Wyrms of the North: Raulothim, "The Silent Shadow"
Dragon Magazine #253
By Ed Greenwood with supplementary material provided by Eric L. Boyd
A century ago, the huge emerald dragon known as the "Silent Shadow" could be seen at well-nigh every important event in the Sword Coast North -- gliding overhead, just watching. He never spoke (hence his sobriquet) and ignored most attempts to hail or attack him, serenely observing from an aloof distance and flying away when challenged -- but otherwise "always there" and missing nothing. Some barbarians thought him a "watching spirit" who reported to their own totem spirits or to strange gods; some sages and mages considered him a spy in service to some sinister cabal -- a belief encouraged by false confirmations announced by several sorcerous brotherhoods seeking to impress others.
In truth, Raulothim served only himself. He loved riding the high winds so prevalent over the North, and he hated missing anything. The Silent Shadow didn't care if he misinterpreted what he saw or never learned the reasons or forces behind the events he witnessed -- he just hated feeling left out (and hence, lonely).
The years changed him, however, as years change all beings. These days, the great emerald wyrm called Raulothim seems more a statue than a gliding shadow. He spends long days lying motionless and gazing out over the North from the lip of his lair in the Pit of Stars, the cauldron of an extinct volcano (known to the Netherese as Xardmount) on the rocky island of Axard, the north-easternmost isle of Ruathym. The pit is named for the many blobs of volcanic glass -- white, clear, and smoke-hued -- that line its walls and gleam in the sun like so many gigantic cabochon-cut gems.
The events that made Raulothim so thoughtful began with his chance encounter with a ship that sailed the skies. The ship's spelljamming crew were seeking to hide treasure on the "uninhabited" outer islets of Ruathym. When they found their treasure-burying efforts watched over by a silently attentive emerald dragon of monstrous size, some of that crew fled through a portal they opened into another plane. Those sights shattered what the Silent Shadow thought he knew of the world. Frankly, it scared him.
How many hidden realms -- and folk watching Toril from them -- are there? Who are these watchers, and what are their aims? How many mages who can open such portals serve masters on those hidden worlds? Can these wizards call on magical aid from their hidden masters? Did the ship's crew guess at his own innocence? Or do they consider him an agent working with a rival of theirs?
Pondering such questions, Raulothim sits and broods, mastering all the magic he can. Thus, Raulothim silently waits for the day someone who thinks he knows too much of such things seeks to slay him. Sometimes he steals forth to mages' towers, hoping to find no one home, a ruin to be plundered, or the owner weakened . . . so he can steal more magic. He's even been known to tear apart wizards' tombs, using deft lashes of his tail (and boulders dropped from high aloft) to trigger and yet avoid guardian spells by keeping clear of their ranges.
In Ruathym, little is known about the Wyrm of Axard beyond the bare rumors that his past was a far more active and colorful affair than his life today, and that he guards some of the mightiest magic in all Faerûn. It's also widely reported that the gigantic emerald dragon enjoys hurling spells at those who come too close to his island home. In truth, Raulothim is terrified by how vulnerable his relatively puny magical skills leave him in the face of all these deadly foes. He has therefore set about accumulating the most puissant battle spells and most potent magic items he can find and seize, including things beyond his powers -- if they're hidden where only he knows, they can't fall into the wrong hands and be used against him.
Raulothim currently commands some four hundred battle-related spells, and he can use about three hundred of them (the most useful lower-level spells). He has accumulated thousands upon thousands of coins (to purchase spells he can't gain any other way) and many magic items. Magic items useful in battle he keeps at hand; the others he buries with the coins (beneath tons of gravel at the bottom of the Pit, which rests atop an incredibly hard volcanic "plug" that effectively prevents anyone tunneling up into it from beneath without the Silent Shadow getting lots of warning of their slow, laborious progress), for possible later use trading for magic he desires.
