Wyrms of the North Olothontor, "The Minstrel Wyrm"
Dragon Magazine #251
By Ed Greenwood with supplementary material provided by Sean K Reynolds
Oh, come let me sing of
Olothontor the Old.
Music in thrall this lone
wyrm doth hold.
If you would live to see
Sing long of love, and
loss, and pain.
Sing as you've never
And alive you may be
gently shown the door.
-- Stanza from "Oh, Come, Let Me Sing," a Harper drinking ballad of anonymous collective authorship
Some Harper legends live and breathe, though they're thought by most to be mere failing figments of fancy or memory. Olothontor "the Old," the Wyrm of Minstrelry, is one such; even many Harpers think him a minstrel-embroidered figure of legend.
Yet, as Volo found (very nearly to his ultimate cost), Olothontor lives not far north of Waterdeep. This venerable blue he-dragon keeps to himself save when intruders call, and he has thereby completely escaped the notice of other dragons and -- save as a Harper legend -- of the many residents of Waterdeep.
Olothontor loves music above all else and gives extravagant gifts to lady bards and minstrels whose work pleases him. He dreams of someday finding a mate: a blue dragon who can sing as enchantingly as a splendid human singer. He has sometimes wistfully told intruders who get him to talk about music about this dream, but no Cult of the Dragon member or other intruder has yet empowered a blue she-dragon to sing, even temporarily. Intruders into his lair who play or sing won't be attacked, so long as they furnish good music and plenty of it.
First heard of in trail lore books written circa 570 DR and now collected at Candlekeep, young Olothontor recklessly raided traders encamped at what is now the Rat Hills. Olothontor was observed to break off his attack and perch on the drifting hulk of a ship he'd just demasted (and depopulated) to listen when a trio of spellsingers broke into song. The spell they raised was a defensive dome that twisted incoming lightning bolts into outgoing, stabbing rays of cold -- as the blue dragon discovered to his chagrin when the song ended and he bounded into the air (sinking the ship) to renew his attack. Wounded, he fled, flying raggedly -- but no one there failed to notice that he veered away during his second attack so as not to harm the three humans who'd sung.
Oebryn Evergar, a bard exploring Anauroch some years later, spoke of encountering Olothontor half-buried in the sand, obviously ready to attack. Instead, the wyrm merely raised his head, causing a shower of sand, to listen as the initially unwitting bard sang his way closer. The blue dragon paced along beside the bard like a restless cat on the prowl, demanding more songs until night fell and the bard fled, whereupon the dragon devoured his camels. When morning came, and Evergar grimly set out on foot to meet his doom under the scorching sun, the dragon swooped down and shaded him with a spread wing, all that day, demanding in return more songs. Thus they traveled, Evergar and the dragon, for several days until the edge of the desert was reached and the bard slipped away from the seemingly tireless Olothontor by walking on through the night.
Minstrels who traded ballads around a shared campfire in the Sword Coast wilderlands some years later reported discovering, as they settled down for slumber, that a blue dragon had crept up to the fire to listen, lying flat on the ground less than 10 yards from the flames.
A Harper, leading a song around another campfire in the North a decade later, realized something was amiss when one of the bass voices joining in was so deep that it set the jaws of everyone present to chattering. When he strode away from the fire to investigate, he found himself eyeball-to-eyeball with a blue dragon, its chin on its paws.
"Continue," it rumbled, "just as before, and all will be well." The Harper did just that. A dozen or more similar incidents were recorded until the night in 726 DR when a successful company of adventurers calling themselves Glaerikim's Band set about to lure and trap this dragon who listened to music. They hired an unwitting handful of minstrels to perform in a wilderland forest glade, having first built (and concealed, under hides heaped with leafy tree boughs and mosses) a quartet of loaded ballistae in the trees. Glaerikim himself sat in the top of the tallest nearby tree as night fell, watching the darkening skies as the music began. When the silhouette of a dragon glided silently overhead, turned, and settled slowly to the ground, Glaerikim slipped down the rope he'd left ready and went to each ballista, helping to unhood it as quietly as possible. When the music ended around the embers of the dying fire, one of the minstrels (as instructed) loudly beckoned the others over to a corner of the clearing, to "teach them a secret song." When Glaerikim saw the dark bulk of the dragon steal nearer, he whistled -- and four ballista-bolts flashed at their target. One missed, one glanced off, one struck and shivered apart -- and one tore through a wing, earning a roar of rage and pain that shook the very trees. The dragon made a wildly flapping ascent into the sky. The adventurers stood their ground, ready to blast the wyrm with their most powerful magic items as the dragon wheeled against the stars.
