Wyrms of the North: Valamaradace, "the Dragon Queen"
Dragon Magazine #257
By Ed Greenwood with supplementary material provided by Sean K Reynolds
The Wyrm Regent of the North is a benign monarch, but only a fool would test her powers.
Valamaradace is a living legend of the North. The Dragon Queen of Silverymoon is seldom seen (in her own shape, at least) by humans, but many have felt the warmth and aid of her power and decrees. With her consort Deszeldaryndun Silverwing, the Guardian Worm of Everlund (an adult male silver dragon covered in an earlier "Wyrms of the North"), Valamaradace reigns over a domain as absolutely as any human ruler. Thankfully for the future of civilization in the North, she's chosen to further Alustriel of Silverymoon's dream of the Silver Marches by allowing that realm to take in her own domain.
That's not to say the Dragon Queen has renounced her self-appointed duties of guardianship over her domain or become a lackey of the Silver Marches. Instead, Valamaradace has dedicated herself not only to maintaining her personal standards over conditions in her domain, but also to continually testing the fledgling realm of the Silver Marches, ferreting out deceit and treachery among its rulers and agents. For such work, the ancient female gold dragon takes on many guises. Her favored form when making one of her rare forays into cities is that of Targarda, an agile, diminutive female human possessed of "elfin" looks and a little magic; only the Chosen of Mystra and a few Harpers know that this beautiful mageling is in truth the Dragon Queen.
When in disguise, Valamaradace considers herself "on holiday" so far as surface inclinations and manners are concerned. Though she clings always to her goals and views of how the world should be, she'll act out a chosen role to the hilt, straying far from her true nature in words and apparent actions if need be. When appearing as herself, however, she reverts to her own gentle, soft-spoken ways. The Dragon Queen quietly and calmly thwarts violence, stops cruelty, and rebukes pride and arrogance whenever she encounters it. Often she is forced to remind "good" beings that they cheapen themselves when they adopt the fierceness, bad graces, and attitudes of the creatures they struggle against.
Valamaradace did not confer a title on herself; rather, it was given to her sometime around 826 DR by the dying Dragon Queen Mairogra, a red dragon who'd ruled a domain centered roughly on Everlund but hunted vigorously elsewhere. Mairogra was laid low in the end by the concerted attacks of many adventurers. Valamaradace came upon the mortally wounded Queen and cast the only spell she had that could help Mairogra: a painquench magic that made the red dragon's last hours easier. Many sages suspect she agreed to act as a monarch because nurturing an area of countryside to be "the way she wanted it" is the task she most wanted to do, and the way she wanted to spend her life.
The keys to Valamaradace's character are her kindness, empathy, and desire to understand the beings she encounters and cater to their needs as long as she doesn't harm other living creatures. She finds the concepts of traps, vandalism, and wanton destruction abhorrent, and she is a foe of arsonists, orc hordes, and others who visit destruction upon a whim or for their own pleasure. Prudence for the maintenance of her own reputation (and therefore, that of her territories) leads her to engage in snooping or fighting in disguise, rather than openly as the Dragon Queen. She and her consort are working to give the impression that many other dragons besides themselves patrol their domain, attacking predators and aiding others in Valamaradace's name. They often do this by assuming other forms, and the Dragon Queen in particular has become an accomplished mimic. Valamaradace loves acting, and her subtle sense of humor comes through when she's "being someone else" more than it does when she's playing the role of the gently regal Dragon Queen.
Valamaradace knows more about the doings of humans, humanoids, and other civilized creatures (dismissed by many wyrms as no more than loud, swarming "small prey") than almost all other dragons. Her desire to understand other beings leads her to converse with them and really listen to what they say, remembering almost all of it without the distortion wrought by the egos of most dragons.
Her relationships with other wyrms have been, in the words of the human sage Velsaert of Baldur's Gate (fast becoming recognized as an authority on the history of dragons up and down the Sword Coast), "a series of avoidances while in dragon form and careful observance from disguise. Trust comes slowly to the Dragon Queen -- the sole exception is Deszeldaryndun Silverwing, now her consort. He won her heart after a courtship that followed on his thrice rescuing her from the attacks of other wyrms. Many red dragons down the years have coveted the territories Valamaradace now commands, thanks to a legend widespread among dragons that claims Mairogra had amassed a half-mile deep pit entirely filled with gems." If there ever was any such pit, it's been covered over with a deep layer of earth and never sought out by the Dragon Queen, and most sources (including both Volo and Elminster) agree it probably never existed . . . but its lure remains strong.
