Wyrms of the North: Deszeldaryndun Silverwing
Dragon Magazine #236
By Ed Greenwood with supplementary material provided by Eric L. Boyd
The pryings of Volo (polished somewhat by Elminster, whose eyebrows rose on more than one occasion on his first reading of them) bring us this time to one of the good dragons of the North: Deszeldaryndun Silverwing, the Guardian Wyrm of Everlund and consort to the seldom-seen Valamaradace (the Dragon Queen of Silverymoon).
Silverwing is sometimes called "the Kindly Dragon" in the lore of the North, because he so often aids humanoids. Though he avoids human society and politics, Silverwing seems fascinated by individuals. He has healed and sheltered many lost, lonely, or hurt folk.
Some have heard that Deszeldaryndun has participated in the adventures of those he has befriended. He prefers to do such things entirely in disguise, so those he helps are often unaware of his draconic nature. He does not hesitate, however, to reveal his true powers if such a tactic can help one of his chosen companions in need. He's also a shrewd judge of character. (Silverwing is very rarely duped or taken unawares.)
Silverwing is a sleek, graceful silver wyrm who seems to enjoy a slow-paced, simple life in the wilds, spiced with frequent human contact that he initiates or for which he sets his own terms. (Those he wishes to avoid simply cannot find him if they come looking.) The Guardian Wyrm spends much of his time in human shape in the forests west of Everlund, posing as a woodcutter going by such names as Ergoth Falaer or Drouth Sammart. His ring of sustenance, and the fungus caverns and stocked fish pools he has established, provide him with ample food. When he takes wing to hunt, it is to deal with beasts he wants removed from his chosen domain, not to meet the demands of hunger.
Though only veteran rangers active in the area may suspect that certain humans they meet with are in reality Deszeldaryndun, the Guardian Wyrm is famous in tavern-tales for tricking Zhentarim agents, members of the Arcane Brotherhood, Red Wizards, and other foes of law-abiding civilization in the North. He usually confounds such foes by approximating the shapes and mannerisms of powerful and influential persons (such as Khelben "Blackstaff" Arunsun and Elminster of Shadowdale) with uncanny precision.
Silverwing often impersonates Alustriel to allow her to slip away on covert (usually Harper or Chosen) business unnoticed, enhancing her reputation by allowing her to appear to be in two places at once or to respond to foes or crises with apparently blinding speed. On many occasions, he has deliberately taken her place in dangerous situations (including several antimagic field-laden ambushes intended to slay the High Lady of Silverymoon). Alustriel has kept such aid secret from all but her sons and certain fellow Chosen. Not even most senior Harpers know of it. The dragon renders such aid purely as a friend; although he approves of Alustriel's efforts to found a realm of relative safety and sophistication in the Moonlands of Luruar, Silverwing refuses to take any open part in the affairs of Alustriel's court, and he does not recognize that it has any authority over him (or his own Dragon Queen).
In return, Alustriel renders aid to both Silverwing and Valamaradace whenever they ask. The Lady of Silverymoon has prevented several dragon battles by appearing, ready to do battle, to surprise red dragons that have arrived to challenge Silverwing to combat. On one occasion, she posed as Silverwing's human slave in a ruse that allowed him to fool a dragon foe.
The veteran Harper Orbrind Hauthleather insists that the silent, cloaked swordsman who sometimes accompanies Alustriel in her palace and when she ventures outside the city is a shape assumed by some benevolent, powerful ally. Elminster confirms that the swordsman, who goes by the name of Talyn, is Silverwing's favorite human shape when he is with Alustriel. (His consort Valamaradace is known to favor an agile, diminutive, elven female human form and use the name of Targarda on her rare forays into civilized places.)
Although Deszeldaryndun is a silver dragon and Valamaradace is a gold dragon, they're undeniably a couple, and all sources refer to Silverwing as Valamaradace's "consort." The Dragon Queen is rarely seen, but Deszeldaryndun often mingles with folk; he genuinely likes the company of intelligent, sensitive, good-aligned humans. Silverwing is an adult wyrm of graceful build and an abundant sense of humor. He has a natural talent for mimicry, and he specializes in the voices, movements, and mannerisms of humans and half-elves of both sexes.
Kindness is the defining, governing element of Deszeldaryndun's character, but he also has an impish sense of humor. This often shows itself in that he utters both sides of apparent "whispered conversations" to trick eavesdroppers into wild goose chases, precipitous actions, and spreading false rumors.
