Wyrms of the North: Arveiaturace, "The White Wyrm"

Dragon Magazine #231
By Ed Greenwood with supplementary material provided by Eric L. Boyd

dragon_231The inquisitive (not to mention foolish) explorations of the famous traveler and author Volo, filtered through Elminster, have yielded details of another dragon of the North: Arveiaturace the White Wyrm, known to sailors and minstrels alike as Iceclaws, thanks to her habit of drifting low over ships sailing off the Sword Coast and plucking up crew members for quick snacks.

This ancient white dragon is feared by all sailors who ply the shipping lanes of the Sword Coast, except for those who dismiss her as a legend -- until it's too late. The Flying Hunt of Nimbral and several aerial patrols from Evermeet have fought her in midair and forced her into flight on occasion, but most ships are helpless against her diving attacks -- and when crews scramble down into their holds to escape her snatching claws, she's been known to land on a ship and tear it apart like a child opening a gift. What makes Arveiaturace so deadly is her past: She was the steed of a wizard, Meltharond Thone, who captured and tamed her. Over the centuries of her servitude, her hatred for him turned slowly to love, and she was plunged into melancholy when at last, longevity magic failing, he died (sometime around 1326 DR).

When she is especially lonely or going into battle, Arveiaturace straps the wizard's old palanquin on her back, and takes to the skies with his skeletal figure riding between her shoulders. A web of desperate magics spun by Meltharond in his waning days keep his bones whole and floating in proper relation to each other, so the wizard's skeleton sits upright and turns its head to look in whichever direction Iceclaws is looking. An observer could be forgiven for thinking Meltharond is a lich or some other sort of undead, but the dragon is truly alone, save on the rare occasions when she mates with the white dragon Arauthator -- occasions during which Meltharond's skeleton is left at home, sitting and eternally looking at nothing.

The wizard may be no more than bones now, but his legacy has kept his faithful steed alive in the face of attacks from strange dragons, elves, and humans seeking to rid themselves of her hunting, and her own offspring as well, whom she drives from the Icepeak to fend for themselves as soon as they grow bold enough to try to slay her and take over her lair. Meltharond's magical boons are twofold: he crafted her a ring of spell triggering that allows her to trigger the wands, rods, and staves he left behind, and he taught her such rare and useful magic as she does know. She knows how wizards hurl magic, what tactics they employ, and how to recognize some popular battle spells (such as fireball and lightning bolt) by their castings. This and a familiarity with various wands, rods, and staves makes her crafty in battle against mages. One such tactic is flying low in the troughs of waves, so as to entice a wand-wielding wizard to waste magic by firing at a glimpse of her, only to have his attack absorbed or turned aside by the roiling waters. (In seas of 5 ft. or more, consider this one-quarter cover. In seas of 10 ft. or more, consider this one-half cover.) Another is toppling masts down atop mages standing on decks trying to work spells.

Arveiaturace is more intelligent -- and vastly more sensitive -- than most white dragons, but she has all the savagery and snarling hunger for revenge of her kind. She grew so used to the company of Meltharond (who chatted with her constantly, treating her as an equal despite the spells that prevented her from attacking him) that she's now governed by loneliness and has been known to spare sailors and others she snatches if they don't like wizards, don't attack her, and have the quick wits to shout out a desire to talk (or demonstrate an ability to sing) before she bites the life from them.

Several humans have escaped from a snatching by Arveiaturace having endured nothing more than a month or so of conversation with the terrifying, always-suspicious, and vigilant Iceclaws. If captives refrain from attacking her or stealing anything of Meltharond's that still lies about his rooms, largely as he left it (including many items of magic and spellbooks, some accounts say), they'll be taken to the locale of their choice on mainland Faerûn as soon as they admit to any loneliness. It is from such former guests that the wider world knows details of the White Wyrm and her lair.

It would be a mistake to conclude from this that Arveiaturace is gentle, kind, or has a soft spot for humans. She is clearly looking for a companion she can trust, but evil wizards who would refrain from cheating her, doing her other harm, or trying to enslave her -- and yet share her love for destruction and acquisition of treasure -- are just as clearly all too rare. Her loneliness drives her to answer the calls of the white dragon Arauthator to mate, but the White Wyrm deals savagely with intruders who sail too close to the isle where she lairs, and she has been known to leave her territory to hunt down adventurers who have entered her lair and then gone elsewhere in Faerûn.

Arveiaturace is more patient than most white dragons, but when roused to battle, she loves to lose all self-control and slay and destroy until nothing remains to withstand her. She knows the winds and waves of the Sea of Swords and Sword Coast (and the Trackless Sea east of a line from Uttersea to the Wave Rocks and the northern shores of Lantan) better than any other living entity, and she is adept at sinking ships and at plucking things from masts, decks, and the waves without slowing down or tumbling into even the roughest seas.

