Wyrms of the North: Thalagyrt, "Old Lord Memory"
Dragon Magazine #255
By Ed Greenwood with supplementary material provided by Sean K Reynolds
This prissy and pedantic mist dragon might not like being disturbed, but he knows where the loot is buried.
This very old mist dragon lairs in a damp, dripping network of caverns on the shore of the Sea of Swords, north of Port Ilast. He keeps to himself as much as possible, and many folk who dwell nearby don't even know he exists. His hobby is collecting and remembering lore valued by the intelligent races that dwell in the North, such as singular items of treasure and magic items. One must trade information to obtain the desired knowledge from him, and both generous offers of interesting lore and a persistent but pleasant manner are needed to overcome his distaste for being disturbed.
Thalagyrt long ago earned the nickname "Old Lord Memory" both for his prissy, pedantic character and his utter fearlessness. No threat is known to have moved him, and attacks -- even by obviously formidable foes such as beholders and other dragons -- always evoke gusty sighs of boredom and grumblings at being disturbed. No one, save perhaps Thalagyrt himself (and he isn't telling), remembers who coined this term, which is usually uttered by human sages, notably those of Waterdeep. These learned folk often send adventurers with unusual lore queries to him, with a mixture of affection and exasperation, as a "court of last resort."
The mist dragon's character can best be described as doleful and grumpy, but those who often have dealings with him say that he can become a loyal friend to beings of all races and may well be a romantic at heart. His rare, unexpected, and sudden rescues of favorite friends can be attributed only to genuine caring and energetic magical spying from afar. Many of these are adventurers, which suggests that the dragon derives entertainment from his farscryings and chooses as favorites those who do the most interesting and exciting things.
The keys to Thalagyrt's character could be said to be his undying interest in other intelligent creatures and pleasure in witnessing and recording their deeds. He views all creatures with compassion and humor and probably understands "human nature" better than most humans. He can outwit foes who try to dupe him (his intellect is prodigious), but he finds riddles and games intended to impress others tiresome, and he would never himself try to deceive anyone maliciously.
Old Lord Memory is a foe of adventurers, orcs, and other marauders who attempt to slay, despoil, and steal. He also despises aggressive dragons; he thinks dragonkind fell from mastery of Faerûn because of the arrogant, ruthless, and self-interested behavior of wyrms in the past. "They're all deservedly dead now," he observes with gloomy satisfaction, "not that their passings improved anything."
The nameless caverns where Old Lord Memory dwells possess a variant wardmist laid down by a previous, unknown owner. This feature is the dragon's reason for choosing these cold, wet, coastal caverns as his home; he can control the wards to hide himself behind mists almost as solid as stone, change illumination and temperature in areas it encloaks, and so on. He's still learning some of its powers, so he keeps its secrets to himself as much as possible, but visitors to Thalagyrt's lair have witnessed the effects equivalent to cloudkill, dancing lights, dispel magic, shadow conjuration, solid fog, telekinesis (of both "visiting" items and of a large spike-studded rectangle of metal bars that the mist dragon drops from above on especially energetic intruders), wall of fog, and wall of force. The wardmist "scrambles" all mind-influencing magic, psionics, and spells from the school of enchantment, negating their effects within the caverns -- and thus protecting Thalagyrt from them. It also "fogs" arcane eye, scrying, and other magical farscrying attempts to spy into the lair from outside, though this property -- for unknown reasons -- is unreliable and intermittent. How this wardmist acquired so many powers is a mystery . . . and Old Lord Memory would like it to remain so.
Most of the lair consists of long, curving tunnels that Thalagyrt can barely fit down without scraping the walls, but its landward reaches feature a large circle of natural caverns that contain food, monetary treasure, books, stone markers salvaged from lands lost to the sea, and even lore-tablets from elder realms. Several caves around the circle are connected to a central sleeping-cavern reportedly large enough for several dragons to move around in simultaneously. It holds a glowing sleeping mound of soft, thick mosses studded with phosphorescent mushrooms.
Thalagyrt ignores the draconic concept of domains and avoids fighting any other wyrms he meets, whenever possible. "Just leave me alone" might well be his watchphrase. This means he is timid, but certainly not craven. If forced to fight, he can call, from afar by magic, swift and powerful aid from the Chosen, the Heralds, Malchor Harpell, and others who value the lore he preserves.