They never got a chance to wield them. One minstrel alone escaped by plunging into a crevice between two rotting fallen trees and feigning death for hours, and from his telling we know that lightning lashed that glade in crackling bursts as bright as day, hurling cooked bodies high into the air in repeated macabre dances, while the air echoed with howls of rage and savage songs of doom -- snatches of the same triumphant battle-songs that humans were wont to sing all over Faerûn in those days. Awed, the survivor told everyone of the Minstrel Wyrm who'd slain Glaerikim's Band and seven minstrels besides . . . and a new legend of the North was born.
From that day to this, tales of Olothontor have been dismissed as pure whimsy because the dragon is no longer seen crouching near firesides, and because sages scoff at the idea of a desert-lairing blue dragon, lover of hot winds and baking sun and sand, dwelling in the oft-frigid, damp Sword Coast lands. Velsaert of Baldur's Gate (fast becoming recognized as an authority on the history of dragons up and down the Sword Coast), had already investigated a tale told by the lady bard Duthchanna of Athkatla when Volo spoke with him.
Velsaert accompanied the Harper bard Schalalla Irdree on an expedition to find the Minstrel Wyrm (following Duthchanna's directions) and discovered that the dragon was alive and real, dwelling in caverns heated by a volcanic vent and employing magic to listen to music from afar, and even to "hold" the sounds of that music for days (to be heard over and over again). Velsaert and Schalalla escaped with their lives after Schalalla gave a performance that the sage described as "songs that repeatedly moved me to tears, despite the danger -- and more than once did the same, as near as I could tell, to the dragon." The Harper bard promised the dragon she'd return with different songs, a better harp, and alone a season later -- and, the sage believes, she kept that promise.
As far as Volo and Velsaert know, the Minstrel Wyrm still lairs near Waterdeep, waiting for the promised returns of various bards and minstrels. The keys to Olothontor's character are his hunger for music and his reported battle-calm; though betrayals enrage him as they do any dragon, he enters anticipated battles with easy, unruffled calm, and is undistracted by outsiders hurling spells into the fray.
Olothontor dwells in a cavern in Mount Araddyn, just north of Mount Sar along the Coast Road. His lair is easily reached from the highway (up a boulder-studded meadow slope between two weathered rock arms of the mountain that bear many scorings where the blue dragon has sharpened his claws.) The front of the lair is a crumbling, old stone mansion that was once the home of the brother titans Endrigul and Roevryn Taluth -- and was later taken over by the self-styled "Gnome King" Karlus "Goldgoblet" Dlinshoulder to be the seat of his court, only to be emptied by repeated orc raids. Somewhere in its huge but hollow stone pillars are said to be hidden many brass pots full of gnome gold -- coins bearing the grinning, bristle-bearded likeness of Karlus. Today, travelers find the mansion pillaged of all but a few tumbled pieces of massive stone furniture, covered with a thick blanket of dust, bird droppings, and the bones of small animals.
Olothontor has placed spells in the huge central rooms (chambers built to a grand scale by the titans, with high frescoed ceilings balconies, and fluted pillars), so that any living creature entering them causes favorite songs to be heard. These magical "recordings" give the Minstrel Wyrm a warning of intrusion and awes the most timid of intruders into flight from this "haunted" place.
The innermost rooms (the last open to the sky, and its shattered ceiling allowing a deft dragon to drop down in a landing that must be more a precise pounce than anything else) run up to meet a cliff-face of Mount Araddyn -- and there lead into the cavern where the dragon dwells.
This cave is warm, wide, and long, and its floor is strewn with gravel (for use with Olothontor's pebble wind spell). Its floor is broken about two-thirds of the way in by a 40-foot-wide chasm that drops down about 400 feet to a volcanic flow and splits the cavern from side to side. Hot air swirls up out of this chasm, and there is a faint, sullen red glow down below.