Raulothim's collection of battleworthy magic items is known to include rods of flailing and lordly might, a mace of smiting, a staff of power and two staves of evocation; four wands of fireball, three wands of ice storm, and at least one each of wands of lightning bolt, hold monster, and baleful polymorph, as well as a javelin of lightning, a ring that can unleash one dispel magic and two reverse gravity spells per day, and several magic swords. Most of these are concealed at various "ready" locations around Axard and are guarded against unauthorized use by guardian spells and by their being engraved with false command words that cause them to strike at (rather than obeying) the utterer.
Raulothim makes extensive use of a spell that enables him to animate wands to "float and fire" at his command (that is, hang in midair, aim, and discharge remotely). He uses the staff of power and a few wands to so guard his lair, and he carries other wands with him in a neck-sack for use in any duel he may have to fight (usually setting them to "float and fire" at a foe from one direction, while he attacks from another). The Wyrm of Axard always wears a ring -- or rather, always wears a plain brass ring; some sages believe he possesses, and alternates, several magical rings.
Volo's notes indicate that Raulothim has visited a Mage Fair (in disguise). The dragon was fascinated by what he saw, terrified at being surrounded by so many folk who could destroy him with a few gestures, and reassured that not all mages in Faerûn were part of some vast conspiracy to rule the world together. The sometime tour guide of the Realms also found written references to the Silent Shadow being seen overhead at a minor battle fought somewhere in the Dessarin valley in 1211 DR. Elminster found no earlier mention of the wyrm, but he did uncover the surprising news that Raulothim has traded, down the years, with the Taerserr family of halflings in Holgerstead -- exchanging large and detailed maps of his own making (scratched on great slabs of Axard rock) in return for items of minor magic (such as lanterns whose shuttered interiors hold stones on which continual flame spells have been cast, potions of healing, and so on). By all accounts, the dragon is an exacting and thorough cartographer of the Sword Coast North; Blucklo Taerserr's recent "Drawn by a dragon!" claims were hardly necessary to sell the table-sized maps to lordlings, Waterdhavian nobles, and merchants wealthy enough to mount them on the walls of their feast halls -- or upon actual tables.
Raulothim is also a collector of words of activation and magical command phrases (of which he has swift and excellent recall). He's currently engaged in using crystal balls, some having powers of detect thoughts or clairaudience, to spy on active adventuring bands so that he can learn their true natures. Raulothim believes he needs to find adventurers capable and formidable in both intrigue and combat, who above all will be loyal to him. He'll sponsor them (and, if need be, aid them with magic and his own fighting abilities) as they carry out a task that is likely to consume their lives: exploring the portals Raulothim has heard about, finding and guarding any such portals near his lair, and devising some method of watching over all known gates for invasions by potentially deadly foes.
The Silent Shadow is aware that several adventuring bands will be necessary to replace the inevitable casualties of age and combat -- and that for his own protection, it's best if he somehow keeps the bands from learning of each other (both to keep them from joining forces against him and to prevent any mind-reading menace from learning of one group from captive members of another). Raulothim knows of several baelnorn who watch over portals near the sanctums they guard -- and wonders if he can bargain with such beings to have them monitor a farscrying network of "gatewatch" magics.
He deems such a watch urgently necessary. His own fleeting and sporadic examinations of portals have shown the Wyrm of Axard heavily armed creatures of many strange races furtively emerging from, and disappearing into, these portals to other worlds. Raulothim worries that Toril may already be a place of arms-storage and weapons-practice for "creatures from elsewhere," and that an unguarded Faerûn may someday, without warning, become a wasted battleground between warring forces from elsewhere . . . someday all too soon.
The Silent Shadow's relations with other dragons have been, according to the dragon expert Velsaert of Baldur's Gate, "a series of avoidances, flights from even friendly overtures, and deadly defenses of his lair." Raulothim has never mated and shows no interest in doing so. His paranoia rules him as surely as a tyrant master, although he's willing to accept allies (such as the baelnorn) under clearly defined conditions, and there seems no reason why a dragon could not be an ally. It should be noted that "allies" to Raulothim are beings who dwell at a safe distance and don't come calling unannounced.