A foolish upper prelate of Candlekeep, now dead, once offered a large reward for the capture and delivery of Thalagyrt, alive, into the keeping of the "Learned by the Sea." Many adventuring bands tried to earn the reward and were routed either by Thalagyrt or his powerful allies, until Dove Falconhand grew weary of these demands on her time and asked her sister the Simbul to pay a visit to Candlekeep to personally persuade Most Learned Archprelate Rheldryn Uoulimpurt to rescind his reward offer publicly and add the firm advice that calling on the mist dragon Thalagyrt with weapons and forceful intent was not only foolish but apt to be fatal. It's said that "Rheldryn was tearfully eager to comply."
The Deeds of Thalagyrt
The favorite foods of Old Lord Memory are buttered fried snails and the green, slimy, soft Chultan jungle tree slugs that reach 8 feet or more in length, but he considers any slug or turtle to be a delicacy, even dragon turtles. Mist and shorewash algae are his staple dietary items, but they don't thrill him -- as, indeed, very little does. Visitors have brought him sweets and liqueurs, and they report that he loves these but hates being "bribed with food." Attempts to do so could easily backfire on would-be lore-seekers seeking to ply the dragon with edibles.
Thalagyrt is said to have the constitution of a mountain: He can eat anything, even deadly poisons or mist-dragon flesh, without apparent revulsion or ill effects. It's likely that past exposures to several poisons have engendered in him a strong inner resistance, if not immunity. Thalagyrt eats prodigiously, but not often (perhaps twice a month), though he glides almost daily through the spray of waves crashing on the shore, deriving nutrients from them. He exists in a state of perpetual dampness and is not bothered by this in the least. He can and does drink seawater without ill effects, but he prefers to "drink" the mists.
Old Lord Memory spends most days watching and listening to events all over Faerûn -- in particular, human and elven societies within the Sword Coast North. He never seems to forget anything, though his recall can be slow, and the lore he imparts to others is seldom extensive. He believes that, for most folk, "less in their heads is better."
Thalagyrt can employ spells of his own devising to "project" (as three-dimensional images) scenes that live in his memory -- and his mind holds thousands upon thousands of memories. Some are surprisingly important or private moments to humans or allied races. (Thalagyrt has made a career of collecting mind images from dying folk and others who desire to share and preserve recollections of events.)
A visitor who persuades (usually by payment of large amounts of gold coins) Old Lord Memory to yield up a choice memory can, for example, see and hear the confrontation in the throne room in Suzail where the risen Azoun confronted the traitors who sought to murder him; an elven conversation in the green fastnesses of Evermeet; or a tender, murmuring love-meeting between the great mages Elminster and the Simbul, Witch-Queen of Aglarond. These are but a few examples of literally thousands of scenes, some of them crucial to an understanding of now-crumbling treaties and long-dead heroes, rulers, and villains.
What Thalagyrt does with those payments is hire agents to learn and report tiny, apparently insignificant things to fill in gaps in his knowledge. Wherever possible, he prefers to gain such lore from primary sources -- that is, folk who were there or directly involved, not proxies or written records. Occasionally, Thalagyrt hires adventurers to rid himself of persistent attackers or bribe these attackers to go away and leave him to think and observe. He views bullies and fools with contempt, for he can't be blackmailed or successfully threatened. None know his earlier life; he's simply "always been there" in his dripping coastal caverns. He has never, to anyone's recollection, mated or consorted closely with other dragons.
Old Lord Memory has a shrewd grasp of human character, has studied human conspiracies, and has learned how to hire help to best winkle out human secrets. He knows such things as the identities of the current Lords of Waterdeep, which noble families of that city have had secret meetings with the Brotherhood of the Arcane or the Cult of the Dragon, and the fate of Gondegal the Lost King. His information is more accurate the older it is, and (always) runs out entirely about a year ago. Whether he reveals these or other things to casual or persistent visitors is another matter; Thalagyrt has his own code and makes his own judgments of those who seek him out. He may volunteer much, sell what is desired dearly, or give only cryptic hints or warnings -- or act befuddled with age and yield nothing useful no matter what coercion is applied.
Thalagyrt: Male very old mist dragon; CR 17; Huge dragon (aquatic, water); HD 27d12+162; hp 337; Init +0; Spd 40 ft., swim 60 ft., fly 150 ft. (poor); AC 34, touch 8, flat-footed 34; Base Atk +27; Grp +45; Atk +35 melee (2d8+10, bite); Full Atk +35 melee (2d8+10, bite) and +30 melee (2d6+5, 2 claws) and +30 melee (1d8+5, 2 wings) and +30 melee (2d6+15, tail slap); Space/Reach 15 ft./10 ft. (15 ft. with bite); SA breath weapon (50-ft. cone of scalding steam), breath weapon (100-ft. line of caustic slime), crush 2d8+15, frightful presence, spell-like abilities, spells; SQ blindsense 60 ft., damage reduction 15/magic, darkvision 120 ft., immunities (acid, fire, paralysis, sleep), keen senses, low-light vision, mist form, spell resistance 23; AL N; SV Fort +23, Ref +15, Will +21; Str 31, Dex 10, Con 23, Int 20, Wis 19, Cha 18.