Arveiaturace seems bent on devouring a hungry dragon's share of all Sword Coast seafarers and in making dragons and lesser races alike terrified of venturing north of Ruathym. On rare occasions she will use her skills to rescue shipwreck victims or retrieve floating items -- if rewarded with generous amounts of gems and treated with respect, as an equal and not some semi-intelligent, easily-manipulated beast.

Over the years, she has developed a relationship of mutual respect with Laeral, the Lady Mage of Waterdeep, and with the seafarer and shipwright Old Aldon of Mintarn, but the White Wyrm is spoken of with awe and fear in Candlekeep: She once heard from a captive that a certain sage of that establishment had written disparagingly of Meltharond. She arrived unannounced to tear the roof from the main building, snatch up the writer, and set straight his views on the dead wizard. It's reported that less than a month later, Laeral of Waterdeep personally delivered a freshly printed tome from Candlekeep entitled The High History of the Mighty Mage Meltharond to the White Wyrm, and stayed with the dragon for more than a tenday, talking day and night through. She has refused to answer queries as to just what was discussed, but sailors have noticed that the White Wyrm now seems to turn a blind eye to vessels sailing near Waterdeep.

Arveiaturace's Lair

Iceclaws makes her lair in a frigid complex of caverns high up in the eastern face of the Icepeak, an isolated island south of the Sea of Moving Ice and west of Fireshear. They lie beside smaller chambers that were once the sanctum of Meltharond Thone. In fact, Arveiaturace dug her caves so that she could carefully remove the walls along one side of the wizard's rooms, to allow her access to them with snout and claw without destroying them with her bulk.

The rock of the Icepeak is soft, crumbling easily under a dragon's claws or a climber's boots alike, and Arveiaturace took the time to sculpt out spaces large enough for her to turn easily in, beat her wings, and sprawl at ease. Unfortunately, such huge caverns are inherently unstable; bits of the roof keep falling when she brushes them with an upraised wing, or when she lands heavily. (Ice at the three entry caves often makes her skid as she lands.) Eventually the White Wyrm may find herself at the bottom of a roofless ledge, with a fifth or more of the Icepeak that was once above her gone.

Outside each cave entrance is a sheer drop onto jagged rocks, and few creatures dare to dwell on the Icepeak with a hungry white dragon. There are rumors of gnome tunnels that reach up from deep under the sea into the heart of the Icepeak. Also, the more foolish sort of adventurers come visiting the island all too often, drawn by tales of the back wall of the deepest of the White Wyrm's caverns: the wall that glitters from roof to floor with heaped diamonds. Some believe these tales to be true, although a few also mention a side cavern crammed with Arveiaturace's other treasure, all tumbled carelessly together: suits of armor, coins, all gems except diamonds, weapons, and other things that look important or valuable, perhaps even magic items (Iceclaws ignores likely-looking items that she seizes, using only things of magic she knows to have belonged to Meltharond). At least one stone golem lies stiffly among the heaped wealth, its origin and means of control unknown. Adventurers hearing talk of the Icepeak lair in dockside taverns up and down the Sword Coast are warned that a hill of cracked and gnawed bone fragments has built up on the rocks below the caves of the White Wyrm -- and that almost all of those bones belonged to human adventurers before they provided Arveiaturace with a meal.

One of the wands crafted by Meltharond can generate unseen servants, and the White Wyrm often makes use of these forces to manipulate small items that are beyond her personal reach or Dexterity, but it is thought that no creatures serve Arveiaturace in her lair or elsewhere, and that she avoids formal alliances or ties that can summon her to battle.

Arveiaturace's Domain

From the Icepeak, Arveiaturace holds sway over a territory that stretches along the Trackless Sea east of Evermeet from Tuern and the Sea of Moving Ice (where long-necked monsters lair under the ice and erupt to do battle) in the north to the shores of Lantan in the south, and east to take in the coastal shores and headlands from Tethyr north to Mount Sar beyond Waterdeep.

Arveiaturace has been known to make forays into the Crags and northern Neverwinter Wood, but other dragons (notably the green dragon Claugiyliamatar) dispute her right to freely enter this region. The topaz dragon Iltharagh (who dwelt near the mouth of the Iceflow) fought several vicious territorial battles with Arveiaturace in the skies over the city of Luskan -- inconclusive struggles in which both dragons were badly wounded and had to retire to their lairs for long periods of recuperation. Since Iltharagh's recent conversion to a dracolich (assisted by the Cult of the Dragon, who provided the dragon with steady food, lair-guards, and worshipers), however, the former topaz male hasn't bothered to defend any territory of its own.