The Silent Shadow dwells in a large, labyrinthine cave network opening off the ledge above the Pit of Stars where he likes to sprawl. These caverns bristle with traps. Most are explosive runes and similar spells, some placed on false spellbooks, and the lair also sports caverns not used by the dragon that feature falling-block traps to doom unwanted intruders.
Raulothim's lair is also defended by magically animated automatons: creatures controlled by his various magic items. Reports of these servitors identify them as golems, gargoyles, or other flying creatures made of "living stone," as well as stationary menaces that resemble the stones of the landscape until approached too closely.
The Pit of Stars is the lone true lair of the Silent Shadow, but the emerald dragon has eight or more "sleeping perches" (high mountain ledges sheltered by overhangs, from which he often has to chase roosting peryton or even wyverns) on various islets up and down the northerly Sword Coast. At least one of these perches leads to a hidden cavern where the dragon caches magic items and spellbooks, in case his main lair should ever be despoiled or destroyed.
It should be noted that Raulothim duplicated many of his most important spells by means of a magic, animated quill pen (possibly of Netherese or Myth Drannan origin) that traced magical writings and then reproduced them exactly . . . a pen that crumbled to dust decades ago when its magic was exhausted. He hopes, of course, to someday find another.
Raulothim is willing to allow mages to copy his spells for their personal use, so long as they also make "second" copies for him -- or would be willing, if he could only find a way to trust wizards or guard against what he sees as their inevitable betrayal. He has found mention of a bloodfire spell used by an elven mage in Myth Drannor who took on human apprentices and protected himself by means of this magic. The spell required the recipient to willingly accept the spell, which would remain quiescent for years, defying all attempts to remove it -- until the caster, by a single act of will, either dismisses the spell without harm or causes the spell recipient's blood to boil and burst into flame, immolating him from within. According to the records Raulothim discovered, bloodfire was used twice against the mage's treacherous apprentices. The mage married a third apprentice -- and one of their half-elven daughters disappeared with the spell after her parents died together in a chain reaction disaster of activated magic items that blasted them, and the top of the tall, slender stone tower they shared, to nothingness. Raulothim has been unable to find any trace of spell or daughter, one Maerithlee Ieirmitarym.
For obvious reasons, Elminster notes, many archmages would value this spell highly. "Reluctance to trust" is a condition afflicting most dragons and accomplished wizards; almost all of them would use this spell if they could gain access to it -- and many are so tormented by their loneliness that they'd pay large sums to acquire a demonstrably effective copy of bloodfire (thought to be an 8th- or 9th-level wizard spell). "Oh, that I could trust enough to love," the character of the wizard Golothmiir cries out at the climax of the famous play Argonyar in Amn -- a scene that has moved many a mage to tears.
A heavily guarded lair passage leads to a cavern where the Silent Shadow is preparing to create a copy of himself . . . if he can ever successfully modify a stolen copy of the stasis clone spell used by Manshoon of the Zhentarim. To even begin to do so, Raulothim knows he'll need a helm of supreme wizardry, which allows use of spells beyond the normal abilities of a wearer. He's read about these helms in several diaries of humans who learned spellcraft in Myth Drannor but he hasn't yet located one. Still, he can't believe they were all destroyed in the fall of that fair city. (Indeed, the very next wyrm we'll visit in these pages, Saryndalaghlothtor, owns such a helm.)
The Silent Shadow largely ignores the concept of a domain, though he defends the island of Axard as one. He considers himself free to roam all Toril if he deems it necessary, but he is well aware of other dragons' territorial claims -- and that it's best to escape their notice entirely by avoiding their domains.
