentration of urd kobolds lives within the Storm Horns. Their numbers cannot be determined, but they have been the focus of worry for some of the other subterranean races living there. Goblins have been requesting help from their brethren in the Goblin Marches to aid in their attacks against urd kobolds.
Although kobolds have an intense hatred of gnomes, this has not been a major factor in their behavior in the past few years. My memory conjures images of times when kobolds would take on raids against villages or towns when even a few gnomes lived there. No more. They seem to be applying themselves to other tasks. They still attack gnomes on sight, but they seem not to be going out of their way to do so anymore.
If a charismatic leader is influencing certain tribes of kobolds, no one has a clue as to who or what that leader could be. The best answer anyone has developed thus far is that Gondegal, the Lost King, is still alive and is using these foul races as pawns in his game to recapture the throne.
Probably the most populous of the less-intelligent humanoid races, orcs are everywhere in Cormyr and are certainly thick in the mountain ranges.
Orcs are used as pawns by every race in the world, most often employed as foot troops in battle. Most orcs that are used for battle by other races live on the plains of Cormyr and generally avoid the mountains. This is so they will be usable as troops. By living in the mountains, their mobility and ability to respond quickly to the desires of their leaders would be hampered. In addition, once orcs come to live on the plains and see what territory and treasure there is to acquire, most prefer to stay close to the action.
Mountain orcs involve themselves mostly with acquiring more subterranean territory. This means fighting dwarves, grimlocks, troglodytes, and any number of other subterranean races. Orcs divide their time between battling for new territory, usually large caverns, and fortifying what they have already captured.
Mountain orcs conduct raids onto the plains, of course. They do so most often when they are in need of weapons and supplies, and when they need treasure to finance their fortification efforts.
The tribes of orcs living in the Thunder Peaks have developed close ties. They are cooperating with each other since subterranean space is becoming more difficult to come by as the years pass. They are not allied with each other by any means, but they have taken less to killing each other and instead work together every now and then to combat a common foe.
However, reports indicate that each tribe could be gearing up to attempt a major clash against the other. It is generally accepted that once one of the larger tribes thinks it has amassed a sufficient force, there will be a grand attack against the remaining orc tribes. Until then, each tribe is being patient with the other, not willing to lose too many of their members in battles which will not have as much consequence as the forthcoming war.
There have been rumors circulating that a tribe of orcs is at work building a grand fortress within the Thunder Peaks, and that this fortress will serve as a launching point for an invasion of neighboring subterranean lairs of other races.
The orcs in the Storm Horns have shown less of an interest in cooperating or offering truces with neighboring tribes. War is as common there as ever with constant losses on both sides.
These barbaric creatures are similar to the grimlock in that they seem to live for war. The difference between the two is that the troglodytes are far more capable tacticians than the grimlock.
Troglodytes prefer human flesh for food, but they value steel above all else. These desires, as well as their ability to conduct raids effectively, have led to problems for people attempting to settle near Hullack Forest. A known troglodyte lair is situated in the Thunder Peak mountains from which many raids have sprung.
King Azoun IV has already ordered Hullack Forest cleared of monsters so that it can be used safely by his subjects. However, the troglodytes present a serious threat even to these monster-killing parties. They conduct continuous raids and are getting progressively bold, reaching farther and farther from their lair.
There could be no text describing the life on the Storm Horns and the Thunder Peaks that did not also describe the influence of the types of dragons that inhabit the highest peaks and the deepest subterranean lairs. Dragons have an ancient history and lay claim to nearly all the lands on the world - and the two mountain ranges are included in that claim. In fact, each range has been home to many dragons over the millennia.
Please note that the text describing the dragons is the culmination of all the stories I have heard regarding dragon presence in the two ranges. For each dragon actually living in the ranges, a hundred stories portray the creature as an army descending upon the whole civilization. It has been difficult to sift through the tall tales and falsehoods to find truths, but I think I have an accurate view.
In both ranges combined, no more than three ancient dragons live. They are described below. No more than five adult dragons, each one having never more than three young, are positively known to live in Cormyr.
Although these numbers are small, they are spread out among the different types of dragons. Also, I cannot say with any certainty how many dragons live in the deep subterranean levels of the mountain ranges, for the only way to take note of such dragons is to explore the ranges personally - a task for which I am ill-equipped.
The northern regions of the Storm Horns, next to the High Moors and near the Goblin Marches is an adequate home for the copper dragons who live in those peaks.
The giant scorpions they prize often can be found in the Great Desert near the Storm Horns. However, most copper dragons in the region prefer to live in the Desertsmouth Mountains. Still, a few copper dragons prefer to live somewhat farther away from the desert so they can be closer to the towns and have a greater opportunity to interact with people by playing pranks and sharing jokes.
