Wyrms of the North Iymirth, "The Dragon of the Statues"
Dragon Magazine #242
By Ed Greenwood with supplementary material provided by Sean K Reynolds
The investigations of Volo include some confused notes about a "desert-dwelling giant blue dragon that seems to have some magical link with a . . . way of surviving sandstorms? Special magic?" Elminster has consented to lay bare rather more than such cryptic queries about the Doom of the Desert, Iymrith, the blue dragon of the Chill Sands. Few folk of the North ever see this legendary "Dragon of the Statues" unless they brave the frigid wastes of Anauroch east of ruined Ascore, or dare to explore the Netherese ruins scattered up and down the Fallen Lands along the western edge of the Great Desert. Iymrith roams these regions tirelessly. She is engaged in an extended exploration of the surviving ruins of Netheril and has already gained much old magic from them. She has also developed quite a few unusual spells. Perhaps the most important of these is the magic that has kept her alive thus far: force burn, a spell derived from magic left behind by Netherese mages that is deadly to the subterranean race known as the phaerimms. Fear of it has driven them to ignore Iymrith rather than turning their power to the task of destroying her.
Adventurers are warned that Iymrith has developed spells that employ sand as a weapon -- and that apparently confer the ability to use such magic on some of the many gargoyle servants she has created. Iymrith is first heard of in adventurers' journals written circa 570 D.R. as a young and aggressive dragon who smashed a Bedine trading encampment on the edge of the desert, who tore apart a caravan bound for the distant Sword Coast, and who left the camp laden with desert gems.
Iymrith apparently challenged an older dragon somewhere in the vicinity of the High Moor shortly after her emergence from Anauroch -- and had to flee for her life. Sorely wounded, she crashed into some ruins (possibly remnants of fallen Netheril) in the Forgotten Forest and hid for some years, healing slowly and stealing forth only by night to find food. At some point during this time of nighthunting, she somehow gained magic beyond the normal capabilities of even the oldest blue dragons; Elminster believes she was captured by a powerful archmage and modified by him to serve as an intelligent servant. This belief is supported by sightings of a blue dragon flying over the Delimbiyr Vale with a disintegrating, robed human skeleton perched between her shoulders in a high-backed saddle. This was almost certainly Iymrith, who soon began to raid camped caravans and Sword Coast settlements by night, unleashing wizard spells from a roster strong and varied enough that many mages used magic -- in vain -- to hunt down a rogue wizard they believed to be dwelling in hiding somewhere in the Greypeak Mountains.
Iymrith apparently turned to digging apart the ruins along the western Desertsedge when a chance landing to rest yielded her a stone chest packed full of spellbooks. Her enthusiastic digging brought her jaw-to-jaw with her first phaerimm, and her life very nearly ended there, but the narrow escape alerted her to this mighty menace from below, and she redoubled her efforts to find magic, which she carried off to a windswept mountaintop. Inevitably, Iymrith was seen flying back and forth and was confronted by an adventuring band hoping to be rich dragonslayers by the end of the day. They ended up as corpses instead, and Iymrith was goaded into experimenting with certain of the spells she'd already found to make her first gargoyles. Iymrith needed loyal, sturdy servants to guard her lair and dig for her while she kept watch for phaerimms and humans from a safe vantage point. Her gargoyles began as crude, ungainly gliding stone monsters but soon grew more elegant and deadly.
When her gargoyle army was strong enough, Iymrith set them to digging up Netherese ruins, while she spent hours flying high above the western desert and adjoining lands, seeking herds of rothé and the like for food and ruins that might not be visible from the air. The shifting sands of Anauroch soon rewarded her when she unveiled the leaning top of a lone sorcerer's tower. Iymrith tore it open and found her richest magic yet. She made it her lair for some centuries, until one day phaerimms came boiling up out of its depths to slay her. By then, Iymrith was ready for them. Her force burn spells and other magic destroyed many phaerimms and sent the rest fleeing -- and in the time she'd won by her victory, the Doom of the Desert set about shifting all of her accumulated treasure north to another ruin she'd found as the restless sands laid it bare: a stone city roamed only by the skeletons of undead Bedine. The dragon has still not learned the city's name but has dwelt in it ever since, driving away all other dragons and phaerimms who approach, and making ever-stronger gargoyles to dig into the city's tombs and cellars for her and to guard what she has already gained. The key to Iymrith's character is her driving, all-consuming ambition. In the words of Elminster, she is "the least lazy and sleepy wyrm I have ever known."
