Wyrms of the North: Tostyn Alaerthmaugh, "the Silver Flame"
Dragon Magazine #256
By Ed Greenwood with supplementary material provided by Sean K Reynolds
Who needs the Bat Cave? This mercurial wyrm has the most fascinating lair in the North.
Best known as "the Silver Flame" for his spectacular swoops and banks in the air above the trade roads of the North, this young adult male mercury dragon often features in the "current clack" of the Sword Coast because he wants to be in the center of everything important. Tostyn is curious, proud, and reckless, and he often charges into encounters with older, larger dragons, archmages engaged in spell-battle, and similar perils. He flies into and out of rages quickly, holding no grudges and considering no one a lasting foe. His every attitude, belief, like, and dislike change as often as the northern winds.
Tostyn has shown more gallantry than most other living dragons -- and more open, roaring laughter. Lighthearted and enthusiastic by nature, he spends his time dashing about the Sword Coast North and can often be found in the vicinity of Waterdeep. "Stealth" is not a word he understands; when he's not dancing or looping across the skies, he's diving playfully at creatures on the ground or streaking along dodging treetops, executing corkscrew aerial rolls, as he hurtles along near the ground.
More than any other known dragon, Tostyn cares nothing for the future; plans and food stores and building up treasure hoards don't concern him. He spends his days plunging into a succession of fresh delights, helping adventurers tear apart a ruin here, chasing some raiding wyverns there, pouncing on a pirate ship over here, then dodging among the storm clouds. The Silver Flame remembers beings he has met before (and particular powers or abilities he has seen them use), but he hates only those he has seen use poison or magical deception to bring misfortune to others, those who exhibit viciousness or cruelty, and those who greet him with treachery.
Until spells were put in place specifically to drive him off, Tostyn made quite a habit of "crashing" the country parties of Waterdhavian nobles. He still attends those he can slip into while in human form (thanks to a magical pendant he possesses), but he has learned not to grandly assume his true form during the revels; the spells that guard against his arrival act when he reveals his presence, blasting him from all sides. Such onslaughts have caused him enough painful crash landings to dissuade him from taking his true form within sight of the city of Waterdeep.
Tostyn Alaerthmaugh is a strong flyer and aerial acrobat, as well as a good mimic. He seems to have a natural gift for sensing deceptions, disguises, and "when things aren't right." His sense of humor and restless enthusiasm define Tostyn; setting traps and considering consequences aren't for him.
He's the boldest of an overlarge brood of dragons birthed by the gigantic, venerable mercury dragon Thmaughra, on a huge island far to the southwest of Evermeet. Thmaughra's brood soon proved too large for the wild beasts of the isle to sustain. (The island has few metallic ores and has been grazed heavily by generations of dragons, until forage for only a half-dozen or so was left.) So Tostyn (his surname means "son of Thmaughra" or, literally, "Acknowledged hatchling of many in not the first brood of Thmaughra, male of her blood"), the most bored of the brood, took wing eastward in search of new lands to explore. The way was long, and he would probably have perished by drowning after becoming too weak to fly, but he caught a favorable storm wind and rode it for many, many leagues. He then chanced upon a large, abandoned ship drifting on the waves and rested atop it until he was ready to fly on. Chance brought him to Ruathym and then ashore south of Neverwinter, where he roamed the North until he stumbled upon possibly the best lair any wyrm of the North can boast.
Tostyn Alaerthmaugh's Lair
The Silver Flame lairs in the depths of the Everlake, at the heart of the Evermoors, but spends little time at home. Tostyn made his lair where he discovered a "hole" in the waters at the heart of the lake: a magical shaft of air in the water, where magic keeps an invisible column of air free of the damp, offering an entrance to a mansion beneath the muddy lake bottom.
This nameless abode was probably once the home of a powerful wizard (it was simply bristling with magical wards and defenses, most of which Tostyn has left unaltered), but it was long abandoned when the Silver Flame discovered it. He found a "control amulet" that allowed him to command the powers of the mansion, tore apart some of its interior walls to give himself room to move about in comfort, and made himself at home. Today, that amulet is hidden somewhere in the lair, and its location is known only to the dragon.