Silverwing personally enjoys gossip, learning secrets, and seeing the overall thrust and implications of all human activities in the Sword Coast North, but he enjoys a patience and self-control that no nosy human village busybody could hope to attain. Dragon Cultists and others who have tried to lure him into traps or revelations with the promise of rare or exclusive information have learned -- sometimes to their cost -- that Silverwing's interests never override his prudence and wry, wary grasp of perils around him.
An accomplished singer with a prodigious memory for old lyrics and obscure harmonies, Deszeldaryndun eagerly follows the careers and performances of both the famous and obscure bards and minstrels of Faerûn. One may often find him, in disguise, in fireside or tavern audiences, drinking in every intonation and gesture (for his own mimicry later). This habit has made him capable of perfectly aping the way certain musicians render songs.
Though he is a foe of pompous, humorless, or recklessly eager doers-of-good, Silverwing also likes and is entertained by the work of paladins, Harpers, and other positive agents in the Sword Coast North. He sometimes attaches himself to such individuals (and to less noble adventuring bands) as an uninvited, unannounced, and -- as much as he can manage -- unnoticed guardian and helper. Often when a warrior manages a "lucky escape," or a paladin prevails against impossible odds, the true cause is the watchful, unseen Guardian Wyrm of Everlund.
Silverwing lairs with Valamaradace in the Floating Mountain, a gigantic, hollow oval rock whose uppermost surface rises into a ragged row of peaks or pinnacles. The spells of the Dragon Queen keep it aloft, enshroud it in mists, and allow her to direct 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. Most folk who see it through its mists think that they're looking at one of the distant Starspires or "Sisters" (peaks that rise at the heart of the High Forest, far to the south). Occasional glimpses of its true nature have won the flying rock its nickname.
The dragon couple refer to their floating rock abode as Softwing, which often confuses others who overhear them talking into thinking they're speaking the name of another dragon. (The secretive couple encourages such misunderstandings.)
Softwing has one huge central cavern opening that a dragon of Colossal size can glide into with wings fully spread, and many tiny, twisting passages that only Medium-size or smaller creatures can traverse. These lead to two small exits from the lair, one on the underside of the rock and one on its upper surface, and to a treasure cavern underlying the main one. The small exits are known as "the open doors," and the underside pair provides the favorite manner of exit from Softwing for both its inhabitants; they dive from an exit in human form and take dragon shape while plunging earthward.
Secret warding spells guard the cavern, but the magic veiling the open mouth of the main lair cavern includes some known spells, woven by Deszeldaryndun: gentle breath, which slows falling or flying creatures of even dragon size; guardian trumpet, an alarm spell that announces, highlights, and traces intruders; and icy claw, a defensive spell that harms and paralyzes certain chosen types of creatures who fail to elude or withstand it.
Softwing has many secrets as yet unrevealed. It is known, however, that a spell operating there allows both Deszeldaryndun and Valamaradace to generate multiple phantom images as the spell project multiple images. Such images primarily confuse intruders into attacking each other or wasting spells and missile weaponry on empty passages.
No friends or allies of the Dragon Queen and her consort have been invited to Softwing except Alustriel of Silverymoon. Both Elminster and Khelben, however, have independently investigated the place in beast shapes, emerging (so far as they know) undetected. The Blackstaff told his lady Laeral what he saw and spoke of feeling a "waiting, watching presence" in Softwing that maintains an alert and tireless vigil but conceals itself from both dragons. Knowing so little, he did not care to speculate on its nature and aims, but he found it "unsettling." Elminster detected no such lurking watcher.
From his lair in the Floating Mountain, Silverwing roams a territory whose borders are set (and patrolled) by his consort; in recent years they are roughly the entire Moonwood to the north, southeast to Sundabar and back southwest along the River Rauvin to Turlangtor (westernmost of the rocky heights that lie to the south of the river, and run east to Turnstone Pass). From there they plunge southwest into the Woods of Turlang to touch the Lost Peaks, and then run west along the Dessarin to a point south of Flint Rock, where they turn and run due north across the Evermoors to the River Surbrin, and thence along its banks back to the northern tip of the Moonwood again.
Although neither the Guardian Wyrm nor the Dragon Queen like to achieve prominence in the affairs of others in this area, it seems likely that their behind-the-scenes work and vigilance prevented the spread of the evil that resided for so long in Hellgate Keep, aided the treants of Turlang in withstanding the depredations of other creatures, and kept the trolls from arising in numbers enough on the moors to sweep humans out of the inland North. The two dragons prefer to bring about the mysterious "vanishing" of key foes; they dislike the open hunting and spreading of fear practiced by so many other dragons.
