Elminster's Guide to the Realms
The Wyrmworks - A Horde Of Dragons
by Ed Greenwood, illustrated by David Day, Dragon #322
The fair city of Silverymoon bristles with small, eccentric, poorly publicized boutiques that sell fascinating wares. Front parlors host some of these, and many have no street sign, or only the most discreet advertising. One of the most fascinating of these shops is "the Wyrmworks," an establishment that's been open for barely a year on Many Cats Lane in Northbank (the older part of the city north of the River Rauvin).
The Wyrmworks specializes in sales of dragon fangs, scales, blood, and preserved eyes, tails, talons, and pieces of wing. Its proprietors also sell maps to (and of) known dragon lairs and rent out a magically preserved and animated red dragon head.
What Meets the Eye
The shop is one of the more spectacular in Toril. The huge preserved wing of a blue dragon dominates the windowless chamber whose vaulted stone ceiling wouldn't be out of place in a temple. The wing stretches out in a grand curve from the door to the stairs on the right (a landing from which the cellar stairs go down and the steps to the living quarters of the owners and their guards ascend) around the back of the room to the door to the workshops on the left.
Beneath the sheltering magnificence of this great wing, the back wall of the shop contains a dozen maps to dragon lairs - colorful items of pure fancy painted for their looks, with small round scenes of points along the way superimposed on a verdant landscape marked with the trail to the lair. Smaller copies of each of these maps - sans most of the painting - are for sale, stored in rothé-horn tubes in racks beneath each map. The top of each rack supports a small, mirrored lamp whose angled panes serve to reflect and throw all of the lamplight up onto the map above.
The back room holds more expensive and detailed maps, available only to those who ask for them. Dragon blood and organs are handled in the same way. It should be noted that the seller never leaves customers alone in the shop and rings a bell to summon other staff to fetch such items.
The central counter is surrounded by an open aisleway that allows customers to freely walk about and view wares, a ring-shaped affair whose wooden walls are split, just below the countertops, by shallow glass display cases containing small pieces of dragon remains (mainly fangs) and trophies of rusty treasure and broken weaponry, skulls, and the like from victims or failed adventurers brought back from dragon lairs. Any dragon skulls available for sale hang suspended from the ceiling (like the lamps that illuminate the shop), usually directly above the central sales counter.
Considered trade secrets at the Wyrmworks, cleansers and preservatives for dragon remains - mostly a variety of plant oils - are never offered for sale or identification. The sales staff tells persistent customers who want to know such things, "We leave such matters to experts who desire to keep their work a mystery, and we dare not offend them lest we lose access to their services."
The usual centerpiece of the shop display is Old Roaring Rage, the famous preserved red dragon head. It's usually mounted on its own glossy, carved wooden stand off to one side (the owners discovered that placing it front and center to confront buyers caused a lot of folk to promptly turn around and leave). If the dragon head is rented out, the splendid snarling head of some fanciful, unknown sort of dragon, crafted of shining electrum by Uraerik Thaurongol (a dwarven craftsmith of Everlund), is displayed in its place. Neither head is for sale, but smaller and less ornate metal replicas (made by lesser dwarven smiths of Silverymoon) are sold for 200 to 400 gp each, depending on size and appearance. They're kept in a back room until requested.
The two floors of living quarters above the shop sport balconies, bay windows, and slate roofs. Levers at various places in their floors allow persons above to drop down portcullislike bars to wall off all doorways in the shop below - something done at any time of night or day when suspicious noises are heard from the shop, during deliveries, or whenever the shop is closed and the owners bodyguards are unavailable.
Trade At The Wyrmworks
Business at the shop began slowly - prices for dragon remains tend to be high, and the number of persons able to use them for more than decorative ornaments is relatively low - has become so brisk in the last few months that the owners are contemplating opening a branch office in Waterdeep.
Dragon remains are rare and dangerous to obtain: There's the trifling matter of slaying a dragon, the minor annoyance of butchering a cottage-sized carcass before something hungry comes along to devour it, and then transporting what you've carved off before it rots - usually through difficult terrain in remote areas. Prices rise and fall with availability of desired dragon parts, but haggling determines all sale prices.