Tostyn tries never to enter the shaft of air when there are creatures nearby to see him (and he usually flies over the Everlake looking for humans or other beings on the shores of the lake before plunging into his lair). However, flocks of birds flying across the lake often unintentionally find the lair; from time to time an unseen spell in its depths comes to life and sucks fresh air down the shaft, swirls it around, and drives out stale air (which then comes shooting up the shaft as the suction ends). Small flying creatures could well find themselves making an unexpected journey either up or down the airshaft. At least one adventurer employing a fly spell discovered the lair in this way, but fled from its depths without investigating beneath the lake bottom. Several incorporeal creatures have deliberately stolen into the lair and survived their visit; Volo assembled a fragmentary picture of its interior from their accounts. The shaft enters the lake bottom, descends for 80 feet or so, and then curves to rise up again some 20 feet, emerging into a large entry chamber. Six "gargoyle golems" await here; they'll attack any intruding creature who isn't Tostyn or accompanied by him, pursuing as far as the "safe passage" (see hereafter). They know the nature and precise locations of traps beyond their chamber and avoid them at the last instant, giving no sign of breaking off pursuit or proceeding tentatively until they reach real danger.
Four 60-foot-high archways in the walls of the entry chamber open into high and wide passages that run straight into the rock, fanning out like the fingers of a human hand for several hundred yards before beginning a succession of bends, right angles, and archways. Three are "false" ways that wind through a succession of mechanical traps (blades that snap out of walls, falling stone blocks attached to chains that immediately draw the blocks back up into their ceiling sockets, and so on).
The fourth route is the only safe one (Volo hasn't been able to determine just which of the four arches opens into it), and it soon reaches a passage lined with magic stone statues that move in reaction to the presence of intruders (raising arms menacingly, turning to always face creatures moving along the passage, and so on). The statues are designed to frighten intruders into turning back, but they cause no harm even if touched or attacked. Many are broken and have been strapped together with metal bands or have been propped up on stone blocks; they are ancient relics salvaged from a Netherese ruin elsewhere.
Between each pair of statues, a door is set into the wall; all of the doors are huge, 40-foot-high ovals with barbed points protruding from their centers, like so many giant spike-bossed shields. Almost all of the doors are false; just one can be made to open, swinging on counterweights so that even a lone halfling can operate it. The bosses on all of the fake doors are really wards, and they fire at any intruding creature that moves two doors beyond the real one, unleashing cold, electricity, or hold effects for as long as any living creature remains "beyond" the real door.
The "safe passage" behind the real door forks; one branch leads to a chamber heaped with Tostyn's "treasure," and the other rises to a sleeping area. The sleeping chamber almost reaches the surface; if his lair were ever flooded, Tostyn could claw his way through the ceiling to freedom, destroying a small, bare rocky islet in the process. (The waters of the Everlake would then pour into the lair through this new route.) The only feature of this sleeping chamber is a huge mound of earth covered with soft, lush mosses collected and planted by the dragon.
The dragon's treasure consists of a pile of shiny rocks (metallic ores, largely copper, destined for future meals); a much larger pile of items Tostyn deemed "junk" when he rearranged the lair to meet his needs -- mainly broken furniture and rotting scraps of fabric, but there are many vases, stools, and the like that possess minor (perhaps even powerful) magic. Their soft glows give the room an eerie appearance and light enough for any intruders to see what floats above the treasure: a gigantic brain trailing ten tentacles beneath it, its parrotlike beak opening and shutting soundlessly from time to time. This is a dead grell preserved, held aloft, and animated by magic already in place when Tostyn first entered the undertake mansion. It has no powers or sentience, is not undead, and reacts to intruders only by turning to face them and working its beak. The Silver Flame considered it trash and brought it here from elsewhere in the mansion; the purpose for which it was enspelled is now lost and unknown.