The Deeds of Deszeldaryndun
The favorite prey of Silverwing, on those rare occasions when he does hunt in earnest, is the hippogriff. (He also likes horses and the deer of the High Forest.) In human form, Deszeldaryndun loves roasted almonds and cherry brandy. He likes to drink at several secluded pools in the Woods of Turlang, and once during a dry season he tore huge chunks of ice from the edge of the Endless Ice Sea and carried them south to feed his drying pools and make the forest green again.
The Guardian Wyrm spends most of his days wandering the woods west of Everlund, observing their endless panorama of life as he contemplates, uses spells to scry on distant individuals, and plans what to do next. He is especially fond of finding rare, strange, and beautiful things -- sights and deeds as well as flowers or other items -- to share with his Dragon Queen, and carries a spell -- magic memory -- that records things he sees in his mind for vivid sharing with her later. Thus, he can pass on to her the opening of a flower, the splendor of a sunset, or the touching valor of a deed performed by a human, sprite, or treant now dead.
How long Silverwing and his Queen have been together is not known by humans, though it is clearly more than a thousand years. Their love is deep and unshakeable -- both enjoy the freedom to pursue their own interests, friendships, and even love affairs among humanoids. They are capable of long-distance telepathy when necessary (probably through a permanent Rary's telepathic bondforged by Valamaradace with a wish) and admire each other even while they delightedly follow the doings of certain humans.
Neither Deszeldaryndun nor Valamaradace is interested in other dragons or even knows the names, breeds, and current deeds of neighboring wyrms. Neither has any known past or present alliances or matings with other dragons. They share similar attitudes toward other species (though Silverwing enjoys human contact far more than his Queen does) and nurture abiding hatreds only for the Cult of the Dragon and the dracoliches they've encountered.
Currently, Deszeldaryndun is working covertly to bring about a stable human realm in the North (that is, to aid Alustriel in establishing the land she dreams of, without being detected in his work) and to confound the agents of Thay, the Zhentarim, and the Dragon Cult who stray into the domain he shares with Valamaradace.
Silverwing is still vigorous and growing in power, but his selfless devotion to his Dragon Queen and his deep friendships with various lone humans in need of aid in the North are likely to bring about his eventual doom -- fighting against evil to defend the things he finds precious. As Elminster remarked, that's a fate to be proud of.
Deszeldaryndun: Male silver wyrm; CR 23; Gargantuan dragon (Air); HD 37d12+333; hp 573; Init +4; Spd 40 ft., fly 200 ft. (clumsy); AC 42, touch 6, flat-footed 42; Atk +47 melee (4d6+14, bite) and +45 melee (2d8+7, 2 claws) and +45 melee (2d6+7, 2 wings) and +45 melee (2d8+21, tail slap); Face/Reach 20 ft. by 40 ft./15 ft.; SA Breath weapon, crush 4d6+21, frightful presence, spell-like abilities, spells, tail sweep 2d6+21; SQ Blindsight 330 ft., cloudwalking, DR 20/+3, immunities, keen senses, SR 30; AL LG; SV Fort +29, Ref +20, Will +30; Str 39, Dex 10, Con 29, Int 28, Wis 31, Cha 30.
Skills and Feats: Bluff +28, Climb +32, Concentration +46, Diplomacy +53, Disguise +47, Escape Artist +37, Hide -12, Intimidate +15, Jump +51, Knowledge (arcana) +46, Knowledge (history) +46, Knowledge (local - the North) +46, Listen +47, Perform +28, Search +46, Sense Motive +47, Spellcraft +46, Spot +47; Cleave, Combat Reflexes, Flyby Attack, Great Cleave, Hover, Improved Initiative, Multiattack, Power Attack, Snatch, Wingover.
Breath Weapon (Su): As a standard action, Deszeldaryndun can breathe either a 60-foot cone of cold or a 60-foot cone of paralyzing gas. Once he breathes, he must wait 1d4 rounds before using either breath weapon again. The cone of cold deals 22d8 points of damage (Reflex save, DC 36, for half); the paralyzing gas paralyzes any creature within its area that fails a Reflex save (DC 36) for 1d6+11 rounds.