The Deeds of Arveiaturace

Humans are the favorite prey of the White Wyrm, and she spends most of each day hunting over the waves, plucking meals from the decks of ships and using her wings to flip over vessels that menace her with ballistae, fiery missiles, or spells. She drinks from freshwater cascades and lakes in the mountains of Ruathym, on Gundarlun, and on northern Alaron and the Korinn Archipelago. When on these long hunting forays, Arveiaturace has been known to curl up and rest atop heights on Barth (tallest crag of the midsea islets known as "the Teeth"), Tonter (the most seaward of The Singing Rocks), Ulduth (the more southerly of the two seabird-haunted Weed Rocks due south of Carcathen and west of the Sea Tower of Nemesser), and even on Sunset (in the Moonshae Isles) and on Mintarn itself. This last resting perch led to her not-quite-friendship with the shipwright Aldon, but it is a spot she rarely dares to frequent today (what with Zhentarim wizards forced west by the fall of Zhentil Keep, sorcerers fled from the turmoil of Tethyr, and outlawed mages from all over the Sword Coast lands fetching up in Mintarn).

When she's not hunting for food or ships that might hold gems, Arveiaturace stays at home, brooding over what Meltharond left behind. She finds entertainment in outwitting and devouring adventurers and in defending her territory against dragons that dare to dispute her authority. She allows young dragons to dwell unmolested at Dragonhome in the Moonshaes and several places in the Nelanther within her territory, so long as they obey her whenever she issues commands to them; she'll tear them apart on the spot if they defy her. Her loneliness drives her to journey inland when Arauthator calls or whenever wizards use magic to contact her, for she hopes that one of them will have the skills to bring Meltharond back from the dead. Adventurers planning to lure Iceclaws to her doom are warned that she expects treachery to await her on such trips, and she brings along magic items she can wield as well as her full measure of cunning. It is Elminster's firm belief that Arveiaturace regularly uses a crystal ball or other scrying device in her lair to observe weather and shipping, and to scout ahead at her summoner whenever she's called upon by anyone.

Besides her raid on Candlekeep and countless merchant ships, and her aerial battles with the elves of Evermeet, the Flying Hunt of Nimbral, and others, Arveiaturace is famous for tearing apart a midair portal to other planes that opened uncomfortably close to her lair and disgorged some sort of flying ship and an aerial guard of no less than twelve young adult black dragons! The White Wyrm screamed a challenge and charged to the attack, destroying the ship, the gate, and every last dragon in a wild fray that lasted for most of a day -- despite the hostile and quite spectacular spells of several wizards aboard the ship. Those accounts come from no lesser sources than Khelben Arunsun of Waterdeep, Alustriel of Silverymoon, and several senior mages in the service of other members of the Lords' Alliance -- who were all called upon by an awed agent-wizard of the Alliance aboard the Lady of the Waves caravel out of Waterdeep.

Arveiaturace isn't known to have any special bonds with, or hatreds of, any individuals or species beyond the aforementioned relationships. She shows no signs of being interested in closer contact with the dragons or other inhabitants of Faerûn, save wizards who can bring her beloved Meltharond back to her.

In recent seasons, her hunts have grown bolder, particularly along the coast of Tethyr. Strife and gathered power seems to attract her, and word has spread along the Sword Coast that the Cult of the Dragon is becoming very interested in converting her to the Scaly Way. At the very least they would like to eliminate her and place another dracolich in her lair at Icepeak. It is not known if Arveiaturace is aware of this rumor.

Arveiaturace's Fate

The White Wyrm seems to heal quickly and enjoy vibrant health and strength; it is unlikely that disease will claim her. Misadventure is always a peril, and Arveiaturace's lonely existence could end abruptly at any time, if she loses her latest battle. The Cult of the Dragon seems to be the greatest threat to her future. In addition, there are constant mutterings in Evermeet about ways to eliminate her, and young, ambitious elves may just mount a successful attempt one of these days.

On the other hand, Arveiaturace could become the scourge of the Sword Coast, invigorated anew, if someone returned Meltharond Thone to life or unlife. She could also, if Thone regained control over her and desired it so, become a messenger and a potent controlled fighting force, of much less danger to civilized folk than she is at present. In this potential, she is unique among currently powerful dragons of the North.

For the nonce, Arveiaturace's sad life remains an inspiration to minstrels up and down the Sword Coast -- and the bane of all sailors. "The White Wyrm came calling" has recently become a popular euphemism for the death of a sailor, whatever the cause.

