Wyrms of the North Mornauguth, "The Moor Dragon"
Dragon Magazine #248
By Ed Greenwood with supplementary material provided by Sean K Reynolds
This young adult green dragon is known, to those who pass or dwell near the Misty Forest, to lair to the northeast, in an area of steep-sided, breakneck wooded ravines. She preys on the wild deer that roam the High Moor. Occasionally she spices her diet with a caravan or adventuring band or two, and once a month or so takes wing eastward, disappearing for a tenday at a time. Though adventurers have more than once searched for the Moor Dragon's lair, they've never found any treasure. In reality, Mornauguth is a human transformed, trapped in green dragon shape by rivals. She was once a priestess of Shar -- young, pretty, and possessed of almost reckless ambition. She rose swiftly through the ranks of a temple to the Mistress of the Night located in the backlands of Amn, making many enemies along the way. Some of her rivals within the clergy wove dark spells that bound Mornauguth into dragon form -- whereupon she was attacked by a real dragon into whose lair she'd been lured before transformation. She slew that wyrm, though she was sorely wounded. To this day, Mornauguth seeks two things: revenge on those who transformed her and recovery of her true form through the grace of Shar.
In hopes that the goddess will grant her human form, Mornauguth gives all the wealth she gains to the Dark Embrace temple in Amn, and she flies off at least once a month to perform some daring dark deed (usually a raid on a city's palace, jail, or state building) in the name of Shar.
On rare occasions, clergy from the Dark Embrace request Mornauguth's service as a steed or aid in an attack on a strong target (usually a Selûnite temple), and she has thus far given it willingly. How long she continues to do so without any sign of Shar's favor remains to be seen.
Morna Auguth was a brilliant but willful child. From her earliest days she fought with those in authority whom she -- accurately, if not prudently -- saw as dolts. She grew up as a wild, thieving runaway in the southern backlands of Amn, living on her wits, daring, agility, and (whenever caught) her beauty, until she was captured by a priest of Shar to be his personal slave. This clergyman, Ablaer the Dark Goad, intended to cut out Morna's tongue and blind her once he'd tired of her. He put her in the kitchens of the Dark Embrace to work out her days as a drudge. After several years of servitude, Morna duped Ablaer's superior into believing that the Dark Goad of the Embrace was organizing a coup within the temple, and she had the great satisfaction of seeing her cruel overmaster maimed and broken by temple torturers. Ablaer was a long time dying, and Morna whispered words of triumphant hatred over his helpless form for all the long days of his torment.
She found, however, that she'd merely traded one cruel master for another, when Ablaer's superior, the Coroanim Belvim Natrather, took her as his own plaything. Morna swiftly came to see that she now stood in the shadow of an additional peril: all Dark Embrace clergy considered her a treacherous informant. Every one of them took delight in wounding or mistreating her whenever they could find her alone. Morna began looking for a way out.
Her opportunity to escape presented itself within a year, when the Coroanim journeyed to a smaller, hidden Sharran temple in eastern Amn. Moondown House was a monastic community founded in the crumbling remnants of an old keep near Torbold. Its small but fervent priesthood were planning bloody night raids on the temples of all other gods in Amn, and they were training jaded, outlaw, and homeless youths into a fanatical strike force, the Slayers of Shar. The Coroanim wanted this force to become his own personal "Bringers of the Purge." He came with the might of his rank in long service to Shar, and the mustered magic of twenty-odd senior priests of the Embrace, to persuade the Dolorim of the House to submit to the authority of the Coroanim and make Moondown House a chapterhouse of the Dark Embrace.
The folk of Moondown were outraged but dared not show it. Their eldest clergy made a desperate plan to bring down the Coroanim and his most senior priests by means of slow-acting, subtle poisons -- knowing they faced almost certain discovery and painful death. Morna (sent by her master to spy on them) saw this as a golden chance for revenge, resolving to make the poisonings so frequent and widespread that the entire party from the Embrace would succumb before any confrontation could occur. Without telling anyone, she set about her plan, letting herself be seen at work by the elder Moondown clergy. When all the folk of the Embrace lay dead, Morna presented herself to the Moondown priests, saying she'd been guided by Shar herself in what she'd done.