The Dragon Queen and her consort Deszeldaryndun dwell in the Floating Mountain. This gigantic, hollow, oval rock is kept aloft by the Dragon Queen's magic, which also enshrouds it in mists, and directs it wherever she desires. Usually it hovers low over the woods due west of Everlund, or south of there on the verges of the High Forest. The dragon couple refers to it as "Softwing."
Valamaradace inherited Softwing from her predecessor Mairogra, who left it in a resting bed of deep sand (a natural sandpit) southwest of Everlund when she didn't have it aloft. Old Northern legends of wandering children "kidnapped by a dragon who moved its lair with them inside" are believed to have stemmed from human encounters with the Floating Mountain.
Today, the Floating Mountain looks like a large, mottled gray potato riddled with gaping holes. Inside are a series of tunnels and chambers with silky smooth walls. Spells concealing "cupboard" holes are set high in the caverns, where some treasure -- including magic items -- is kept. (In particular, the Dragon Queen seems to delight in collecting two sorts of trophies from foes who battle her: magic armor and any magic items carried by wizards.) Other spells are known to warn the draconic couple from afar if intruders have entered the lair and to awaken the equivalent of long-range arcane eye spells that can transmit what they see to Valamaradace no matter how distant from her lair she might be.
The Dragon Queen keeps no servitor creatures at her lair and rarely invites anyone into it, but enemies seeking to sneak in and steal have sometimes met Harpers and others waiting to meet Valamaradace. These guests vigorously defended the Floating Mountain against intrusion.
The Dragon Queen determines the borders of her domain. In recent years its boundaries have changed little. They take in the entire Moonwood to the north, running southeast to Sundabar and back southwest along the River Rauvin to Turlangtor (westernmost of the rocky heights that run south of the river and east to Turnstone Pass). From there her domain extends southwest through the Woods of Turlang to the Lost Peaks, then west along the Dessarin to a point south of Flint Rock. At this point, her border turns to run due north across the Evermoors to the River Surbrin, then along its banks back to the northern tip of the Moonwood again.
Within this area, Valamaradace tries to change the bounty of the land and activities of inhabitants and visitors to her will; she and her consort patrol often and watch diligently over unfolding events -- and all intrusions. She knows that her work has made this area even more attractive to predators (orc hordes, for instance), and she is always warily looking for the approach of raiding forces.
The Deeds of Valamaradace
The Dragon Queen gathers, grows, and markets (in Everlund and Silverymoon) many sorts of food crops, herbs, and their seeds in her domain. She maintains several "root cellar" storage caverns (their temperature modified by control weather spells) in the wilds west of Everlund. A resident colony of sprites guards them against depredations by rodents and more intelligent foragers.
Valamaradace treats her entire domain as a gigantic garden, patrolling its borders and planning how best to tend its growing things. Her consort Deszeldaryndun deals with most intruders and "civilized" beings within the territory, while Valamaradace sees to removing diseased trees and plants, planting new ones, balancing light and shade, marsh and dry land, altering drainage, and so on to create as lush and stable a land of plenty as she can. She's constantly busy "adjusting the balance" of living things and refining her spells to give her greater control over the domain. Neutral-aligned beings are tolerated as travelers in her territory, but not as settlers; evil beings are destroyed or driven out when detected (which has led some Harpers and other Good-aligned beings to dub the domain "the Haven"). Good creatures discover that though temples and abbeys are few and far between, many hermit-priests and other healers dwell in the Dragon Queen's domain, and that it's largely free of strife. Wounded and sick beings often tarry in the Haven to recover.
Valamaradace uses her skills and gifts for the benefit of all so that none might go hungry or needy in the Haven. Beings who misuse her bounty, however, to laze away their days in her domain expecting free food and handouts are visited by superiors, creditors, or their agents (sent by the Dragon Queen), to be "sent back to productive tasks."