There are a few unfinished "digging chambers" open off the passage that climbs to the sleeping area. These rooms have been left unfinished, ending where digging for future expansion was obviously proceeding until an abrupt halt. Tostyn uses these to house his slowly growing collection of trophies. Accounts vary as to which things are in what rooms, but the contents are known to include magic automatons (mainly various sorts of golems), "devices" (grinding gears from a horse-powered mill; a siege tower; the broken remnants of a gigantic -- over 300 feet across, when whole -- orrery depicting the movements of known celestial bodies in Realmspace; the steering vanes of a crashed Halruaan skyship; and so on), vessels (ships, wagons, and aerial craft the dragon has pounced on and captured), and other oddities.
This last category is known to include the following items: a levitating, upright, massively armored metal "lich's coffin" from Tashluta that Tostyn has never been able to open (he still isn't sure of the contents); the complete, intact skeleton of a green dragon encased in clear, thick, articulated glass akin to the armor worn by warriors of Nimbral; a mummified beholder, still on the human-sized throne Tostyn found it slumped on, with all sorts of curious-looking wands, rods, and hoselike things clipped to a frame that encircles the grand seat; and a magic net that holds together a drifting, chiming collection of glass spheres, each one holding a different body part of a slain, bloodless male human in robes with one of his severed hands still clutching a wand, and his torso clad in robes worked with winking stars.
A rather tattered "dragon disguise" designed to be strapped onto a giant or titan, who could then operate the false wire-and-silk dragon wings, claws, and tail by means of long rods (like a marionette) has also found a home in Tostyn's lair. Another curiosity consists of a massive, 10-foot-long stone pedestal with four arching arms reaching up from its sides to hold aloft above it a small, round stone slab. Three apparently identical clusters of controls, each consisting of raised stone studs made to fit the four spread fingers of a human hand, run down one edge of the table. Tostyn brought it hence from a shattered, abandoned wizard's tower somewhere in the Spine of the World mountains because of his interest in a fading note, which the dragon brought along. (It lies on the main slab, weighted down with a rock.) The note reads: "Ringforge; Netherese? Crafts rings of spell storing in upper tray when a proper creature is drained of life on main slab. Plain rings of any metal work, but instructions lost. Creature possibly draconic or undead." Tostyn has never attempted to find the lost instructions or experiment with the controls; he simply wanted such a device hidden away in his keeping, not out where some overly clever wizard might decide to experiment with its powers on a certain mercury dragon.
The Silver Flame doesn't bother to bar or conceal the doorless arches of these rooms, and enough of their contents are still magically animated to give the appearance of ongoing life and activity.
Tostyn Alaerthmaugh's Domain
Domains mean nothing to the Silver Flame, but he's (just) thoughtful enough to avoid blundering into the faces of larger, older dragons. It never enters Tostyn's head to respect any peculiar notions of ownership creatures may have, beyond a lair. After all, are there visible boundaries in the air, on the waves of the sea, or on the land itself? (Not counting the various, puny human-made walls and markers.) Of course not -- and neither should there be. Tostyn flies where Tostyn wills.
The Deeds of Tostyn Alaerthmaugh
Like all of his kind, the Silver Flame prefers metal ores to other food but won't hesitate to devour large quantities of red-blooded mammals he can get without a lot of hunting, digging, or chasing. This usually means penned herd animals or armed forces on the move (in the North, usually ore hordes or goblinkin raiding bands). The ferocious defenses mounted by the hired watch-mages of Luskan and Mirabar have dissuaded Tostyn from swooping down to snatch trade-bars or forge-ingots (though he still dares to make dead-of-night pounces on ore-barges away from harbors). Sometimes he also seeks out mine tailings and crumbling mountainsides in search of raw ore.
Beyond these needs, Tostyn Alaerthmaugh devotes his time to avidly pursuing whatever entertainment presents itself, dashing across the North on the trail of his latest enthusiasm. He shows little interest in fighting or befriending other dragons, let alone forming alliances or mating.