Raulothym: Male great wyrm emerald dragon wizard 10; CR 34; Gargantuan dragon (air); HD 39d12+312, 10d4+80; hp 670; Init +5; Spd 40 ft., burrow 5 ft., swim 60 ft., fly 200 ft. (clumsy); AC 45, touch 7, flat-footed 44; Base Atk +44; Grp +65; Atk +54 melee (4d6+14, bite); Full Atk +54 melee (4d6+14, bite) and +49 melee (2d8+7, 2 claws) and +49 melee (2d6+7, 2 wings) and +49 melee (2d8+21, tail slap); Space/Reach 20 ft./15 ft. (20 ft. with bite); SA breath weapon (60-ft. cone of sonic energy), crush 4d6+21, frightful presence, spell-like abilities, tail sweep 2d6+21; SQ blindsense 60 ft., damage reduction 20/magic, darkvision 120 ft., immunities (paralysis, sleep, sonics), keen senses, low-light vision, planar travel, power resistance 31; AL LN; SV Fort +34, Ref +29, Will +34; Str 39, Dex 12, Con 27, Int 29, Wis 27, Cha 26.
Skills and Feats: Appraise +19, Autohypnosis +28, Bluff +29, Climb +24, Concentration +60, Craft (cartography) +29, Craft (trapmaking) +31, Decipher Script +31, Diplomacy +24, Escape Artist +30, Hide -11, Intimidate +10, Knowledge (arcana) +57, Knowledge (North geography) +54, Knowledge (North local) +54, Knowledge (psionics) +51, Listen +52, Psicraft +30, Search +41, Spellcraft +33, Spot +52, Survival +17, Swim +22; Alertness, Blind-Fight, Combat Casting, Combat Expertise, Combat Reflexes, Extend Spell, Hover, Improved Counterspell, Improved Initiative, Lightning Reflexes, Magical Aptitude, Quicken Spell, Reactive Counterspell, Scribe Scroll, Silent Spell, Snatch, Spell Mastery*, Spell Mastery*, Still Spell, Wingover.
* Raulothym has the Spell Mastery feat twice, and his Intelligence at the times these feats were selected give him fourteen spells he can prepare without a spellbook. Though these spells are unknown, draconic sages believe analyze portal, dimension door, fireball, lightning bolt, and magic missile are five of these spells.
Breath Weapon (Su): Once every 1d4 rounds, Raulothym can breathe a 60-foot cone of sonic energy. Each creature in the area takes 24d6 points of sonic damage (Reflex DC 37 half). In addition to the saving throw against sonic damage, each creature within the cone must succeed on a Fortitude save (DC 37) or be deafened for 1d4+12 rounds.
Crush (Ex): Whenever Raulothym flies or jumps, he can land on opponents as a standard action, using his whole body to crush them. His crush attack affects Medium or smaller opponents within a 20-foot-by-20-foot area. Each potentially affected creature must succeed on a DC 37 Reflex save or be pinned, automatically taking 4d6+21 points of bludgeoning damage during the next round unless the dragon moves off. If Raulothym 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 Raulothym attacks, charges, or flies overhead, each creature in a 360-foot radius that has 38 or fewer HD must make a DC 37 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).
Psionics: At will -- object reading; 3/day -- augmented invisibility, clairaudience/clairvoyance, control sound, fog cloud, nondetection, shield of prudence. Manifester level 19th; save DC 1d20 + power level + key ability modifier. Raoulothym manifests powers as if he were a psion with Clairsentience as his primary discipline.
Tail Sweep (Ex): Raulothym can sweep with his tail as a standard action. The sweep affects Small or smaller creatures in a half-circle with a radius of 30 feet extending from an intersection on the edge of the dragon's space in any direction. Each potentially affected creature in the area takes 2d6+21 points of damage (Reflex DC 37 half).
Keen Senses (Ex): Raulothym can see four times as well as a human in shadowy illumination and twice as well in normal light. He also has darkvision to a range of 120 feet.
Planar Travel (Su): Raulothym has the innate ability to pass instantly between the Material Plane and the Inner Planes.
