Wyrms of the North Lhammaruntosz, "Claws of the Coast"
Dragon Magazine #245
By Ed Greenwood with supplementary material provided by Sean K Reynolds
Lhammaruntosz, the "Claws of the Coast," is a famous and often-seen bronze dragon who seems to like the company of humans far more than most wyrms -- even given the small but persistent numbers of adventurers who seize the opportunities provided by encounters with her to launch attacks on the wyrm. Her name brings to the fore something the Old Mage would like summarized before further revelations concerning Faerûnian dragons see print: how dragons are named.
Volo's notes include some speculations on the naming of dragons, but it has been left to Elminster briefly to set things straight.
Dragons are vain creatures -- in most cases, too vain ever to change their names when assuming new identities, regardless of how many foes they acquire or how ridiculous a reputation they develop. Draconic names begin with a "usename" bestowed on them as a hatchling by a parent, sibling, or (if orphaned) either human observers or the named dragon itself. Such names are usually added to over the years as sounds strike the dragon's fancy, until many become overly long and well-nigh unpronounceable. Some dragons guard "secret syllables" of their name to confound hostile magic, or use a short form or even nickname (such as "Mist" or "Bloodbror") exclusively.
Often a well-developed draconic name includes an echo or fragment of the name of a famous ancestor, or an unrelated wyrm the naming dragon desires to claim as a relative, or to be thought of as sharing characteristics with. For obvious reasons, such "namesake" dragons are usually deceased, though there have been cases where dragons seeking to "call out" ancient wyrms have taken on very similar names so as to enrage the missing wyrms into appearing.
This habit accounts for name syllables (endings, in particular) thought of as belonging to one gender, but in use by a wyrm of the other sex. Adventurers are cautioned never to try to guess the gender of a dragon purely from its name. It also explains some of the confusions between one dragon and another, as sometimes bards inadvertently merge the deeds of two or more dragons to feed the flames of growing legend.
The name "Lhammaruntosz," for example, echoes the famous name of Lhammarar, a smallish and much scarred copper dragon legendary for his aggressiveness. Lhammarar was ultimately dragged down beneath the waves and slain by a dragon turtle during a fierce storm; it's not known if he ever mated, and Lhammaruntosz is certainly no blood relation to him. Her name also echoes that of her mother, Tauntzoth, who in turn used the name of a male grandsire of gigantic size and reputation.
The Claws of the Coast
Lhammaruntosz is a bronze she-dragon who runs a merchant shipping line along the Sword Coast. She'll often appear when one of her vessels is endangered, which suggests she magically scrys their progress. She preys on pirates and others who cross her business interests, and her depredations alone have made the Nelanther passable to shipping in recent years. Reports of her fleet vary wildly depending on who's doing the telling, but most sources agree she owns over two dozen cogs and caravels and has buyers and cargo-escort agents operating on more than a dozen other vessels.
The kindly and inquisitive dragon Lhammaruntosz avoids combat with other dragons whenever possible, but she reportedly possesses very powerful magic items that can cause acid-ball explosions in midair to harm draconic foes (wands of energy substitution (acid) fireball, caster level 10).
Lhammaruntosz often delivers "fast mail" messages and small items by flying them from one of her agents (on a ship just put out to sea) to another (on a ship nearing port), dropping them on a line as she passes over the ship. She holds one end of such a "dropline" in her jaws; its other end sports a hook to catch in rigging or to be caught and secured for crew, and close above the hook is a mesh bag that can hold small, cloak-wrapped bundles of valuables. "Mother Wyrm" (as her crews have dubbed her) prepares and loads such lines by means of unseen servant spells.
The sailors who crew Mother Wyrm's fleet love the protection a dragon owner can provide and are proud of flying her "Scaly Eye" banner, though most other Coast sailors think their tales of a bronze dragon fighting for them, towing them away from shoals, or dropping messages to them are so much wild fancy. Merchant rivals aren't so quick to scoff.
The Scaly Eye
The Scaly Eye banner, often seen on ships docked up and down the Sword Coast, is a long blue pennant displaying a single staring eye weeping a spreading fan of tears, above which arches an eyebrow. Both the tears and the brow, if examined closely, can be seen to be made of shaped representations of dragon scales. The artwork, reputed to be that of Lhammaruntosz herself, is impressive, not crude or amusing.