Grateful and impressed, the Moondown priests adopted Morna into their ranks, immediately testing her by giving her the task of making Morna's former colleagues into zombies under her command and directing them to carry out the dirty drudge jobs of life in a monastery. Morna accepted the dung-shoveling, floor-scrubbing, and gardening without demur. Over the seasons that followed, she practiced iron self-control, always doing and saying the right thing, rising steadily in rank and influence within the Moondown clergy.
Some years later, disease claimed two senior priests. Almost immediately thereafter, a dispute with adventurers resulted in the death of one of the most powerful priestesses of the House. Moondown erupted into a frenzy of intrigues, confrontations, and stabbings in dark corridors. Morna was careful to keep her tongue still and her zombies close, using them to defend her from several murder attempts. Once many of the clergy had fallen, she emerged from her seclusion to challenge and slay her chief remaining rival, assuming the office of Prioress, third in rank over all the House.
Many ambitious priestesses who found themselves suddenly beneath her were furious. Morna survived no less than a dozen attempts to slay her over the year that followed. The tendency of stone blocks to fall from the walls of the ever-growing temple whenever she walked below became a wry joke among Morna and the novices, but she openly struck down two revealed conspirators in a spelltold battle, and she was widely (and correctly) believed to have caused the drowning of a third rival in the monastery cesspool. Morna's superiors eventually tired of the drain on Moondown resources and ordered that all hostilities cease -- upon pain of death. There were grumblings, but almost immediately the monastery found itself locked in all-out war with clergy of Selûne who'd moved into the area. Moondown House was badly damaged, and many of its clergy fled and were forced to adopt a roving lifestyle of striking at foes and then fleeing. Upland Amn became one large battlefield (certain bored merchants in Athkatla began to wager over who would prevail), and Morna became a feared warleader. She was so successful that her Moondown rivals feared that when the struggle ended in a Sharran victory (as all true followers of Shar knew it would), Morna Auguth would rule Moondown House.
They could find nothing strong enough to use against her -- until a local told them the location of a dragon's lair. Guldarath was a very old black dragon, his scales tinged purple with age, who slept for decades at a time. He always awakened ravenously hungry and flew east to the rolling plains beyond Thay where vast herds of wild beasts roamed, awaiting his devouring jaws. Usually he over-ate, then flew ponderously and sleepily home again to return to long, shining, and memory-studded dreams.
When Morna's band happened to be near the lair, one of its priestesses daringly awakened the dragon at dusk by hurling spells at its very nose. Guldarath awakened, too groggy to reflect on what had awakened him, and flew off to feed. The Moondown priestess hurried back to Morna's encamped band to say she'd found a cave she'd played in as a child, one that would serve as an admirable stronghold for them -- and that it was full of heaped treasure.
That last news aroused the Moondown clergy, and even the reluctant and suspicious Morna couldn't keep them camped any longer in the damp hollow they'd retreated to in the face of strong and well-armed Selûnite warbands. Guided by the treacherous priestess, they reached the lair. Morna was suspicious, judging it the abode of a living dragon who'd return to entrap and doom them all, and went off by herself to hide in the deepest reaches of the dungeon, in the dextral of two passages she thought too small for any dragon to traverse. That played into the hands of the traitor, who had a confederate cast a fiery spell at the back of the passage once Morna had fallen asleep.
The sleepy Prioress scrambled out of the passage to get away from whatever danger lay behind her -- straight into a spell-ambush launched by her own clergy. Paralyzed and spellbound, Morna Auguth was forced into the shape of a green dragon by means of a powerful and little-known spell, and that magic was lengthened and strengthened by the spells of no less than fourteen priestesses. While she kept her memories and skills (and feats), she gained the form and abilities of her new dragon form.