On the far side of the heated chasm, Olothontor lies at ease on a bed of treasure, his most prized items (magic musical instruments) behind him, well away from the heat. From time to time, as he shifts about, gold coins spill over the edge of the chasm. He'll await most intruders calmly, chin in hand, and demand music before he uses his spells or breath weapons on them. If sorely pressed, he'll leap across the chasm and burst through the intruders, seeking the open air of the mountain (where he'll perch and await emerging adventurers).
Would-be thieves and attackers must cross the chasm somehow, of course, with Olothontor free to strike at them. Well above the main cavern floor where the treasure lies is a high ledge lined with boulders; Olothontor can stretch up to it and bat the boulders at intruders (and when enough of them are gone, he can clamber up onto this ledge so that attackers must climb up to him).
If Olothontor observes a strong band of intruders coming from afar, he often awaits intruders in a side cave that opens into the walls of the chasm a short distance beneath the main cavern. Hidden there, he'll create an illusion of a bound and helpless human captive "standing" on the "solid stone" floor of the cavern. In other words, he'll conceal the empty air where the chasm gapes open with an illusory "floor" of stone, hoping to lure the intruders to their deaths through falling. Olothontor usually depicts a chained, furiously-struggling warrior woman, but he's had centuries to perfect this act and can also provide a very convincing, seductively beckoning princess, despairing merchant, and so on -- complete with detailed life histories, full knowledge of Sword Coast ways and business customs, and a tale of where the dragon has gone. Olothontor can surge up out of the "underneath" cavern with a roar to confront foes, or bound up in near silence. If the majority of a band of intruders fall for his illusion trick -- "The dragon can make himself very small and has gone down there to where he keeps his magic" -- the Minstrel Wyrm races to the opening of that half-mile long crevice and walls it shut by shoving a carefully carved boulder into place. He has three cottage-sized stones, each of which can seal off the end of the crevice -- two precisely, and one leaving small gaps around its edges. Olothontor simply shoves all three boulders in a heap and waits for the trapped intruders to starve or waste any powerful magic they might have in attempts to get out.
No servants or companion creatures dwell in Olothontor's lair, but for about a fifth of each year, cumulative time, various Harpers and other bards can be found there on promised "return visits." Some of them have been making annual appearances for almost 20 years. These visits seldom overlap; Olothontor prefers to have one visitor at a time in his home.
From his lair, Olothontor roams rarely. When he does, he may wing anywhere between Mintarn and Anauroch, and Neverwinter and Silverymoon to Tethyr, wherever he can hear music. Olothontor is well aware that other dragons regard certain areas as their personal domains, and he flies high or very low to avoid attention. He normally flies this way anyway; terrified, cowering humans seldom create tuneful music.
Olothontor would regard an attempt by any other dragon to dwell or habitually perch on Mount Araddyn as an invasion of his own domain -- and he would ferociously battle any wyrm foolish enough to lair nearby and regard Olothontor's presence as a threat to his or her domain. The Minstrel Wyrm really just wants to be left alone by other dragons -- as well as by rampaging orc hordes, human adventurers with greed and glory in their eyes and sharp swords or waiting spells in their hands . . . and anyone else who doesn't love music.
The Deeds of Olothontor
The favorite prey of the Minstrel Wyrm is anything handy in the way of "hoofed beasts conveniently herded to Waterdeep for sale," which he likes to swoop down on and devour in a lightning-fast, gobbling raid (by night if need be). He goes for long periods without dining but has been known to gorge himself utterly when the opportunity presents itself -- such as the time he flew north to meet a southbound orc horde crossing the Evermoors and imitated the notorious red dragon Klauth by just rolling around on hundreds of orcs before settling down to a feast that lasted four days -- for it took that long for all the orcs streaming south to reach his jaws.
Like a hunting cat, Olothontor spends long periods dozing and even more time lounging on his bed of treasure listening to music or considering how best to employ his magic next. Olothontor collects music boxes and other mechanical or magical means of producing tunes, and he has amassed over 600 such items. They occupy various high niches and ledges around the main cavern of the blue dragon's lair, on both sides of the chasm, and Olothontor knows the precise placing of each; if one is missing, moved, or damaged, he'll notice within a matter of hours and devotes all of his energies -- in a maniacal, at-all-costs manner -- to regaining the lost items.