Though she has several caverns in the Greypeak and Sunset Mountains (caves that have their own pools of water but which she keeps otherwise bare), the Doom of the Desert's lair is the nameless ruined city that lies northeast of Ascore, half-buried in sand. There she lies atop her hoard of gems in a huge temple or meeting-hall, with her tail filling the entrance to her smaller chamber of magic. All around her are gargoyle guardians, and her lesser gargoyle servants fly patrols to watch for intruders, tunnel the sandchoked chambers and passages beneath her, and tirelessly transport rocks from the nearby mountains to create a permanent "windbreak dune" or wall on the windward side of the city.
At least one adventuring band has reported being fired upon by "stonehurling engines" (trebuchets) that were aimed and re-aimed with great accuracy by gargoyles seeking to dissuade any invasion of the city. These weapons could hurl showers of boulders almost a mile from the crumbling outer walls of the ancient city -- reinforced by gargoyles swooping on the intruders from aloft, dropping boulders on them.
Teeter-totter pitfall traps and spellhurling gargoyles were reported by the only mage to reach the city streets and survive. (He gained entry -- and soon left hastily -- by means of teleport spells.)
From her nameless city, Iymrith roams the western edge of Anauroch as far south as the Greycloak Hills and as far west as the eastern edge of the High Forest (now that Hellgate Keep is no longer the peril it once was). She seems to like colder climes, unlike most blue dragons, and flies occasional forays as far north as where the Ice Mountains meet the glaciers.
The Doom of the Desert regards her city -- and the ways beneath it, as far down as they may exist -- as her exclusive territory. Any phaerimms, drow, human adventurers, or anyone else entering it becomes her food as swiftly as she can bring about such a fate. The rest of the area she flies over she rules lightly by watching events more than enforcing her will. She is known occasionally to make hunting flights (in search of herds of livestock, usually) that carry her far afield.
The Deeds of Iymrith
The blue dragon of the Chill Sands has spells that readily thaw ice into drinkable water. There is ice in plenty beneath her city, and much more only a short flight away in all directions except south or due west. She seemingly eats anything, so long as there's lots of it, but she doesn't seem to grow hungry too often. She spends most days examining magic items brought to her by her gargoyle miners and experimenting with the spells and items she already has to derive new and more powerful magic.
Iymrith creates new servitor gargoyles every dozen days or so, but she is becoming increasingly obsessed with her own survival and has interrupted her usual augmentation of her gargoyle army to experiment with the creation of multiple bodies for herself. At present she can "jump" her essence from her real body to a mechanical body and to at least two statues, but she hasn't yet crafted a second living body.
The statues Iymrith has created are as large as she is, and all six of them look like stiffly-posed blue dragons made of single smooth-finished blocks of stone. (She's actually fused rock together with flowstone spells to make them.) When she teleports them about or links with them either to cast spells through them (just as a human mage can make certain spells emanate from a project image spell) or to move her sentient self-essence into them, the statues' pupilless eyes come alive with tiny flames.
Iymrith's driving aim is to gain all the magic she can and thereby rise to supremacy over all other dragons, phaerimms, or anyone else who might challenge her. Then she can live forever, crafting ever-stronger magic. No one knows whether she'll ever feel secure enough to think of mating, dwelling elsewhere, or sharing her magic with beings not of her own creation.
Certain Bedine tribes worship Iymrith -- from a safe distance. They leave behind offerings of polished sapphires. Thus far, Iymrith has suffered them to live and even safely approach the city walls until they can see her central hall clearly. She's never rendered them the slightest aid, however, and might just be humoring them idly.
Iymrith has mastered various magical means of teleporting groups of creatures and is known to use this method to capture herds of snow rothé and other edible beasts when her supply of food runs low. (The harsh climate and scant grazing provender causes this shortage to happen fairly often.)
The Doom of the Desert seems to find crafting items tiresome, but tinkering with the casting of spells holds endless fascination for her and consumes most of her days. Perhaps once every eight days or so she momentarily tires of magical experimentation and indulges herself in farscrying Faerûn around her to keep track of what's happening elsewhere. She does this in a whimsical manner rather than taking thorough or defensive care over it.