Mornauguth still hunts those same clergy members today, seeking to compel each one to remove her binding before she devours them. At the time, she was powerless to prevent them from fleeing, trailing mocking laughter. She was left alone to await the return of the owner of the treasure beneath her, knowing that he could only perceive her presence as a domain challenge.
Her paralysis ended scant moments before Guldarath appeared. A battle erupted that shook the very mountain around the true wyrm and the transformed priestess. Too startled to draw back down the narrow way and let fly with spells from a distance, the ancient black dragon pounced with jaws and fangs, and magic crackled between them as they struggled wing to wing and scale to scale in the dimness.
Morna knew she was fighting for her life, not coins or a cave to hold them, and she cared not if she ruined the lair or buried the hoard. As the two dragons rolled over and over, clawing and biting, lashes of her tail brought down many daggerlike rocks onto her foe, battering him and ultimately breaking his back. Mercilessly she carved and cooked the agonized black dragon, until Guldarath died atop his own hoard. Then she turned to hunt the Moondown clergy who'd trapped her into this battle. She found none that night, or the next day. Over the months that followed, however, she took a heavy toll of Sharran faithful, driven by rage and fear of being trapped forever in dragon form.
Self-control has returned to Morna over the years. Rage still smolders in her heart, but she has begun to use her new dragon form to greater effect. Mornauguth retains her human spellcasting ability rather than that of a green dragon. She is much heartened that Shar continues to grant her magic.
The spell that entrapped her gave Morna the breath weapon and other physical capabilities of a green dragon, and over the years she has grown accustomed to her dragon body. She can even prowl stealthily now; her thirst for secrets and knowing what's happening in the land often drives her to go creeping up to campfires by night to listen in on intrigues. More than one sleepy merchant stumbling into the woods to find tent, trail, or privy has had the -- sometimes final -- fright of his life upon stumbling over the snout of a glitter-eyed green dragon, waiting still, silent. and terrible in the night.
From such nocturnal eavesdropping, Mornauguth often learns routes and timings of livestock drives and herd hunts -- so she can help herself to such abundant food, often under the nose of a dragon whose domain she's poaching on. She's wise enough not always to dine in one locale, which would result in drovers avoiding that area or adventuring bands being hired en masse to deal with her. She knows the backlands of Amn better than most living beings, and she has a shrewd overview of Sword Coast caravan shipping. She dislikes the sea and being spotted while over it by one of the wyrms she has seen flying offshore. When she contemplates fighting above waves she could be dragged into, true fear colors the Moor Dragon's thoughts for she knows that her aquatic ability is less refined than those of native water-dwellers. While exploring, she was once surprised by a dragon turtle that shot its neck up to bite her, almost pitching her under the waves -- where she would have been truly in its clutches.
According to the sage Velsaert of Baldur's Gate, the Moor Dragon's relationships with other wyrms have been "a series of skirmishes between a reckless, ambitious interloper who cares for treasure only as a means to further her schemes, and wyrms defending hoard and domain in the traditional sense." Though Velsaert dismisses reports of the Moor Dragon actually hiring adventurers to aid her, these reports are true: From time to time, to accomplish a daring raid on the foes of Shar, Mornauguth hires established bands of adventurers to carry out diversionary attacks or take-what-they-can raids.
Her chief agent in such dealings is Temrojan Kalnar, an old, retired wine merchant, with no friends and fewer scruples, who dwells on a walled farm northwest of Crimmor. The two can signal each other with sending stones placed by Mornauguth (who seized them from a caravan some years ago), but the Moor Dragon often arrives unannounced, or creeps near Kalnar's farm of nights, using her spells to spy on her agent -- whom she trusts about as far as he could throw her, tail and all. . . .
Mornauguth has always swung between a shrewd biding and a bold recklessness that sees her time and again plunge instantly into action to take advantage of opportunity.