Wizard Spells Prepared (4/7/6/5/5/4; save DC 19 + spell level): 0 -- daze, mage hand, open/close, read magic; 1st -- burning hands, color spray, forcewave, Kaupaer's skittish nerves, mage armor, magic missile (2); 2nd -- blur, cat's grace, cloud of bewilderment, levitate, summon undead II, web; 3rd -- analyze portal, blink, dispel magic (2), Khelben's suspended silence; 4th -- confusion, Ghorus Toth's metal melt , greater invisibility, polymorph, Tirumael's energy spheres; 5th -- cloudkill, cone of cold, Grimwald's graymantle, teleport.
Spellbook: Raulothym has all of the spells listed above as well as all spells of 5th-level or lower listed in the Player's Handbook, Forgotten Realms Campaign Setting, and Magic of Faerûn. He has books or scrolls with several dozen spells of 6th-level or higher as well, though the exact number and nature of these spells are unknown.
Psionic Powers (8/5/5/5/4/4/4/3/2/2; 19th-level psion; clairsentience primary discipline; 236 power points; save DC 1d20 + key ability modifier + power level): 0 -- burst, catfall, detect psionics, know direction*, missive, telempathic projection, trinket, verve; 1st -- combat precognition*, compression, destiny dissonance, grease, vigor; 2nd -- augury*, body adjustment, control body, ectoplasmic cocoon, sever the tie; 3rd -- claws of the vampire, dimension slide, greater concussion, ubiquitous vision*, whitefire; 4th -- aura sight*, dimensional anchor, dismissal, mass concussion; 5th -- ectoplasmic armor, energy barrier, greater domination, true seeing*; 6th -- disintegrate, improved vigor, remote view trap*, trace teleport; 7th -- divert teleport, energy conversion, sequester*; 8th -- foresight*, mind blank; 9th -- metafaculty*, true telekinesis.
Attack/Defense Modes (Sp): At will -- ego whip, id insinuation, mind blast, mind thrust, psychic crush/empty mind, intellect fortress, mental barrier, thought shield, tower of iron will.
Here are a pair of battle spells drawn from the Silent Shadow's ever-growing collection. The second spell is a modification of one known to be in use by human wizards in Neverwinter decades ago; several nondraconic variants of it may well be in circulation.
The Silent Shadow seems to be a waiting, sitting target -- and this is deliberate: If adventuring bands and wizardly cabals come calling, they must do battle on his prepared ground. Most intruders notice the mound of gold coins and tumbled chests at the center of the Pit of Stars; a lure, of course. Raulothim dropped the treasure there because the Pit was once (before the last crumbling caldera walls fell away, leaving it open, as it is today) the lair of a powerful beholder. That eye tyrant is now an invisible doomsphere lurking deep in the Pit, awaiting intruders it can slay.
With the aid of his arsenal of magic items and such defenders as the doomsphere and his automatons, the Silent Shadow is known to have brought about the doom of two score formidable bands of attackers (including a dozen Zhentarim magelings who styled themselves the Robes of Doom, and the chartered adventuring companies of Bendever's Talons and The Bold Broadswords of Mirabar), as well as an unknown but large number of independent thieves.
Raulothim commands items that can levitate the remains of fallen intruders away from the doomsphere for his leisurely examination, plundering, and then tasteful arrangement around the Pit as lures and decoys. (A favorite is a chest containing an explosive trap or cursed magic items, surrounded by the bodies of fallen adventurers, which the Silent Shadow pretends to defend fiercely.)
Whether this dragon perishes under the attacks of treasure-seekers or the portal-hopping "overfoes" he so fears is anyone's guess, but if neither prevail over Raulothim in the next two decades, Elminster expects the emerald dragon to find a magical means of creating a stasis clone or otherwise prolonging his existence (such as lichdom). Though the Old Mage seems to admire the Silent Shadow's striving, Mystra's desire to have magic abroad in Faerûn rather than hoarded keeps her Chosen busy spreading rumors and treasure maps that bid fair to keep the Wyrm of Axard battling treasure-seekers often, until the day Raulothim is no more.
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.