Less than a decade ago, Iymrith's spells ensnared the Company of the Flame Spider. Named for the exotic dancer who sponsored them, this band of fumbling magelings and disaffected mercenaries was formed in Athkatla. After several unrewarding forays into the High Moor and the ruins of Illefarn, they undertook a commission from the Merchant League to explore the chill northern reaches of Anauroch, seeking a trade route east or at least a series of landmarks that travelers across the shifting sands could rely on.
A dozen Flame Spiders avoided Ascore (whose fell reputation has spread across the North) but set off to travel in a wide ring around it, taking note of any desert landmarks along the way. They soon caught sight of the city that held the Doom of the Desert -- too late to avoid being in turn seen and trapped by her. Iymrith placed no compulsions on the adventurers; she merely makes use of mass teleport spells to keep them inside a ring-shaped region of shifting sands around her city, plucking them unceremoniously back into it whenever they try to strike out into the desert or reach the city (which they've dubbed "the Towers Unattainable"). As long as they remain in this indefinite area of desert, Iymrith allows them to wander and act freely. Her gargoyles surreptitiously plant food and items for them to find (even shovels, when the desert storms expose interesting Netherese ruins) to keep them interested in their endless roamings. Whenever adventuring bands, Bedine, or other intruders dare to stray too close to her nameless city, Iymrith uses the Flame Spiders for the purpose for which she entrapped them: as unwitting defenders of her privacy, whisking them into confrontation with the newcomers.
Most Bedine attack the suddenly appearing Amnian warband on sight and fall prey to the spells the two Flame Spider mages can muster, but the Flame Spiders sometimes befriend intruders. Mass teleport spells and gargoyles prevent any invasion of the city on such occasions, but if no such activity is mounted, the Doom of the Desert uses her gargoyles to send out a feast, then employs spells to eavesdrop on any over-the-wine conversations, seeking to learn what the wider world knows of her as well as interesting news. Iymrith seems to have adopted the Flame Spiders as pets, in somewhat the same manner as soldiers' develop a casual affection for stray dogs, to whom they toss camp leavings. She uses her spells to snatch the Amnians apart from each other whenever their arguments break into open violence.
Most of the magical experimentations mounted by the blue dragon of the Chill Sands involve altering incantations to change spell effects; after centuries of doing this, she can tinker with spells instinctively and has been known to cast a spell in battle, observe its effect, and alter an immediate second casting to achieve a different result. Magic excites her, but challenges and danger (apparently) leave her icily calm; she has self-control far beyond what most dragons can conceive, let alone achieve.
When not altering or combining spells, Iymrith is usually attempting to infuse some part of an artificial draconic body with a magical property or power. The upper reaches of her central city chambers are crowded with floating sculpted stone body parts and more-or-less complete bodies. On several occasions spell experimentations that went awry have awakened these floating dragon fragments into wild eruptions of movement and magical power, slaughtering gargoyles and causing even Iymrith to retreat and blast anything that comes too close. A lurking Red Wizard deliberately caused one such burst of chaos some years ago, when Iymrith discovered him spying on her. He probably escaped her furious volley of spells, but less swift-to-flee mages (including an ambitious Brotherhood of the Arcane apprentice and several Zhentarim) have paid the ultimate price for daring to peer into the lair of the Doom of the Desert. Farscrying witnesses of at least two of these deaths have discerned a pattern to Iymrithian spell-duels, or at least a favorite attack method: The blue dragon likes to employ an ice storm or other area-effect damaging spell that lasts for more than a round and, while a foe is defending against it, launch a spell to destroy any protective shield they might raise. This attack is followed immediately by a spell designed forcibly to change their shape -- usually into something mute and immobile, such as a giant clam.
Iymrithian defenses can best be described as lax. She ignores attacks unless they thrust immediate consequences at her, whereupon she tends to hurl mobs of gargoyles at them and -- if she deems it necessary -- a few devastating spells or combinations of spells to defeat or disable the menace so that she can return her attentions to whatever she was doing when the danger arose. Foes (such as, on one recent and fatal occasion, an overconfident group of Sembian wizards-for-hire) who believe that such hasty reactions give them a weakness to readily exploit are correct, to a point -- but such bold foes had best do their exploiting very fast and very hard, or an aroused Iymrith will begin to unleash the full defenses of her city at them. In earlier days, she evidently placed belligerent creatures, from remorhaz to adventurers, in some sort of magical stasis, then stored them in sealed chambers, safe from hungry creatures, scouring sand, and the ravages of time. She can awaken groups of them en masse as she teleports them into the presence of a foe -- or to a position just above opponents, so as to bring them crashing down on the heads of such enemies.