The Moor Dragon lairs in the broken country of the northeastern High Moor, due east from Daggerford and southeast of Secomber, in "the Rockshaws," a trackless region of sharp stony ridges and narrow, deep gullies linking springs with small cauldron lakes and sinkholes. The Rockshaws has acquired a colorful reputation as the home of many ghosts and much buried treasure. If one believes the bards, every thief or doomed dwarven treasury-guard in the North has headed for the Rockshaws as fast as possible under the weight of their loot, to bury it where monsters roam and inquisitive folk with shovels are thus few. Leucrotta and galeb duhr have always inhabited the Rockshaws, but other beasts come and go. Mornauguth hasn't bothered to seek out whatever treasures may lie in the Rockshaws, but a steady stream of wary dwarves armed with maps suggests at least some hidden gold lies there.
Mornauguth dwells in extensive caverns beneath Greenleaf Vale, at the bottom of a wide, deep shaft (thought by some local gnomes to be an ancient delve rather than a natural feature). This "well" reaches the surface in the heart of a large stand of old trees in the Rockshaws. The Vale of thick oak, walnut, maple, and chestnut trees was so named by exploring elves because they entirely fill a deep bowl valley, and to a traveler on the ground are invisible until one stands almost on the lip of one of the cliff-walls of the valley. Many incautious adventurers have fallen to their deaths (or to sudden, grievous injury) by blundering right over the edge of a Vale wall in the dark; local leucrotta have been known to deliberately chase foes toward the Vale, trying to force them into a fall on the rocks. Several small, winding trails make perilous journeys down the Vale walls, where the overgrown ruins of several long-abandoned cottages can be seen.
One old bardic ballad claims that Roadaeron, an exiled king of Westgate, in the days when that city had kings, dwelt here in hiding for almost forty years, raising his son Blaervaer to be king. The elderly Roadaeron laid down his life storming the city to put Blaervaer on the throne. The ballad claims (truthfully, according to Elminster) that Blaervaer stole away from his throne when he'd grown old (his latter days embittered by the vicious struggles among his four sons for the throne), leaving his crown behind, and fixed up one of the ruined cottages with his own hands, to spend his last few years gardening, reading, and talking with the few elves and mages who knew of his excellent parsnip wine and longsighted conversation.
Mornauguth lies in her caverns only when she needs to take shelter from fierce wintry weather, or when wounded. Sometimes she prays to Shar, rocketing up the shaft to soar at the stars and cry out to the goddess -- but otherwise she is to be found elsewhere, spying on the doings of others or basking on high mountain ledges around Amn, plotting.
The lair itself is said to be little more than a long sleeping mound of smooth sand, gathered from the sandbars washed into the cavern by several springs that traverse them. The water of the springs, according to the Harper explorer Morlden "Silentboots," is sweet, cold, and drinkable. Morlden saw no guardians, treasure, nor constructions of any kind; if he'd not daringly used a spying-spell to see Mornauguth dig up her sending stone from the sand and then lie down for slumber, he'd not have been able to say for certain if a dragon really laired in the large cavern farthest in from the bottom of the shaft at all. He stresses that other items might well lie buried in the bed of sand, which is at least 6 feet deep in all places.
Mornauguth seems to ignore the very concept of draconic territory, never defending her own lair or caring if she offends other wyrms by her roamings. Only fear of being caught over water curtails her wanderings, which are concerned with the doings of the Sharran clergy, rival priesthoods, and other human intrigues, and are broken by hunting trips and explorative forays far afield.
Mornauguth's domain, if one means which areas she'll defend against draconic foes, would seem to be the Sharran temples of Faerûn (Amn in particular).
The Deeds of Mornauguth
The Moor Dragon's life is devoted to winning back the favor of Shar, thereby regaining her human shape. If she has her druthers, however, she'll end up with the ability to change from human to dragon and back again at will, and live armored in the unfolding fondness of the Mistress of Night as a special agent of the goddess (with special powers to match). Several recent successes have given Mornauguth cause for quickening hope; Shar seems to have her eye on the dragon that worships her at last.