Valamaradace: Female ancient gold dragon; CR 24; Gargantuan dragon (fire); HD 35d12+315; hp 542; Init +0; Spd 60 ft., swim 60 ft., fly 250 ft. (clumsy); AC 40, touch 6, flat-footed 40; Base Atk +35; Grp +63; Atk +48 melee (4d6+16, bite); Full Atk +48 melee (4d6+16, bite) and +43 melee (2d8+8, 2 claws) and +42 melee (2d6+8, 2 wings) and +42 melee (2d8+24, tail slap); Space/Reach 20 ft./15 ft. (20 ft. with bite); SA breath weapon (60-ft. cone of fire or weakening gas), crush 4d6+24, frightful presence, spell-like abilities, spells, tail sweep 2d6+24; SQ alternate form, blindsight 60 ft., damage reduction 15/magic, darkvision 120 ft., detect gems, immunities (fire, paralysis, sleep), keen senses, low-light vision, luck bonus, spell resistance 30, vulnerability to cold, water breathing; AL LG; SV Fort +28, Ref +19, Will +28; Str 43, Dex 10, Con 29, Int 28, Wis 29, Cha 28.
Skills and Feats: Bluff +28, Concentration +47, Diplomacy +51, Disguise +47, Escape Artist +10, Gather Information +13, Hide -1, Intimidate +28, Knowledge (arcana) +47, Knowledge (architecture and engineering) +24, Knowledge (geography) +34, Knowledge (nature) +39, Knowledge (nobility and royalty) +24, Knowledge (Silver Marches local) +47, Listen +47, Move Silently +10, Perform (act) +19, Sleight of Hand +7, Spellcraft +32, Spot +47, Swim +43, Use Magic Device +34; Blind-Fight, Cleave, Combat Reflexes, Enlarge Spell, Extend Spell, Flyby Attack, Greater Spell Penetration, Power Attack, Spell Penetration, unknown druidic feat*, Weapon Focus (bite), Weapon Focus (claw).
*Valamaradace has a feat (exact benefits and prerequisites unknown) that allows her to take some druid spells as arcane spells in the same manner that gold dragons may select spells from the Good, Law, and Luck domains as arcane spells.
Breath Weapon (Su): Once every 1d4 rounds, Valamaradace can breathe a 60-foot cone of fire or weakening gas. Each creature in the area takes 20d10 points of fire damage (Reflex DC 36 half) or 10 points of Strength damage (Fortitude DC 36 half).
Crush (Ex): Whenever Valamaradace flies or jumps, she can land on opponents as a standard action, using her whole body to crush them. Her crush attack affects Large or smaller opponents within a 20-foot-by-20-foot area. Each potentially affected creature must succeed on a DC 36 Reflex save or be pinned, automatically taking 4d6+24 points of bludgeoning damage during the next round unless the dragon moves off. If Valamaradace 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 Valamaradace attacks, charges, or flies overhead, each creature in a 300-foot radius that has 34 or fewer HD must make a DC 36 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 -- bless; 1/day -- geas/quest, sunburst (DC 27). Caster level 15th.
Spells: Valamaradace casts spells as a 15th-level sorcerer.
Tail Sweep (Ex): Valamaradace can sweep with her tail as a standard action. The sweep affects a half-circle with a 30-foot radius extending from an intersection on the edge of her space in any direction. Each small or smaller creature in the swept area takes 2d6+24 points of damage (Reflex DC 36 half).
Alternate Form (Su): Valamaradace can assume any animal or humanoid form of Medium size or smaller as a standard action three times per day. This ability functions as a polymorph spell cast on herself (caster level 15th), except that she does not regain hit points for changing form and can assume only the form of an animal or humanoid. The dragon can remain in her animal or humanoid form until she chooses to assume a new one or return to her natural form.
Blindsense (Ex): Valamaradace can pinpoint creatures within a distance of 60 feet. Opponents she can't actually see still have total concealment against her.
Detect Gems (Sp): This divination effect is similar to a detect magic spell, except that it finds only gems. Valamaradace can scan a 60-degree arc each round. By concentrating for 1 round, she can determine whether there are any gems within the arc; 2 rounds of concentration reveal the exact number of gems; and 3 rounds reveal their exact location, type, and value. This ability is the equivalent of a 2nd-level spell, and Valamaradace can use it three times per day.
Keen Senses (Ex): Valamaradace can see four times as well as a human in shadowy illumination and twice as well in normal light. She also has darkvision to a range of 120 feet.
Luck Bonus (Sp): Once per day, Valamaradace can touch a gem, usually one embedded in her hide, and enspell it to bring good luck. As long as she carries the gem, she and every good creature in a 100-foot radius receives a +1 luck bonus on all saving throws and similar rolls, as if she had a stone of good luck (see the item description in the Dungeon Master's Guide). If she gives an enspelled gem to another creature, only that bearer gets the bonus. The effect lasts 1d3+30 hours but ends if the gem is destroyed. This ability is the equivalent of a 2nd-level spell.