It's a measure of the growing reputation of the Claws of the Coast that certain vessels have recently been seen flying false Scaly Eye banners; the bronze dragon has torn one such ship (a pirate vessel masquerading as one of her fleet) apart at sea and then sent her sailors to forcibly persuade other ship captains to refrain from unauthorized use of her banner -- unless, of course, they plan to turn ownership and administration of their boats over to her. (At least five terrified ship captains have done just that, including the well-known sea merchant Essegn Anarvible of Neverwinter.)
One of the High Captains of Luskan is thought to have crossed swords with the Scaly Eye ships in the past, but he seems to have made his peace with the dragon. Dark rumors of the confrontation and feud between Rethnor Redcloak and Lhammaruntosz abound, but hard facts on this topic have proven as hard to grasp as smoke.
The Rise of Lhammaruntosz
The Claws of the Coast was a hatchling of the crazed she-dragon Tauntzoth of the Rocks, who dwelt in a cave on the bare, windswept Finback, tallest of the Whalebones. Savage and cunning, Tauntzoth slew or drove away all others of her kind as she grew older and spent her days winging far and wide across the Sword Coast North, slaying all large creatures who defied her or whose looks she didn't like.
Increasingly Tauntzoth became convinced that a mysterious overdragon, whom she dubbed "the Unseen" because she could never find any trace of him, was stalking her, intending to enslave her and force her to bear his offspring -- dragons who would be born alive and whole, and would eat and tear their ways out of her, killing her horribly.
No evidence for the existence of the Unseen has appeared outside Tauntzoth's mind, but to her, every creature was an agent of her "Dark Doom," except her own offspring (whose fathers she slew) -- and, to her, they were rebels and potential rivals better slain anyway. One of the last of these unfortunate children seems to have been Rauthra, the future Lhammaruntosz, who spent her formative years spread-eagled and helpless in her mother's lair, anchored down by an extensive web of spell-reinforced chains and manacles.
Tauntzoth developed spells dealing with regeneration and experimented with them on her hapless daughter. Her gift for the art of magic was strong, and to this day Lhammaruntosz swiftly regenerates lost limbs and organs. Tauntzoth regenerated even faster but she couldn't resist augmenting her powers with ever-greater spells until her body grew a wild and endless succession of spare limbs, wings, headless necks, and tails, becoming a clumsy thing that was obviously "the Curse of the Unseen" come down upon her. This process accelerated for some seasons, until her body ultimately collapsed into a boneless mass.
In the final years of her life, the quickening and uncontrollable growth of her body made Tauntzoth a vast and horrifying monster -- a cavern-filling mass of writhing flesh that was continually exuding new extremities. It also made her ache (or "burn," as she often howlingly described it) with continual hunger. Her solution was near at hand: her daughter, the mistrusted and thoroughly cowed object of her experiments. Strengthened regeneration magic made permanent by the most powerful spellcasting allowed Rauthra to survive being eaten more or less continuously.
The young dragon spent at least two centuries as a chained, partly devoured prisoner of her mother -- and decades thereafter as an abandoned prisoner, kept from a death of despair and starvation only by her regenerative magic, her hunger to see the world outside her cave, and whatever vermin she could find nearby to keep her body regenerating. With increasing frustration she awaited the failure of spell after spell until she could burst the last of her chains and win freedom at last.
This cruel rearing has left its scars; imprisonment and personal restraint are threats that make Lhammaruntosz go berserk even today, some six centuries after she first flew out of the Finback and left the horror of her mother's lair forever. The old northern ballad "The Wandering Wyrm," believed to have been the work of the halfling minstrel Aldersound Bucklebar, recounts a few incidents of her wide-ranging explorations of Faerûn at this time.