Tostyn Alaerthmaugh: Male young adult mercury dragon; CR 8; Large dragon (fire); HD 15d12+45; hp 142; Init +8; Spd 60 ft., fly 200 ft. (poor); AC 27, touch 13, flat-footed 23; Base Atk +15; Grp +23; Atk +18 melee (2d6+4, bite); Full Atk +18 melee (2d6+4, bite) and +13 melee (1d8+2, 2 claws) and +13 melee (1d6+2, 2 wings) and +13 melee (1d8+6, tail slap); Space/Reach 10 ft./5 ft. (10 ft. with bite); SA breath weapon (80-ft. line of light), frightful presence, spell-like abilities, spells; SQ blindsense, brilliance, damage reduction 5/magic, darkvision 120 ft., immunities (fire, paralysis, sleep), keen senses, low-light vision, protected sight, spell resistance 17, vulnerability to cold; AL CG; SV Fort +12, Ref +15, Will +9; Str 19, Dex 18, Con 17, Int 14, Wis 11, Cha 14.
Skills and Feats: Bluff +7, Concentration +10, Diplomacy +11, Disguise +12, Hide +0, Intimidate +4, Jump +31, Knowledge (arcana) +10, Knowledge (geography) +7, Knowledge (nature) +9, Knowledge (Waterdeep local) +17, Listen +14, Search +14, Sense Motive +15, Spellcraft +9, Spot +18, Survival +5, Use Magic Device +12; Flyby Attack, Hover, Improved Initiative, Lightning Reflexes, Power Attack, Wingover.
Breath Weapon (Su): Once every 1d4 rounds, Tostyn can breathe an 80-foot line of intense light. Each creature in the area takes 5d8 points of fire damage (Reflex DC 20 half).
Frightful Presence (Ex): Whenever Tostyn attacks, charges, or flies overhead, each creature in a 150-foot radius that has 14 or fewer HD must make a DC 19 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).
Spell-Like Abilities: At will -- gaze screen; 3/day -- mirror image (DC 14). Caster level 5th.
Spells: Tostyn casts spells as a 5th-level sorcerer.
Blindsense (Ex): Tostyn can pinpoint creatures within a distance of 60 feet. Opponents he can't actually see still have total concealment against him.
Brilliance (Ex): As a standard action, Tostyn can use the mirror-bright membranes of his wings to reflect and concentrate available light into a beam of dazzling brightness. To use this power, he needs light as bright as an overcast day or a clear, moonlit night. Torchlight or candlelight is insufficient. The power creates a thin beam the dragon can aim at a single target within 150 feet. The target is blinded for 1d4+1 rounds (Reflex DC 21 negates). If not using this technique as a weapon, Tostyn can create a cone of light as bright as a daylight spell up to 300 feet long. The cone lasts 3 rounds.
Keen Senses (Ex): Tostyn 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.
Protected Sight (Ex): Tostyn is immune to any effect that would blind or dazzle him. He also gains +3 racial bonus on saving throws against any light or pattern effect.
Sorcerer Spells Known (6/7/5; save DC 12 + spell level): 0 -- detect magic, detect poison, mage hand, mending, read magic, touch of fatigue; 1st -- charm person, comprehend languages, Kaupaer's skittish nerves, Laeral's cutting hand ; 2nd -- eagle's splendor, unknown minor healing spell.
Conditional Skill Synergies: Tostyn Alaerthmaugh gains a synergy bonus to some skills under certain conditions. These are Disguise checks to act in character, Survival checks to keep from getting lost or for avoiding hazards, Survival checks in aboveground natural environments, Survival checks when following tracks, Use Magic Device checks involving scrolls.
*Skills: These skills are available to mercury dragons at 1 skill point per rank: Bluff, Disguise, and Survival. Mercury dragons have the Jump skill for free at 1 rank per Hit Die .These are in addition to the skills noted in the dragon entry in the Monster Manual.