Olothontor is believed to have mated only once, with a blue she-dragon of Anauroch. Ingeireirautha is a possessive, ruthless adult dragon who dwells near the eastern edge of the Great Desert and is so self-absorbed that she may have forgotten all about "Olothontor the Dreamer." For his part, Olothontor's disinterest in even meeting other dragons may well be founded in his experiences with Ingeireirautha, despite the three to five offspring they produced (most of whom flew away east or southeast soon after hatching, following -- or defying -- their mother's directions to Raurin).
Olothontor's current keen interest is in finding spells that can capture and reproduce music with ease, so that he can "record" music spontaneously and not have to arrange performances beforehand (or cast a spell and make his own music on the spot). He wants to acquire stray melodies or sounds whenever he hears them and ultimately build a library of joyous music instead of hiring musicians to play a few stilted songs that he must struggle to capture magically under exacting conditions. This drive to achieve faster, better spells consumes his driving energies, and he's thinking of sponsoring or coercing certain brilliant mages into crafting the spells he can see in his dreams.
Olothontor: Male very old blue dragon; CR 19; Huge dragon (earth); HD 30d12+180; hp 375; Init +4; Spd 40 ft., burrow 20 ft., fly 150 ft. (poor); AC 37, touch 8, flat-footed 37; Base Atk +30; Grp +49; Atk +40 melee (2d8+11, bite); Atk +40 melee (2d8+11, bite) and +35 melee (2d6+5, 2 claws) and +34 melee (1d8+5, 2 wings) and +34 melee (2d6+16, tail slap); Space/Reach 15 ft./10 ft. (15 ft. with bite); SA breath weapon (100-ft. line of lightning), crush 2d8+16, frightful presence, spell-like abilities, spells; SQ blindsight 60 ft., create/destroy water, damage reduction 15/magic, darkvision 120 ft., immunities (electricity, paralysis, sleep), keen senses, low-light vision, sound imitation; AL LE; SV Fort +23, Ref +17, Will +23; Str 33, Dex 10, Con 23, Int 18, Wis 19, Cha 18.
Skills and Feats: Bluff +29, Concentration +39, Diplomacy +28, Hide +12, Intimidate +8, Knowledge (history -- the North) +14, Knowledge (local -- the North) +14, Listen +37, Perform (sing) +20, Search +37, Sense Motive +34, Spellcraft +34, Spot +37, Use Magic Device +29; Cleave, Extend Spell, Flyby Attack, Great Cleave, Improved Initiative, Iron Will, Power Attack, Snatch, Weapon Focus (claw), Weapon Focus (bite), Wingover.
Breath Weapon (Su): Once every 1d4 rounds, Olothontor can breathe a 100-foot line of lightning. Each creature in the area takes 18d8 points of electricity damage (Reflex DC 31 half).
Crush (Ex): When flying or jumping, Olothontor can land on Small or smaller opponents as a standard action, using his whole body to crush them. This attack affects a 15-foot-by-15-foot area. Each creature in the affected area must succeed on a Reflex save (DC 31) or be pinned, automatically taking 2d8+16 points of bludgeoning damage during the next round unless Olothontor moves off of it. If he chooses to maintain the pin, treat it as a normal grapple attack. A pinned opponent takes damage from the crush each round it doesn't escape.
Frightful Presence (Ex): Olothontor can unsettle foes with his mere presence. This ability takes effect automatically whenever he attacks, charges, or flies overhead. Each creature within a radius of 180 feet that has less than 30 HD is subject to the effect. A potentially affected creature that succeeds at a Will save (DC 29) remains immune to Olothontor's frightful presence for one day. On a failure, a creature with 4 or fewer HD becomes panicked for 4d6 rounds, and one with 5 or more HD becomes shaken for 4d6 rounds. A panicked creature takes a -2 morale penalty on saving throws and must flee. A shaken creature takes a -2 morale penalty on attack rolls, checks, and saving throws. Olothontor ignores the frightful presence of other dragons.