The copper dragons of the Storm Horns have little tolerance for the goblins, orcs, and other dull and stupid humanoids that inhabit the Goblin Marches.except the monsters are sometimes fun to tease and harass.
The northern Thunder Peaks are cool enough to support one gem dragon: Yiarni. This dragon takes advantage of the visiting young white dragons and attempts to shape their inherently cruel natures into more pleasant personalities.
If you should meet with her, treat her kindly, for she has a most gentle heart and is willing to share information or help stranded travelers - so long as they swear never to reveal where they see her. She is far unlike the stories of other crystal dragons I have heard. What her true purpose is in the Thunder Peaks I cannot say, for she would not go that far in her discourse with me. I do theorize however, that she knows Tarlacoal, the gold dragon of the Thunder Peaks, and that they are cooperating somehow for some purpose only they know of.
Gold dragons can live in nearly any clime, and the Thunder Peaks is not inhospitable to them. Tarlacoal is a gold dragon who has gained a small amount of fame. He has been helping the causes of good by manipulating political events for as long as Cormyr has been a kingdom, or so they say.
The most famous tale about this dragon involves King Azoun IV. It is believed that when Gondegal made his raids across Cormyr, Tarlacoal was among those who whispered in the king's ear that he should personally lead the attack against Gondegal.
This kind of manipulation, especially done by a dragon in a polymorphed state, is a good deception. But it seems Tarlacoal favors taking a direct hand in things while keeping his true nature a secret. No one has even advanced a theory as to where Tarlacoals lair is. It is assumed that he spends most of his time among the people anyway, polymorphed into forms more pleasing and convincing to the eye.
Red dragons are the best known to populations near their lairs, thanks to their covetous and influential natures. Multiple red dragons are thought to live in the highest peaks of both mountain ranges, though how many is unknown. Tales reveal at least two, however.
A subtle difference exists between red dragons in the Storm Horns and those in the Thunder Peaks. The Thunder Peak dragons have more to contend with, since they are surrounded by a greater population on both sides of their range. Storm Horn red dragons are generally surrounded by more wilderness and under less pressure from outside sources, and they are therefore free to concentrate less on defending their lairs and spend more time acquiring treasure.
Known Red Dragons
At least one red dragon lives in each mountain range: Nevalarich in the Thunder Peaks, and Shorliail in the Storm Horns.
Nevalarich: Nevalarich is living in the southern regions of the Thunder Peaks and has been the more visible of the two dragons. He has been raiding ships that pass through The Neck and taking their treasure. It has been reported that he has taken smaller ships whole to his lair, scooping them up from the sea in his massive jaws.
However unusual this behavior might be, Nevalarich definitely has all the abilities attributed to normal red dragons. Those ships he does not take with him he burns with his fiery breath.
It is not known how old Nevalarich really is. He is certainly an adult, but not as old as Shorliail. Combat with Nevalarich has been brief and sporadic, and obviously never successful.
King Azoun IV is worried about the presence of a hostile red dragon in his kingdom, and has offered a title of nobility to whoever is able to defeat it. However, he does not publicize this boon frequently, as the number of ships lost to the dragon is really no greater than the number ordinarily lost to storms or pirates.
The king and his court do worry about the future, however. They fret that Nevalarich will become tired of preying on ships and the odd caravan, and that he will make more bold attacks into the larger cities.
Others within the court ponder the reasons why Nevalarich hasn't already become more bold. They theorize that a greater power may be lording itself over the dragon. This power may be letting Nevalarich out to raid only when it deems suitable. Whatever this power is, be it a creature from another plane, a sickness Nevalarich has, or whatever, the court continues to mull over the possibilities.
Shorliail: A great, aged dragon known as Shorliail lives in the Storm Horns. She has maintained a lair within the mountains for centuries.in fact, for as long as most elves who have not left for far.off Evermeet or other elven havens can remember.
Her demands for treasure are sated in intervals. Rather than conduct searches every few weeks or months like Nevalarich, she undertakes massive raids every few decades. These raids are grand even by red dragon standards. No known depository of gold or magic is untouched. She flies with swiftness and a vigor unseen in dragons her age. Most say that she saves her strength for all those years and lets it out at once upon the people below her.
After each raid, the holders of whatever treasure remains move the location of their stronghouses. This never does any good, for she knows where the new ones are constructed. Whether she uses magic or employs scouts (or whether she assumes humanoid form to scout herself) is unknown.
There has not been a raid for many years, and no one can say when the next one will be. Shorliail is able to trick all those who would attempt to predict when she'll fly next.
Shorliail's lair is still a secret. Despite numerous expeditions to find it and recover lost treasures, no one has been able to discover her cache and report the information back to civilization. Naturally, King Azoun IV is offering a substantial reward including a title to the person able to come back with the information.