The Claws of the Coast spent almost four centuries wandering about Faerûn, fighting off and fleeing from all the hostile dragons whose domains she inadvertently entered. She owes her survival to her regenerative powers and her swiftness to flee; never interested in fighting for territory and possessed of very little personal pride, Lhammaruntosz never lingers to destroy a foe but simply strikes to defend herself, end an immediate problem, and be on her way again. She has shown a whimsical side and an impulsive desire to aid lone, beleaguered creatures -- and her "swoop from the sky" rescues earned her fame in human lore and several outstanding debts owed to her by such diverse folk as the mage Malchor Harpell, several senior Harpers, and the priest Tolgar Anuvien of Goldenfields. Her attacks substantially weakened the Broken Bone orc horde in 1024 DR, and she was the mysterious "wyrm gliding by night" that plucked the shipwrecked explorer Havilar Culdorn (founder of the Blackbacks Trading Coster, forerunner of many of the wealthy trading houses of present-day Amn) from the waves of the Sea of Swords after the pirate-shattering Battle of Blazing Sails in 1211 DR.
Lhammaruntosz seems to have ended her wandering only recently, taking the "resting lair" (an open-to-the elements, hoardless sleeping spot) of the old green dragon Skarlthoon. Known as "Snarljaws" because of her temper, Skarlthoon died in 1348 DR of some disease that ate away her scales and then the flesh beneath, covering her with creeping moss. The Claws of the Coast then seems to have fought some unknown dragon to the death and gained its inland lair; Elminster believes that this hidden hold must lie somewhere south and east of Secomber, in the broken land that marks the edge of the High Moor -- and that its lingering magic is enough to make the wandering Lhammaruntosz feel secure. (She chose the Sword Coast from Neverwinter to Velen as her favorite haunt.)
This, in turn, allowed her to build a family to oversee and be part of her merchant fleet, the ships of the Scaly Eye, which began to sail sometime around 1361 DR, but only grew to prosperity and reputation after the Year of the Staff (1366 DR), after her battles against pirates earned her the trust of merchant clients. Two keys to the success of the Scaly Eye were the two sisters Draeth: two fat and unlovely, but very astute, women from Leilon, Astlarthe and Dlareen. They brought the bronze dragon enough honest news and opinions of human doings and intrigues to fascinate her with the strivings of humans and to make her want to be involved in such things continuously. The Draeths, though much crippled with arthritis, remain the most trusted, high-ranking, and important agents of the Scaly Eye. Based in Neverwinter and Mintarn respectively, they deal in cargoes and special handling agreements for their "Mother" and can count on her personal protection and financial support in all they do. Beyond a hunger for the company of young and handsome men, they seem to lack vices and weaknesses -- and after encounters with some watchful Harpers and a certain enraged bronze she-dragon, Luskanite rivals have learned not to try slaying them.
Today, Lhammaruntosz is a bronze dragon of what humans call "very old" years, sleek in build but often battered in appearance. Her craggy face is homely for a dragon and always seems somehow more kindly than majestic. The works of her mother have left her with a fear and mistrust of magic, but also with the determination that no one will ever easily overcome her defenses and harm or enslave her with magic again, so the Claws of the Coast gathers all the magic she can, while avoiding both unnecessary spellcasting and all magical experimentation.
Lhammaruntosz finds it hard to trust anyone and keeps her own company; any need to share a small area with other sentient creatures for more than a few hours will make her irritable, suspicious, and constantly on her guard. At the same time, she feels a need to be accepted by a friendly group of beings who share a common purpose. (It is fair to say, Elminster and the "Dragon Sage" Velsaert of Baldur's Gate agree, that the folk of her Scaly Eye fleet serve as the family she never had -- and that her mistrust of other dragons will probably ensure that she never does have a draconic family.)
Lhammaruntosz is gifted with a remarkable sense of direction and distance, honed by her years of wandering, and she can find her way to small and specific locations, even unfamiliar ones, in the dark and in poor weather, with a minimum of fuss and delay. She's often come out of the driving rain of a howling storm, low over the storm-tossed waves, wings beating powerfully among the wind gusts and the lightning, to check on one of her ships. Stricken vessels are promptly towed (all Scaly Eye ships are equipped with long, stout cables for this purpose, consisting of three ropes braided to each other to form one extra-thick length, which is anchored to "keel-trunks" set in the deck and carried wrapped around the inside of the deck-rail) or abandoned, their crews snatched aloft after lashing themselves to one another.
Lhammaruntosz is also developing a shrewd sense of human nature and knows when she's being lied to. The swindles and covert ways of merchants are becoming almost second nature to her, and she's learned to hold her tongue in patience, to test would-be allies and business partners, and to set aside personal feelings when a longtime ally turns sour, or long-term treachery is revealed. This calmness and understanding of others led to the "Mother Wyrm" nickname (coined as a result of her rescues) sticking, even in the face of the fiercer "Claws of the Coast" moniker, which grew out of tavern tales of her tearing apart pirate vessels to defend ships of her fleet. A slightly less respectful (or more unfriendly) variant of this, much heard among sailors, is "Mother Claws."