The owners of the Wyrmworks sharply raise prices if they think a potential buyer is apt to become a danger to them or the wider Realms once furnished with dragon remains. A Red Wizard of Thay or member of the Arcane Brotherhood is charged far more than a mage of Silverymoon whose character is known to the sellers, for example. Scarcity in the face of demand also raises prices.
When buying such materials from adventurers, the Wyrmworks typically pays 50% to 75% of current sale prices, with 60% being the norm.
Roryk and Delgrath
The owners of The Wyrmworks are two white-haired, paunchy, gruff, and successful old adventurers who are crazy about dragons. They love to hear tales of dragon sightings, hunts, slayings, and battles - and try to keep abreast of which dragons are currently airing and hunting where. Constant companions and firm business partners, the two men live above the shop and staff it in shifts, their bodyguards acting as fetch-and-carry assistants.
Roryk (CG male human Ftr9) is slightly kinder and Delgrath (CN male human Sor11) more irascible, but both are worldwise veterans who keep abreast of news and possible perils. Roryk and Delgrath employ a maid - a trusted, sharp-tongued, and attentive human woman named Alrue. This tall and rangy, dusky-skinned beauty hails from Calimshan, and assists "the Old Boys" in preparation of materials, seeing to customers, and keeping all floors of the Wyrmworks clean. In a stainless steel flask, Alrue always carries a potion of invisibility they've given her, and is under orders to use it if she ever observes a theft or break-in (to try to identify and follow the culprits, and then report as soon as possible to Roryk and Delgrath).
Old Roaring Rage
During their adventuring days, the owners of The Wyrmworks found this magically-preserved and animated red dragon head among the furnishings of an abandoned wizard's tower. They have no idea what magic powers keep it supple and looking lifelike, and couldn't repair or replace it if anything happened to it. Roryk gave the head its present nickname.
Old Roaring Rage is about the size of six human heads and appears to have come from a young adult red dragon. The head has the same features today as when found; its crafters and original purpose remain mysteries.
Old Roaring Rage has been hollowed out inside and fined with a headband and shoulder-rest harness so a strong human can wear it. The neck turns, and the scales and skin shift when such movements occur, as if living muscles moved beneath. The jaw articulates, the tongue moves and looks damp, and the lips can draw back from the teeth in an expression of rage (although the nostrils don't flare). The dragon eyes are artificial - although they look real - and move in tandem to follow the direction of the wearer's head or a lever.
Another lever works the jaws to move in time with speech. Words said into a short speaking-tube inside the head are magically deepened, amplified, and made to sound wet and hissing in character.
Two faintly-glowing words are graven inside the head: "Raulithus" and "Torthar." Saying the former causes the head to seem awake and alive, even when unattended. It appears to breathe, it yawns slightly from time to time, it turns from side to side and the eyes seem to peer about - although of course it doesn't respond to events or movements around it. Saying "Torthar" causes the head to seem asleep; the eyes sag closed and stay that way, it breathes slowly and deeply, and it occasionally growls softly in its throat and shifts position slightly. Saying either word a second time ends its magical animation.
The Wyrmworks rents out Old Roaring Rage for 100 gp per day.
Faint illusion and necromancy; CL 5th; Craft Wondrous Item, gentle repose, major image; Price 2,600 gp; Weight 60 lb.
Ah, the ironies of life pile swift and deep when one talks of the Wyrmworks! Know ye what Roryk and Delgrath do not: that Alrue Crownshield is no Calishite at all, but a song dragon! (An "adult" of that species, I believe.)
Although Alrue loves her employers, she covertly works to foil depredations against dragonkind by drawing deliberately incorrect dragon-lair maps, which she sells (through intermediaries) back to her employers. Alrue's maps omit traps and warning telltales she knows of, or misdirect adventurers following them into other perils along the way. She's careful to employ different styles of mapping, varying inks and the materials she draws on, and is careful never to supply too many maps and so dominate the stock at the Wyrmworks.
We've spoken together, and she told me she's content with her life - whenever she grows restless or angry, she takes dragon form when she can do so unobserved and dives down to give the Old Boys from the shop a fright. Once, desiring a little vacation, she invented a theft and spent some days wandering Silverymoon "investigating it" (really seeing who was in town, hearing gossip, and looking at all the latest shops, goods, goings-on, and fashions).