Among the dwarven tales I have come across is the story of a sapphire dragon deep below the surface of the Storm Horns. The tale is ancient, dating back many generations, but not so old as to be legendary.
The sapphire dragon was hunted for some time by dwarves who viewed it as a racial enemy. The dwarves were finally able to determine where its lair was, but were unable to ultimately defeat the dragon. Its treasure hoard was never discovered, and it is believed that it is either too well hidden or has been made inaccessible by normal means.
The climate of both ranges does not readily support the constant frigid conditions demanded by white dragons. However, the winter season of the northern Thunder Peaks can be very cold and sometimes lasts longer than a normal winter. A few young dragons have been known to make temporary homes in those peaks.
As the warmer season approaches and the white dragons retreat northward to more hospitable climes, sometimes a white dragon will be "caught" in the warm spell, flounder, and fail to retreat soon enough. Such dragons are generally lethargic and some may even not gather enough energy for the long flight back to colder climes. If such a dragon is encountered during the summer, it can be easier to trick.
This section deals with those creatures which do not fit in any of the above categories.
This huge, grotesque creature serves an important function in the mountains. It digests the fallen prey of the mountains' many battles. Carrion crawlers see a great deal of food presented to them in both ranges, for in each place rage many ongoing battles between races for territory and domination, as well as a multitude of struggles for survival among predators and prey. It is also common for crawlers to be used by races as weapons and as a kind of cleanser for newly acquired territory. Orcs are especially fond of using them to clean up a battle site and also of using them as tools of torture and as entertainment when they eliminate prisoners. Crawlers are looked upon as filthy parasites by most other races within the mountains. They have no natural predators, which can be a problem especially after a string of large battles. Crawlers will sometimes attack living targets when they have run out of dead prey to eat.
To address this problem, orcs have been trying to herd crawlers out of their subterranean lairs to the outside. Carrion crawlers are unaccustomed to the outside environment and quickly die from exposure to the elements. This has proved a relatively successful way of disposing of the crawlers.
However, recently some crawlers have been lasting longer in the elements. Some have seemingly been able to adapt to the above-ground environment and survive for a few weeks at a time, living off the carcasses yielded by the hunts of wilderness creatures. This could have implications for the future of the mountain ranges and the surrounding areas, for it means a new monster could be roaming the land searching for food.
My personal fear is that a pair of crawlers will be forced from underground simultaneously, then reproduce immediately afterward. The offspring would then have the opportunity to reproduce with each other and with any other crawlers that happen to be released. This could create a stock capable of surviving the elements and be the catalyst for their introduction into the list of hazards travelers face each day.
These rare crosses between spiders and lobsters have made comfortable homes for themselves in the Storm Horns and Thunder Peaks. They have an ample supply of food to sustain them and meet the needs of an increasing population.
It seems they would be able to enjoy a relatively good life within the mountains, for they have no natural predators and are able to feed upon passersby. However, the fact that their filaments are much sought after by thieves and alchemists means they are doomed. Humans and demihumans are likely to overhunt them to extinction.
The Storm Horns have been particularly drained of their supply of cave fishers. They have been hunted for many years, and since thieves. guilds are not decreasing in number, there seems to be no end in sight to the hunting.
Cave fishers have been seen retreating deeper into the mountains, seeking to keep away from entrances and places where they may be easily found. However, the deeper they go, the more threatening the native residents become. Having nowhere to run, most cave fishers seem to hole up wherever they find a good home, and do their best to prevent themselves from becoming a resource. A thieves. guild from Arabel, the name of which I pledged not to reveal, has decided to attempt to capture a cave fisher and bring it back to the city. The guild intends to use it to produce its filament and adhesive in quantity, thereby avoiding the expense and danger of hunting for the creatures in the Storm Horns. In luring the cave fishers from their lairs, the guild has discovered that the creatures are especially fond of winged prey, for they see them as easy which indeed they are. The wings are easily snared in filaments, and the beasts lack the strength or physiology to resist being pulled in by the fishers. The guild has taken to using winged animals as bait to lure the fishers from their lairs and into more vulnerable positions.
These fiendish creatures could represent a very serious threat to life within the mountains were it not for their chaotic nature and method of attack.
Cloakers almost always lie in wait for some creature to approach them, whereupon they will launch themselves and attempt to envelop their targets. at This method means there can be prolonged waiting periods between meals. Cloakers, for unknown reasons, do not seem prone to traveling very far at all.
Detailed knowledge about the cloaker isn't widespread, but I was able to spend a good deal of time with Silin Marilus, a mage who has made the cloaker his subject of study for the past several years. He says that cloakers are highly intelligent and will attack their prey in ingenious manners. Their language, which he is able to understand and is very complex and shows unusual levels of organization. It is very difficult to predict the movement or behavior of cloakers, and for this reason study of their future impact upon the mountain ranges is nearly impossible.