The mage Tathtlan of Neverwinter, now deceased, discovered Iymrith early in his explorations with an ancient Netherese scrying stone and observed her often. His notes (from which much of what Elminster knows of the Doom of the Desert is derived; the Old Mage stresses that although it appears Iymrith became aware of her observer, she took no action against him and did not cause his demise) indicate that, from time to time, doorways and spires in the nameless city changed by themselves. Although their alterations may have been caused or triggered by the magical experiments of Iymrith, she was surprised by the changes on at least two occasions, and Tathtlan believes that some other force was, and is, awake and active in the city. Perhaps phaerimms are slipping some magic past the Doom of the Desert, or older resident magic or hidden beings are at work. These changes never seem to amount to a direct challenge to Iymrith, and their cause and true nature remain mysterious.
Tathtlan was of the opinion that Iymrith is growing more whimsical and carefree as she ages -- more caught up in the exultation of wielding magic and increasingly less caring of the world around her and of her own safety. He compared her behavior to that of some ancient elves, yearning for a oneness with magic that, legends whisper, led some of them to seek other forms of existence -- even, in some ironic cases, dragon-shape. Elminster believes that Iymrith's attempts to transfer her sentience from draconic body to body may have already led her close to a transcendent state of existence as a disembodied, mistlike flying spirit. Although she is yet a long way from preferring such a state to her familiar and powerful draconic form, the Old Mage believes, an attack that destroyed her body might not slay her, but might instead drive her into a wraithlike continued existence. Accordingly, he watches the future of the Doom of the Desert with interest.
Iymrith: Female ancient blue dragon Sor 7; CR 27; Gargantuan dragon (earth); HD 33d12+231 plus 7d4+49; hp 511; Init +4; Spd 40 ft., burrow 20 ft., fly 200 ft. (clumsy); AC 38, touch 6, flat-footed 38; Atk +44 melee (4d6+12/19-20, bite) and +39 melee (2d8+6, 2 claws) and +39 melee (2d6+6, 2 wings) and +39 melee (2d8+18, tail slap); Face/Reach 20 ft. by 40 ft./15 ft.; SA breath weapon (120 ft. line of electricity, save DC 33), crush, frightful presence, spell-like abilities, spells, tail sweep; SQ blindsight 300 ft., create/destroy water, darkvision 1,000 ft., DR 15/+2, immunities, low-light vision, sound imitation, SR 27; AL LE; SV Fort +27, Ref +20, Will +27; Str 35, Dex 10, Con 25, Int 22, Wis 19, Cha 22.
Skills and Feats: Craft (alchemy) +13, Bluff +36, Concentration +40, Craft (stoneworking) +13, Diplomacy +34, Escape Artist +20, Hide -12, Intimidate +10, Knowledge (arcana) +43, Knowledge (geography) +34, Knowledge (history) +38, Knowledge (local -- Anauroch) +11, Knowledge (nature) +8, Knowledge (religion) +7, Knowledge (the planes) +8, Listen +24, Search +21, Sense Motive +25, Spellcraft +42, Spot +25; Cleave, Combat Casting, Empower Spell, Enlarge Spell, Extend Spell, Flyby Attack, Improved Critical (bite), Improved Initiative, Power Attack, Spell Penetration, Twin Spell.
Breath Weapon (Su): Iymrith can breathe a 120-foot line of electricity that deals 20d8 points of damage (Reflex DC 33 half). Once she has used her breath weapon, she must wait 1d4 rounds before doing so again.
Crush: When flying or jumping, Iymrith can land on opponents as a standard action, using her whole body to crush them. Her crush attacks are effective only against Medium-size or smaller opponents, though she can attempt normal overrun or grapple attacks (grapple bonus +60) against larger opponents. A crush attack affects as many opponents of the appropriate size as can fit under her body. Each potentially affected creature must succeed at a Reflex save (DC 33) or be pinned, automatically taking 4d6+18 points of bludgeoning damage on that round and each round thereafter that the character remains pinned.