Arveiaturace: Female ancient white dragon; CR 17; Huge dragon (cold); HD 30d12+180; hp 375; Init +4; Spd 60 ft., burrow 30 ft., swim 60 ft., fly 200 ft. (poor); AC 37 (touch 8, flat-footed 37); Atk +39 melee (2d8+11, bite) and +37 melee (2d6+5, 2 claws) and +37 melee (1d8+5, 2 wings) and +37 melee (2d6+16, tail slap) or +39 melee (2d8+16, crush); Face/Reach 10 ft. x 20 ft./10 ft.; SA Breath weapon (50-ft. cone of cold), frightful presence, spell-like abilities; SQ Cold subtype, dragon traits, freezing fog, icewalking, keen senses, spell resistance 24; AL CE; SV Fort +23, Ref +17, Will +19; Str 33, Dex 10, Con 23, Int 14, Wis 15, Cha 14.

Skills and Feats: Bluff +22, Concentration +36, Diplomacy +34, Escape Artist +20, Hide -8, Intimidate +4, Knowledge (arcana) +32, Listen +34, Search +32, Spellcraft +32, Spot +34; Alertness, Flyby Attack, Hover, Improved Initiative, Multiattack, Power Attack , Snatch, Wingover.

Breath Weapon (Su): Arveiaturace can breathe a 50-foot cone of cold every 1d4 rounds; damage 10d6 (cold). A breath weapon attack allows a Reflex save (DC 31) for half damage. Arveiaturace is immune to her own breath weapon.

Frightful Presence (Su): This ability takes effect automatically. It affects only opponents with fewer hit dice or levels than Arveiaturace has. The affected creature must make a successful Will save (DC 27) or become shaken. Success indicates that the target is immune to Arveiaturace's frightful presence for one day. On a failure, creatures with 4 or fewer HD become panicked for 4d6 rounds. Those with 5 or more HD become shaken for 4d6 rounds. On a success, the creature is immune to Arveiaturace's fear effect for one day.

Spell-like Abilities (Sp): 3/day--fog cloud, freezing fog, gust of wind, wall of ice; save DC 12 + spell level; cast as a 10th-level sorcerer.

Cold Subtype: Immune to cold damage; takes double damage from fire unless a saving throw for half damage is allowed, in which case it takes half damage on a success and double damage on a failure.

Dragon Traits: Immune to sleep and paralysis effects; darkvision 60 ft.; low-light vision.

Freezing Fog (Sp): This ability is similar to a solid fog spell but also causes a rime of slippery ice to form on any surface the fog touches, creating the effect of a grease spell. Arveiaturace is immune to the grease effect because of her icewalking ability.

Icewalking (Ex): This ability works like the spider climb spell, but the surfaces Arveiaturace climbs must be icy. It is always in effect.

Keen Senses: Arveiaturace sees four times as well as a human in low-light conditions and twice as well in normal light.

Sorcerer Spells Known: (6/7/7/6/4; base DC = 12 + spell level): 0 -- detect magic, mage hand, mending, open/close, prestidigitation, ray of frost, read magic, resistance; 1st -- alarm, expeditious retreat, Kaupaer's skittish nerves (see Magic of Faerûn), obscuring mist, shield; 2nd -- eagle's splendor, endurance, resist elements, see invisibility; 3rd -- analyze portal, dispel magic, sleet storm; 4th -- Tirumael's energy spheres , wall of ice.

Possessions: Suits of armor, coins, gems (including a couple of diamonds), weapons, and other things that look important or valuable worth approximately 3,600 gp, half a dozen of Meltharond's spellbooks (contents to be determined by the DM), crystal ball, ring of spell triggering, and a wand of unseen servant (750 gp). At the DM's discretion, the lair could hold the following specific item should he or she set up traps and other encounters that use the treasure guidelines in the Dungeon Master's Guide: ring of spell turning.

Languages: Common, Draconic, Illuskan.

Arveiaturace's Magic

Little is known of the magic Meltharond Thone cast upon the White Wyrm or made available to her, beyond this one (highly useful to all creatures lacking human-like hands) spell: Awaken from Afar

Magic Items

Ring of Spell Triggering: This ring allows the wearer to continually utilize the effects of the spell awaken from afar.

Caster Level: 9th; Prerequisites: Forge Ring, awaken from afar; Market Price: 90,000 gp.

Ed Greenwood is the creator of the Forgotten Realms campaign, as well as the author of several bestselling fantasy novels. Many fans may recognize him more readily as Elminster the Sage.

Ed Greenwood's Wyrms of the North column ran from Dragon Magazine 230 through 259, detailing over two dozen unique dragons of Faerûn. Although written for 2nd edition AD&D, the original articles largely eschewed game statistics in favor of descriptive text, with the exception of the occasional spell or magic item. These articles will be reprised in a regular column on the Wizards of the Coast website with the addition of game statistics and updated spells and magic items for the new D&D.

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