However, Marilus predicts that with the increasing population of warring tribes within the mountain ranges, the cloakers will migrate deeper into the mountains, seeking other more dangerous and ambitious targets. One of the most startling things he told me was of a rare conversation he had with a cloaker. (They prefer to eat people instead of talk to them, but Marilus was able to persuade one not to eat him.) In any event, during that alleged conversation the cloaker intimated that it would be able to travel from the Storm Horns, which is where it was at that time, and visit other cloakers in the Thunder Peaks. It also intimated that this would not involve using any special abilities. The cloaker would be able to essentially walk the distance. This suggests that the cloakers might know of a subterranean passageway that links the two mountain ranges, perhaps a network of deep undertargets, ground caverns or the like.
Cloakers will eat anything, and Marilus suspects that cloakers might not have to eat to survive, but do it for some unknown reason - not necessarily for pleasure.
I know of only one deepspawn. It lives far within the Thunder Peaks and is beginning to earn a reputation for itself. This is not to say that there may be other spawn living in the Thunder Peaks, but I shall speak of the one I know about, so that anyone who should encounter one may be forearmed with least some knowledge about them.
Deepspawn are able to produce all manner of violently evil creatures. They are terrible menaces, and entire tribes have pledged themselves to their destruction.
I was able to gather enough knowledge about the deepspawn from an encounter described to me by a fellow mage, Touchik Kapil. Kapil was with a party of explorers sent to map out a cavern and search for resources for a merchant house in Marsember. The group happened upon a cave that was rich in treasure and was very likely the lair for a dragon. Within the treasure strewn about the floor of the cave was a deepspawn.
During the combat with this vile monster, Kapil was able to learn some very important things about it. Deepspawn are totally evil. It should be reinforced upon everyone's mind that they will do anything diabolical to achieve their goals, which usually involve the violent, torturous death of anyone they see. They are also exceptionally intelligent and will use their keen wit to the maximum in attempting to gain every possible advantage.
However, deepspawn seem to prefer to let their offspring do the melee fighting. Kapil surmised that one reason for this might be a desire for self-protection. By occupying attackers with its offspring, the deepspawn itself would be free from attack. This theory led to two important discoveries. It is possible to rattle a deepspawn by attacking it and attending to its spawn in a secondary manner, if possible. Also, deepspawn, at least the one Kapil and his party fought, seem unusually susceptible to psionic attacks. The attacks rattled the malign creature to the degree that its spawn became less coordinated in their own attacks. This led Kapil to believe that the offspring of deepspawn might be controlled or at least encouraged mentally by the creator deepspawn. The party was semi-victorious. The deepspawn got away, but the offspring didn't.
Many types of fungi grace the mountainous regions of the Thunder Peaks and the Storm Horns, both above and below ground. There are so many, two lifetimes would not be enough to categorize them all. Nevertheless, some types are more common or noteworthy than others, and have special notes of relevance.
Violet :Purplish-hued fungi known simply as violet fungi are ambulatory mushrooms that feed upon living and dead tissue. They are often found in the company of shriekers.
This partial symbiosis has resulted in an interesting community of fungi that presents a formidable threat in some areas, particularly in the southern regions of the Storm Horns. Shrieker and violet populations have risen lately, and their natural predators - which include purple worms and shambling mounds - do not seem to be eating them fast enough.
I believe this is because the internal alchemy of the fungi has changed slightly. Something about the food they have been eating has made them distasteful.
Gas Spores: Gas spores long have been a problem with explorers who have had experiences with beholders. The two are often mistaken for each other, and each requires a different method of effective attack.
These fungi kill by choking victims in a cloud of spores, which latch onto skin and immediately begin growing. Magical methods are effective in preventing a victim's death. However, there appears to be another solution. The spores are averse to extreme dryness. If the spores come in contact with a dry surface, they remain dormant.
It is possible, therefore, to prevent death if one is able to reduce the moisture on one's exposed skin enough to prevent the fungi from growing. Thieves from Suzail have developed a powder that, when applied to the skin immediately after exposure to the spores, dries the skin considerably and chokes the spores to death before they can gain a hold over the victim. Unfortunately, the powder itself has serious side effects that cause pain and sometimes scarring.
These solitary creatures have a most unusual ecology. They are difficult to deal with, but some facts about them have become known through research (aided by payment in gems).
Their harmonious "music" is likely to be a reaction to the atmosphere. The storms that frequent both the Storm Horns and the Thunder Peaks seem to have an effect upon the creatures, for they will sometimes come out during the storms and sing. One theory is that galeb duhrs sing to ward off the storms, to prevent the terrible lightning strikes from harming smaller rocks and boulders, in which the galeb duhrs are known to take a motherly interest.
It is also believed a substantially large community of these creatures is deep within the solid rock surface of the mountains.