Frightful Presence (Su): This ability takes effect automatically when Iymrith attacks, charges, or flies overhead. It affects only opponents with 32 or fewer Hit Dice or levels within a radius of 300 feet. Each affected creature must make a successful Will save (DC 32) to resist the effect. On a failure, a creature with 5 or more Hit Dice or levels becomes shaken for 4d6 rounds, and a creature with 4 or fewer Hit Dice or levels becomes panicked for 4d6 rounds. Success indicates that the target is immune to Iymrith's frightful presence for one day.
Spell-Like Abilities: 3/day -- ventriloquism; 1/day -- hallucinatory terrain, veil. Caster level 20th; save DC 16 + spell level.
Spells: Iymrith can cast spells as a 20th-level sorcerer.
Tail Sweep: Iymrith can sweep with her tail as a standard action. The sweep affects Small or smaller creatures within a half-circle with a diameter of 30 feet, centered on her rear. The sweep automatically deals 2d6+18 points of bludgeoning damage (Reflex DC 33 half).
Blindsight (Ex): Iymrith can ascertain creatures by nonvisual means (mostly hearing and scent, but also by noticing vibration and other environmental clues) to a range of 300 feet. Invisibility and darkness are irrelevant, though she still can't discern ethereal beings. She usually does not need to make Spot or Listen checks to notice creatures within range of her blindsight ability.
Create/Destroy Water (Sp): Iymrith can use this ability three times per day. It works like the create water spell, except that she can decide to destroy water instead of creating it, which automatically spoils unattended liquids containing water. Magic items (such as potions) and items in a creature's possession must succeed at a Will save (DC 32) or be ruined.
Immunities: Iymrith is immune to electricity, paralysis, and sleep.
Low-Light Vision: Iymrith sees four times as well as a human in low-light conditions and twice as well in normal light.
Sound Imitation (Ex): Iymrith can mimic any voice or sound she has heard, anytime she likes. A listener must succeed at a Will save (DC 32) to detect the ruse.
Sorcerer Spells Known (6/8/8/7/7/7/7/6/6/6; save DC 16 + spell level): 0 -- acid splash (Magic of Faerûn), arcane mark, dancing lights, detect magic, ghost sound, mage hand, open/close, ray of frost, read magic; 1st -- identify, jump, mage armor, spirit worm (Magic of Faerûn), true strike; 2nd -- cat's grace, eagle's splendor , endurance, Melf's acid arrow, shadow spray; 3rd -- blacklight, gaseous form, Mestil's acid breath (Magic of Faerûn), wind wall; 4th -- flame sands, ice storm, polymorph other, scrying; 5th -- Dhulark's glassstrike (Magic of Faerûn), magic jar, stone shape, teleport; 6th -- chain lightning, control weather, greater dispelling; 7th -- blasphemy, mass teleport, Presper's spell matrix; 8th -- (unknown, presumably the gargoyle-creation spell), horrid wilting, polymorph any object; 9th -- Alamanther's return, force burn, temporal stasis.
From the ranks of the many spells wielded by the Doom of the Desert (who seems about the equivalent of a 20th-level sorcerer in terms of spellcasting ability, though she's never without a score or so of magic items that she can trigger at will), here are the spells that adventurers are likely to taste if they encounter any of her gargoyles, and the spell that has kept her alive in the face of phaerimm attacks.
The Doom of the Desert is unlikely to gain enough magic to feel secure, but if she can survive phaerimm attacks for another decade or so, she might master the ability to move at will from body to body; there are a few dracolich and mechanical monster bodies in Faerûn that she might seize.
This power would probably ensure her survival from a concerted phaerimm or dragon attack -- a good thing for her, because she would also almost certainly come to the attention of the Cult of the Dragon (as more than a dim legend of the North) and face well-organized attacks from multiple dracoliches acting in concert with other Cult forces. Elminster's money will, however, be on Iymrith in any such confrontation -- though he knows more than a few mages who'd like to watch.
About the Author
Ed Greenwood (and his home) narrowly survived a recent visit from Elminster. He feels duty-bound to report that the Old Mage's newest favorite drink is the Amaretto Float (pralines'n'cream ice cream scoops dumped into the famous almond liqueur), and that Storm Silverhand's favorite color is royal blue -- and that her second favorite color is something she's decided to call "Ed's blush."