Mornauguth: Female young adult green dragon (formerly human cleric 8 of Shar); CR 12; Large dragon (air); HD 17d12+68; hp 178; Init +4; Spd 40 ft., swim 40 ft., fly 150 ft. (poor); AC 25, touch 9, flat-footed 25; Base Atk +17; Grp +27; Atk +22 melee (2d6+6, bite); Full Atk +22 melee (2d6+6, bite) and +17 melee (1d8+3, 2 claws) and +17 melee (1d6+3, 2 wings) and +17 melee (1d8+9, tail slap); Space/Reach 10 ft./5 ft.; SA breath weapon (40-ft. cone of acid gas), frightful presence, rebuke undead (6/day); SQ blindsense 60 ft., damage reduction 5/magic, darkvision 120 ft., immunities (acid, paralysis, sleep), low-light vision, spell resistance 19, water breathing; AL NE; SV Fort +14, Ref +10, Will +13; Str 23, Dex 10, Con 19, Int 14, Wis 17, Cha 16.
Skills and Feats: Bluff +15, Concentration +12, Diplomacy +8, Heal +5, Hide +0, Intimidate +5, Knowledge (religion) +8, Move Silently +4, Spellcraft +12, Swim +14; Blind-Fight, Cosmopolitan (Bluff), Exotic Weapon Proficiency (chakram), Improved Initiative, Weapon Focus (chakram).
Breath Weapon (Su): Once every 1d4 rounds, Morna can breathe a 40-foot cone of corrosive (acid) gas. Each creature caught in this area takes 10d6 points of acid damage (Reflex DC 22 half).
Frightful Presence (Su): Whenever Morna attacks, charges, or flies overhead, each creature within a 150-foot radius that has 16 or fewer Hit Dice must make a successful Will save (DC 21). Failure means the subject is panicked for 4d6 rounds if it has 4 or fewer HD, or shaken for the same period if it has 5 or more HD. Success indicates that the target is immune to the creature's frightful presence for one day.
Cleric Spells Prepared (6/5+1/4+1/4+1/2+1; save DC 13 + spell level): 0 -- cure minor wounds (2), detect magic, light, purify food and drink, read magic; 1st -- bless, cure light wounds, endure elements, obscuring mist*, protection from good, shield of faith; 2nd -- bull's strength, cure moderate wounds, death knell, desecrate*, endurance; 3rd -- blacklight , create food and water, cure serious wounds, dispel magic, protection from energy; 4th -- armor of darkness *, cure critical wounds, freedom of movement.
*Domain spell. Deity: Shar. Domains: Darkness (free Blind-Fight feat), Evil (cast evil spells at +1 caster level).
- Mornauguth has the skills and feats she had before her transformation into a dragon.
The Moor Dragon lives dangerously -- and loves it. Her boldness and quick wits have carried her through many "certain deaths." One day they won't, and she tests them often -- but her chances of becoming a special Servant of Shar seem better with each passing year.
The Moor Dragon commands only one notable magic.
Sending Stone: These lumps of natural, unworked stone are magically linked and crafted in pairs. Twice per day each can send a message to the other as if using a sending spell, though the two stones must be on the same plane and the person with the stone receiving the message can not automatically answer (he must activate his own stone's power to do so). The price and other information below listed below is for creating a pair of these stones (since creating one stone would be pointless without another stone to link to it).
Moderate evocation; CL 7th; Craft Wondrous Item, sending; Price: 17,000 gp; Weight: 10 lb.
About the Authors
Ed Greenwood enjoys gaming most for the people he has met and the friends he has made. As he puts it, "When I'm among gamers, I'm at home, one crazy person among many -- but I'm proud of that. When it comes to gamers, 'crazy' always includes 'intelligent,' and 'understanding,' and 'nice.' What other folks can honestly boast that?"
Sean K Reynolds is a former resident of Washington state and at the time was one of the few people there who knew how to drive in the rain. Now living in San Diego, he has fewer opportunities to practice his rain-driving skills and instead practices his sun-driving skills.