Crush: When flying or jumping, Deszeldaryndun can land on opponents three or more size categories smaller than himself as a standard action, using his whole body to crush them. A crush attack affects as many creatures as can fit under his body. Each creature in the affected area must succeed at a Reflex save (DC 36) or be pinned. If Deszeldaryndun chooses to maintain the pin, treat it as a normal grapple attack (grapple bonus +63). Each pinned creature automatically takes 4d6+21 points of bludgeoning damage that round and each succeeding round that it remains pinned.
Frightful Presence (Su): This ability takes effect automatically when Deszeldaryndun attacks, charges, or flies overhead. It affects only opponents within 330 feet of Deszeldaryndun and those with fewer Hit Dice or levels than the dragon. The affected creature must make a successful Will save (DC 37) or become shaken. Success indicates that the target is immune to the creature's frightful presence for one day. On a failure, a creature with 4 or fewer Hit Dice becomes panicked for 4d6 rounds, and one with 5 or more Hit Dice becomes shaken for 4d6 rounds. Deszeldaryndun is immune to the frightful presence of other dragons.
Spell-Like Abilities: 3/day -- control winds, fog cloud, polymorph self; 2/day -- feather fall; 1/day -- control weather. Caster level 17th; save DC 20.
Spells: Deszeldaryndun knows and casts spells as a 17th-level sorcerer.
Tail Sweep: Deszeldaryndun can sweep his tail as a standard action. The sweep affects all creatures four or more size categories smaller than Deszeldaryndun within a half-circle with a diameter of 30 feet, centered on his rear. The sweep deals 2d6+21 points of damage (Reflex save DC 36 for half).
Blindsight (Ex): Deszeldaryndun can ascertain his surroundings by nonvisual means (mostly hearing and scent but also by noticing vibration and other environmental clues) to a range of 330 feet. Invisibility and darkness are irrelevant, though he still can't discern ethereal beings. Deszeldaryndun usually does not need to make Spot or Listen checks to notice creatures within range of his blindsight ability.
Cloudwalking (Su): Deszeldaryndun can tread on clouds or fog as though on solid ground. This ability functions continuously but can be negated or resumed at will.
Immunities: Deszeldaryndun is immune to acid, cold, sleep, and paralysis.
Keen Senses (Ex): Deszeldaryndun sees four times as well as a human under low-light conditions and twice as well in normal light. He also has darkvision with a range of 1,100 feet.
Sorcerer Spells Known (6/9/9/8/8/8/8/7/5; base DC = 20 + spell level): 0 - arcane mark, detect magic, ghost sound, light, mage hand, mending, open/close, prestidigitation, read magic; 1st - feather fall, jump, shield, Tenser's floating disk, ventriloquism; 2nd - bull's strength, cat's grace, detect thoughts, protection from arrows, web; 3rd - dispel magic, gaseous form, lightning bolt, magic memory; 4th - detect scrying, fire shield, shout, stoneskin; 5th - feeblemind, guardian trumpet, gentle breath, teleport; 6th - control weather, legend lore, true seeing; 7th - greater scrying, limited wish, spell turning; 8th - icy claw, project multiple images.
Languages: Alzhedo, Chondathan, Common, Draconic, Dwarven, Elven, Illuskan, Netherese, Orcish.
Possessions: Countless coins, gems, and art objects worth approximately 34,900 gp in total, 4 beads of force, a harp of charming, a figurine of wondrous power (serpentine owl), a necklace of adaptation, a ring of sustenance, a ring of friend shield (Valamaradace has the matching ring). At the DM's discretion, Deszeldaryndun's lair undoubtedly holds other items as well, as it is the shared home of the Guardian Wyrm and his consort, a great gold wyrm in her own right, and together they have a combined encounter level of 28.
Silverwing isn't known for spectacular spells, but he can prepare and cast mighty spells that his Dragon Queen devises and passes on to him, and so his potential spell arsenal should never be underestimated.
On at least one occasion, the Guardian Wyrm dropped a "dead magic bomb" from aloft onto a party of magic-wielding foes: that is, a breakable container that unleashed a temporary antimagic field in a specific area upon breaking.
About the Author
Ed Greenwood, like his alter ego Elminster, is tall, bearded, untidy, pranksome and generally annoying -- but he freely admits it all.
Ed Greenwood works in a library in North York, Ontario, where he daily sees "people who ought to be in the Realms." So he writes novels -- and puts them there. (As to who's based on whom, he reminds us of the words of Khelben: "There are never prizes for piercing disguises.")
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.