Water Breathing (Ex): Valamaradace can breathe water as easily as she can air. She is fully at home underwater, and she takes no penalties there (as if under the effect of a freedom of movement spell).
Sorcerer Spells Known (6/9/8/8/8/8/7/5; save DC 19 + spell level): 0 -- detect magic, detect poison, disrupt undead, light, mage hand, message, ray of frost, read magic, resistance; 1st -- alarm, ironguts (Magic of Faerûn), know protections (Magic of Faerûn), painquench (exact effects unknown, possibly similar to the rosemantle spell from Magic of Faerûn), shield; 2nd -- alter self, cat's grace, invisibility, soften earth and stone, wood shape; 3rd -- diminish plants, plant growth, slow, suggestion; 4th -- arcane eye, dimension door, freedom of movement, holy smite; 5th -- dispel chaos, Mestil's acid sheath (Magic of Faerûn), mind fog, transmute rock to mud; 6th -- greater dispel magic, mislead, prismatic eye (Magic of Faerûn); 7th -- greater scrying, Presper's spell matrix (Magic of Faerûn).
The Dragon Queen wields an impressive roster of spells, but they pale beside the most powerful item at her disposal, the crown of the mountain.
The Crown of the Mountain: This ancient artifact appears as a crown or spike-studded circlet of rough, unadorned stone that can't be shattered by any known means. It alters to fit the brow (or wrist, or tail) of its wearer and seems immune to most spell effects (and all divinations and destructive magics thus far applied to it).
The true origin of the crown is in dispute. Some say it was a gift of the dwarven gods to their people, others that it was yet another powerful tool devised by a Netherese sorcerer-king, and there are even some who hold to the view that it was brought to Toril from some other world, suffering the loss of its primary purpose and some of its greatest powers in the process.
The first reliable record of the crown (as opposed to the disputed, fanciful tales of it being bestowed upon mortals by various gods, or worn by a Netherese archwizard as he went down fighting a titanic spell-battle against over forty hostile mages) occurs in three separate adventurers' diaries, all of which mention a hitherto-unknown wizard by the name of Larbrand "from southern lands" who used the crown in a quarry in the Tashalar circa 336 DR. The writers hailed from different cities around the Shining Sea; their attribution of a more southerly origin for Larbrand has led many to think he came from Halruaa or perhaps even Zakhara. The truth is now lost; even Larbrand's fate is unknown, beyond his later encounter with the sage Hoarmandar, whose description of the crown is Elminster's main source.
What is certain is that two dwarven scouts exploring the Underdark near Chessenta in 523 DR (they reported "a realm of spiders" and similar unpleasantnesses thereabouts) met with a human merchant, one Urabbastrar Tholokh, who was busily using the crown to carve out ever-larger storage cellars, with plans of perhaps establishing a mine if he could find an ore-vein. Horrified at the thoughtlessly large and unstable cuttings Tholokh had already made, the dwarves agreed to steal the crown away from him -- even if they had to slay him on the spot to get it. A few breaths later, Tholokh broke through into an existing cavern and was swarmed over by carrion crawlers so numerous and so energetic that the dwarves were forced to flee. When they dared return, days later, the dwarves found no sign of whence the human had gone.
The crown surfaced once more, this time in 811 DR, where it came into the possession of the Dragon Queen Mairogra. A priest of Talos was using it to hollow out a pinnacle-shaped island in the Nelanther to create a large temple-citadel. Unfortunately, he either stumbled upon or attracted the attention of someone or something magically powerful, and one night lightning rained "down into the sea like white, crackling fingers" from the sky. In the morning, the temple was no longer a pinnacle of rock, but only a few drowned fingers jutting out of the rolling waves . . . and the crown was hidden again.
How the first Dragon Queen acquired it remains a mystery, as are its original purpose and possible additional, related powers -- and Valamaradace shows no interest in seeking these out or letting anyone experiment with or even touch the stone circlet.
Campaign Use: The crown does possess other powers not revealed here; Valamaradace is aware of some, but not how to access or control them -- and will never do so, since certain of these powers can be awakened only by wearing the Crown in the right location (ruins outside the Dragon Queen's domain) and undertaking the proper processes. It's rumored among sages who study such things that Candlekeep and even some far humbler libraries might hold hints of the procedure. It's also rumored that the Crown can control other items besides the Floating Mountain, including certain "floating" ruins or downed flying ships, castles, or even cities. At least one lorebook warns that using the Crown for such purposes forever changes the mind of the user or brings him under the fell influence of some ancient, malignant sentience.