Skills and Feats: Bluff +24, Concentration +31, Diplomacy +22, Gather Information +8, Hide -8, Intimidate +18, Knowledge (arcana) +15, Knowledge (dungeoneering) +20, Knowledge (geography) +15, Knowledge (North history) +35, Knowledge (North local) +35, Listen +34, Search +35, Sense Motive +34, Sleight of Hand +4, Spellcraft +16, Spot +34, Survival +8, Swim +30, Use Magic Device +8; Blind-Fight, Cleave, Combat Casting, Combat Expertise, Flyby Attack, Great Fortitude, Hover, Iron Will, Power Attack, Wingover.
Breath Weapons (Su): Once every 1d4 rounds, Thalagyrt can breathe a 50-foot cone of scalding steam or a 100-foot line of caustic slime. Each creature in the area of the scalding steam takes 10d6 points of fire damage (Reflex DC 29 half). Each creature in the area of the caustic slime must make a DC 29 Fortitude save or be sickened for 1d6+9 rounds.
Crush (Ex): Whenever Thalagyrt flies or jumps, he can land on opponents as a standard action, using his whole body to crush them. His crush attack affects Small or smaller opponents within a 15-foot-by-15-foot area. Each potentially affected creature must succeed on a DC 25 Reflex save or be pinned, automatically taking 2d8+15 points of bludgeoning damage during the next round unless the dragon moves off. If Thalagyrt chooses to maintain the pin, treat it as a normal grapple attack. Pinned opponents take damage from the crush each round if they don't escape.
Frightful Presence (Ex): Whenever Thalagyrt attacks, charges, or flies overhead, each creature in a 270-foot radius that has 26 or fewer HD must make a DC 27 Will save. Failure indicates that the creature is panicked for 4d6 rounds (if it has 4 or fewer HD) or shaken for 4d6 rounds (if it has 5 or more HD).
Spell-Like Abilities: 3/day -- fog cloud, gust of wind (DC 16), sleet storm, wind wall; 1/day -- solid fog. Caster level 13th.
Spells: Thalagyrt casts spells as a 13th-level sorcerer.
Blindsense (Ex): Thalagyrt can pinpoint creatures within a distance of 60 feet. Opponents he can't actually see still have total concealment against him.
Keen Senses (Ex): Thalagyrt can see four times as well as a human in shadowy illumination and twice as well in normal light. He also has darkvision to a range of 120 feet.
Mist Form (Su): At will as a standard action, Thalagyrt can assume a misty form. This power works just like a gaseous form spell (caster level 13th) except as follows: Thalagyrt loses his +26 natural armor bonus, but gains a +18 deflection bonus to AC. While in mist form, he is indistinguishable from mist or fog and gains total concealment when in any kind of natural or magical fog or mist. His damage reduction increases to 25/magic. He can fly at a speed of 75 feet with perfect maneuverability. He cannot use his natural weaponry or breath weapon, but he can use his spell-like abilities and spells. He can dismiss the effect as a standard action.
Sorcerer Spells Known (6/7/7/7/7/6/4; save DC 14 + spell level): 0 -- acid splash, arcane mark, dancing lights, detect magic, detect poison, mage hand, message, read magic, resistance; 1st -- chill touch, expeditious retreat, gemfire (new spell, see below), shield, unseen servant; 2nd -- cat's grace, detect thoughts, invisibility, mistclaw (new spell, see below), Muritho's randomscatter (new spell, see below); 3rd -- clairaudience/clairvoyance, hold person, Mestil's acid breath (Magic of Faerūn), unknown memory projection spell; 4th -- backlash, lesser geas, scrying, stone shape; 5th -- contact other plane, prying eyes, unknown memory-absorbing spell; 6th -- greater dispel magic, mislead.
Thalagyrt knows many other spells beyond those of a sorcerer of his power through use of a secret spell (see below). *Skills: Can move through water at swim speed without making Swim checks, +8 racial bonus on any Swim check to perform some special action or avoid a hazard (included in the above totals), can always can choose to take 10 on a Swim check, even if distracted or endangered, can use the run action while swimming in a straight line.