Spell-Like Abilities: 3/day -- ventriloquism; 1/day -- hallucinatory terrain. Caster level 11th.
Spells: Olothontor casts spells as an 11th-level sorcerer.
Blindsense (Ex): Olothontor can pinpoint creatures within a distance of 60 feet. Opponents he can't actually see still have total concealment against him.
Create/Destroy Water (Sp): Three times per day, Olothontor can produce an effect like that of the create water spell, except that he can decide to destroy water instead of creating it. This effect automatically spoils unattended liquids containing water. A magic item (such as potions) or any item in a creature's possession must succeed at a Will save (DC 29) or be ruined. This ability is the equivalent of a 1st-level spell.
Keen Senses (Ex): Olothontor sees four times as well as a human in shadowy illumination and twice as well in normal light. It also has darkvision out to 120 feet.
Sound Imitation (Ex): Olothontor can mimic any voice or sound he has heard, anytime he likes. A listener must succeed at a Will save (DC 29) to detect the ruse.
Sorcerer Spells Known (6/7/7/7/7/4; save DC 14 + spell level): 0 -- daze, detect magic, ghost sound, mage hand, mending, open/close, prestidigitation, read magic, resistance; 1st -- comprehend languages, expeditious retreat, ghostharp (Magic of Faerûn, normally a Brd 0 spell), , identify, mage armor; 2nd -- amplify (Magic of Faerûn, normally a Brd 1 spell), darkness, detect thoughts, Melf's acid arrow, whispering wind; 3rd -- dispel magic, pebble wind (see below), protection from energy, vampiric touch; 4th -- phantasmal killer, shout, stoneskin; 5th -- cloudkill, wall of stone.
The Minstrel Wyrm keeps his "recording" spells secret, and most of them seem to be decidedly unstable experimental magic at present, anyway. It should be noted that Olothontor uses sung, whistled, plucked, or hummed tunes to activate many waiting, "hung" spells around his lair -- spells that can trigger darkness effects, cause individual boulders to fall from the ceiling or to swing aside and allow a small avalanche of loose stones to pour down from ceiling cavities, and so on. Some of these spells were apparently cast by mages Olothontor aided during his travels.
Here's one of the more mundane magics that Olothontor uses to defend himself when attacked in the desert or in his lair. When resting far from home, rivermouth gravel bars and quarries are his favorite haunts because of this spell: Pebble Wind'
It's just a matter of time before someone thinks he has music and magic enough to enter the lair of the Minstrel Wyrm and destroy Olothontor. Right or wrong, any extensive battle might wreck the lair (and even rend Mount Araddyn, if hotrock flows begin), ending the peaceful existence of the blue dragon who loves music. If Olothontor survives and seeks revenge, Waterdeep itself could suffer -- or the High Road could become impassable until adventuring might is whelmed in earnest and the Minstrel Wyrm is destroyed. Claugiyliamatar, the aggressive Dragon of Kryptgarden Forest (a green wyrm) reportedly confronted Olothontor in midair on one occasion, but the blue dragon simply ignored her, continuing on his way. Not quite daring to attack so calmly superior a dragon, Claugiyliamatar circled away but by all accounts was enraged, spending hours in a shrieking, tail-lashing shredding of trees and grassy hillsides. She might well do just about anything to bring down Olothontor if the opportunity presents itself in the future.
Certainly the Minstrel Wyrm places himself far more at risk from attacks than most blue wyrms of his age, solely through his love of music. His listening forays may yet bring him to grief, as he crouches silently somewhere enjoying music, well within range of hostile poisoned javelins and blades or spells seeking the doom of a certain tune-smitten blue dragon. On the other hand, Olothontor might not regard such a death as a bad way to die, if die he must -- for not even dragons have learned the secrets of forever enjoying life as they did when youthful.
About the Authors
Ed Greenwood doesn't mind if he never sees a dancing unicorn before he dies. A really good discussion with a talking lion will do.
Sean K Reynolds agrees that a talking lion would be cool; a talking lion that eats only mean people would be even cooler. He would like to thank Steven Domkowski for his help in acquiring the original Dragon Magazine text for this article.