Any being(s) wearing, holding, or directly touching the crown of the mountain can withstand (ignoring all damage and effects) all natural and magical forces that normally do harm due to extremes of temperature, precipitation, and wind. For instance, a wearer could walk normally into a gale-force opposing wind, breathing and conducting feats of careful manual dexterity (such as writing a note) where others would be swept away or reduced to clinging helplessly to a rock or other immovable object.
The crown also protects its wearer from being buried, struck, or injured in any way by the impact or weight of stone missiles (even magic ones), avalanches, rockslides, and deliberately-telekinesed or dropped rocks, including sand, mud, and gravel. It surrounds the wearer with an aura of protection that is only about 2 inches deep but turns aside even stone spears, fired stone-headed ballista bolts, shards of rock from explosions only feet away from the crown-wearer, and even collisions between the wearer's falling, flying, or hurled body and jagged stone spars. This can allow a crown-wearer to deliberately leap off a cliff and land without taking any falling damage -- so long as that landing is on rocks. The magic of this item allows even a bound and blindfolded wearer to land without harm on rocks upright and on "safe" footing . . . even if that footing is a tiny ledge on the face of a cliff, or a pinnacle with empty space on all sides. If such a perch collapses into an avalanche, the magic of the crown keeps its wearer "riding" the avalanche without being buried and can bring him or her to any number of other "safe standings" during the slide, if circumstances (not the deliberate will of the wearer) call upon it to do so.
The crown has many powers that can be activated as a standard action. Some of its powers are categorized as "limited" and others are "unlimited." Activating any power automatically ends any active "limited" effect, while "unlimited" are not affected and can have multiple activated at once.
The limited powers are as follows: 6/day -- greater teleport, stone shape; 3/day -- telekinesis, 2/day -- move earth, stone tell; 1/day -- control weather, disintegrate, invisibility.
The unlimited powers are: At will -- focal stone (see below), greater levitate. Through the use of these two spells, the Dragon Queen keeps the Floating Mountain aloft.
Curse: Any creature of less than 8 Hit Dice or levels who attempts to invoke a power of the crown (as opposed to merely benefiting from its "constant" properties) is affected as if by an imprisonment spell for 1d6 years. (The crown falls to the ground, and the user vanishes into the earth, trapped until a freedom spell is properly cast on the spot or the curse expires, whereupon the earth returns the being to where the user was standing when the curse took effect.)
Any being who invokes the control weather, disintegrate, greater levitate, or telekinesis powers of the crown must immediately make a Fortitude saving throw (DC 22) or be affected by a hold monster spell (heightened to 9th-level and made persistent) for 24 hours. The being's intellect and senses remain unaffected, and both the power invoked and other crown powers remain under the being's control, insofar as the being can function while immobile and unable to speak. Removal of the crown from a paralyzed being doesn't end the paralyzation, and neither does any attack affecting a paralyzed crown-wearer, but attacking that being after the crown has been removed ends the paralysis instantly.
Suggested Means of Destruction
- The crown of the mountain melts away harmlessly if cast into a flow of molten volcanic rock and then targeted by six disintegrate spells simultaneously.
- The crown can be crushed by the blow of any hammer or tool with an enhancement bonus of at least +1 if struck while on an altar dedicated to Grumbar or any dwarven or gnome deity. A furious release of wild magic accompanies such a passing.
- The crown can be destroyed by enclosing it together with no less than six earth elementals inside a sphere of magical force (several spells afford usable barriers; only trial and error can determine which dweomers are insufficient), then causing the sphere to dwindle to a fist-sized or smaller extent. This results in an explosion in which the elementals perish, wild magic is hurled forth in all directions, and the ground and immediate surroundings are shattered, pulverized, or hurled away. The blast deals 20d6 points of force damage to all creatures within a 60-foot radius (no saving throw). Elementals and objects take double damage.
Strong (conjuration, transmutation); CL 22nd; Weight 1 lb.
The Dragon Queen is too tempting a target to avoid attacks from evil Faerûnians who are truly mighty in magic. Elminster foresees a grim future for her but pledges that he and the Seven will do what they can to see that "her shining presence remains as long as possible."
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.