Old Lord Memory has access to almost all known human sorcerer/wizard spells of 1st-through 7th-level (through scrolls, spellbooks, and other sources) and a fair smattering of 8th- and 9th-level magic. Although spells of 7th-level and above are beyond his personal mastery, he possesses many memories (gained, of course, from other beings, by use of a unique spell that transfers not only memories, but spell knowledge) of the specifics of casting them, and of their effects. Of the spells the dragon can use, three appear hereafter. One of Thalagyrt's 1st-level favorites is of particular interest. A rare magic believed to have descended from a Netherese apprentice's spell (another copy lies in a well-guarded and hidden tome in Candlekeep), the gemfire spell would prove very useful to many dragons, Saryndalaghlothtor (described in last month's issue) in particular. Thalagyrt uses his gemfire spell on a false gemstone (a rock crystal as large as a man's head, facet-cut in the same manner as many valuable stones) that rests on a flimsy, mostly submerged stick spanning a pool of flammable oil which, when ignited, triggers an explosion that sprays in all directions; creatures within 15 feet are likely to take 1d6 points of damage from flaming oil splashes (Reflex DC 15 negates).
Word of Old Lord Memory's existence and location is slowly spreading in Waterdeep. Nobles discuss him with fair accuracy at revels, while commoners hear rumors of "a dragon in a seashore cave who sees all things and remembers everything . . . and so can reveal just who murdered so-and-so, or tell what became of vanished Uncle Auldo." Waterdhavian noble houses have begun sending messengers (heavily laden with gold) to Thalagyrt's nameless lair. Almost all of them seek answers to family queries, such as "What became of the lost heir to the house, who wandered off some eighty years back? Did he have offspring -- and if so, who and where are they?" or "Who really stabbed Lord Hrimm at the revel? An agent of his rival Lord Alandalar, or someone else -- and if the latter, why?" or "Who stole Lady Jamarra's tiara, and where is it now?" The dragon finds them entertaining diversions and helps as best he can in return for payment. Although he cares little who learns such secrets, Thalagyrt finds the second or third identical query tiresome, and if he's already told the heirs of Lord Palschane the Lord's fate, he's quite likely to give less accurate or extensive answers to sages, agents of rival houses, or creditors. (Readers who find the names in these examples unfamiliar are advised that they are first names; surnames have been omitted on Elminster's advice to protect the privacy of the noble families involved. As the Old Mage commented, "This precaution cuts down on assassination attempts against periodical columnists and editors who are too clever for their own good, helping the hired daggers to meet the demands of their already-crowded schedules . . . a thoughtful consideration, ye see, for all concerned.")
Thalagyrt is less welcoming to the adventurers and wizards who follow. He's uneasy about spreading magical information, and he has already rebuffed several overly demanding mages and Cult of the Dragon deputations. His worst disputes, however, have involved members of the Arcane Brotherhood of Luskan, and someday they might well bring about the mist dragon's doom by slaying or imprisoning him.
Thus far, Old Lord Memory has sent two ambitious Arcane underlings to their deaths by providing the whereabouts of archmage's tombs they desired to plunder -- by neglecting to mention traps and lingering spells he knew to wait therein. A more formidable Brotherhood mage died in Thalagyrt's lair when he defied the dragon and opened a trapped chest. It released a "ravening force that incinerated him" (as farscrying Arcane wizards described it). This was actually a wand of fireball triggered by a watchghost hiding in the chest.
In life, the watchghost was Norlatha Saundshauloe (LN human female Wiz7). A woman of surpassing ugliness and tall, gaunt build, Norlatha was usually thought to be a man by most who met her. She dwelt in Baldur's Gate, where she made a living casting spells for hire: leakproofings, building constructions, rust and mold removals, and the like, not adventuring magics. She's now a firm friend of Thalagyrt and serves as his "butler" -- the hands that (unseen by most visitors) set traps, move treasure, and otherwise see to the cleanliness and maintenance of his lair. She remains insubstantial and as invisible as possible most of the time, existing only as a soft, sarcastic voice with whom Old Lord Memory bandies words. Most Brotherhood spies think the dragon is less than sane and talks to himself often, but a few have observed "the gloomy servant-man" and wondered as to her origins, nature, and identity.
About the Authors
Ed Greenwood claims that he can, and often does, speak to folk who don't have silver hair, magic swords, and spells up their sleeves that can sear -- or remake -- worlds. He just prefers his more memorable tavern encounters all over the Realms to what generally confronts him in the here-and-now.
Sean K Reynolds is a vegetarian who long ago ate four one-pound hamburgers in one afternoon. He would like to thank Steven Domkowski for his help in acquiring the original Dragon Magazine text for this article.