Tostyn Alaerthmaugh's Magic
Though he has come to possess several spellbooks of age and interest, the Silver Flame as yet can use only the paltriest of the magic within them. In practice, he casts but a handful of fairly common spells and a few mending spells and unknown arcane healing magic his adventures (and misadventures) make necessary. Of more interest and importance to adventurers having contact with him are the magic items he employs.
The control amulet for Tostyn's lair isn't detailed here, since Volo could learn nothing about its appearance or apparently extensive powers. The Silver Flame is known to wear a ring of the ram and the pendant detailed hereafter, which he recovered from the skeletal remains of its maker on a mountaintop somewhere in the North.
Chassabra's Pendant (Minor Artifact): Crafted by the long-ago sorceress for whom it is named, this piece of jewelry appears to be a delicate diamond-shaped piece of polished copper, chased with a design of three closed, long-lashed human eyes set in a triangle (one eye below two side-by-side eyes), and hung around a small-linked necklace chain. The spells laid on the pendant render it terrifically strong and nonmetallic (it is no longer affected by magnetism [though copper is nonferrous and usually isn't magnetic] or spells that work on metal, and it is no longer a conductor of heat or electricity) and make it automatically alter to fit a wearer. It is as hard as adamantine (hardness 20, 5 hp).
When donned, Chassabra's pendant mentally communicates its powers to its wearer (it is a self-identifying item), who can activate them by silent force of will alone (a standard action that provokes an attack of opportunity). Powers awaken almost instantly, but only one can be in use at a time; "turning on" one extinguishes another. The exceptions to this are the three automatic, always-functioning powers of the pendant, which affect only the wearer; these are see invisibility, feather fall, and immunity to magic missiles.
It also has the following powers: 4/day -- faerie fire (when the user actives this power, creatures and objects within a 5-foot radius, centered on the user [but not the user himself] become outlined with faerie fire; the effect lasts 10 minutes; other than the duration and the very short range, this power works just like the a faerie fire spell.); 3/day -- dimension door; 2/day -- polymorph; 1/day -- regenerate (as the spell, except regenerates all missing tissue in a single round whether or not the severed body parts are present and attached).
Strong (abjuration, conjuration, divination, evocation, transmutation); CL 15th; Weight 1 lb.
Tostyn Alaerthmaugh uses the polymorph power of Chassabra's pendant often to visit revels and gatherings (usually nobles' parties in Waterdeep) in human form; he loves to flirt, gossip, and mix with exciting folk who have interesting things to say or dreams and schemes afoot.
Tostyn Alaerthmaugh's Fate
The Silver Flame is not likely to reach a happy old age; he takes too many chances to flourish in a region of winter weather, where the inhabitants include periodic orc hordes and such perils as the other dragons described in earlier "Wyrms of the North" installments, the Brotherhood of the Arcane in Luskan, and Cult of the Dragon agents that keep growing in numbers, reach, and hunger.
If luck favors him at critical moments, however, he may live long enough to leave his mark; he combines more energy than any ten other dragons of the North with keen wits and a growing understanding of human society and intrigues (particularly in the Waterdeep area). When his restless dabbling in human schemes and affairs grows either more prolonged or more effective, Tostyn will begin to make formidable foes -- and be approached by others to become an ally.
These relationships might enmesh him more deeply in human affairs, and it's likely that although he'll always be a capricious dilettante, the Silver Flame will also begin to enjoy "doing something that matters." The right adventuring band or power group could steer his considerable energies toward achieving their own goals, from destroying the outposts of their enemies to kidnapping, rescuing, or harassing individuals. Tostyn already knows that wizards have spellbooks and magic items that interest him; he'll need little persuasion to attack wizards he takes a dislike to (those who attack him, for instance). As for Tostyn's own fate, Elminster suggested that an old Northern saying applies: "A good war arrow can shake a realm, or even sweep it away, with but a single well-aimed flight . . . but if that strike comes in a time of war, against an armored foe, that strike tends to be hard on the arrow."
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.