Velsaert reports that the key to Lhammaruntosz's character is her understanding of humans, but Elminster says her attentive, motherlike caring for other creatures -- many other beings, not just a chosen few partners or allies -- is what sets her apart from most wyrms. She hates pranks and deceptions of all kinds and is always analyzing folk and situations. Her actions may seem to occasionally be born out of imprudence or ignorance, but it is a mistake to assume so -- she has almost always thought (and prepared) several steps ahead.
Mother Wyrm has two homes -- a hidden inland hoard-lair whose whereabouts are unknown, and a "resting lair" in a bowl valley in the heights of Orlumbor. She visits the inland lair only when she needs to take shelter from severe winter weather, retrieve magic, or hide and think or heal; she is almost always found on Orlumbor or on the wing, somewhere above the Sword Coast. She visits coastal agents and informants often, even alighting on the coastal rocks near Lathtarl's Lantern every few days to talk to the gruff old retired fisherman Inglas Pholdaruk, whom she pays so well that he's been able to hire spies in many nearby villages to keep a very close watch over travelers, caravans, and local doings. As he put it, "I never thought I'd become someone important in my fireside years -- but bless old Mother Claws, I have!"
Several Cult of the Dragon agents and ambitious adventurers have searched in vain for the inland lair of Lhammaruntosz. She may keep its entrance choked by a rockfall, for it's doubtful it has any defenders to keep folk out when she's not there. Nor do elaborate traps seem to be her style. What is certain is that it must hold some impressive magic items, because Mother Wyrm has swiftly produced such things from time to time, as conflicts dictate, and used them to telling effect.
From Orlumbor, Lhammaruntosz ranges up and down the Sword Coast, avoiding the immediate vicinity of Waterdeep and Baldur's Gate, but going so far as to perch beside the walls of Neverwinter and Velen on occasion. Hardened against the ravages of exposure by her regenerative powers, the Claws of the Coast thinks nothing of hard landings or of simply stretching out on bare rock islets to wait out a storm, even when ice and snow cloak her resting form thickly.
Mother Wyrm doesn't think of this territory as her exclusive domain, as most wyrms do; she'll ignore or perhaps calmly greet and pass other dragons who treat her the same way, fighting only those who offer her battle, or attack her property, the Scaly Eye folk, or her friends.
The Deeds of Lhammaruntosz
Lhammaruntosz doesn't need to eat much, but her childhood near-starvation has given her a loathing of hunger. She prefers to eat lightly but often and to vary her diet greatly, firmly deciding to try new things and never to adopt any "favorite fare."
From day to day, Lhammaruntosz busies herself aiding, defending, and watching over the sailors, agents, and merchants who serve under the Scaly Eye banner. She seldom undertakes expeditions away from the Sword Coast these days and prides herself on being very well informed as to coastal news and events. Word of strange magic or armed bands engaging in open conflict brings her immediate interest -- and often a "go and see" flight. Some folk are of the opinion that her presence and habit of swift response have kept forces of Luskan from infiltrating or openly attacking Neverwinter and has kept Leilon safe from brigandry without its citizens lifting more than a few fingers in their own defense.
Lhammaruntosz: Female very old bronze dragon; CR 20; Huge dragon (water); HD 30d12+213; hp 408; Init +0; Spd 40 ft., swim 60 ft., fly 150 ft. (poor); AC 37, touch 8, flat-footed 37; Atk +37 melee (2d8+10, bite) and +32 melee (2d6+5, 2 claws) and +32 melee (1d8+5, 2 wings) and +32 melee (2d6+15, tail slap); Face/Reach 10 ft. by 20 ft./10 ft.; SA breath weapon (100-ft. line of lightning), breath weapon (50-ft. cone of repulsion gas), crush 2d8+15, frightful presence, spell-like abilities; SQ blindsight 270 ft., darkvision 900 ft., DR 15/+2, fast healing 2, healing burst, immunities (electricity, paralysis, sleep), low-light vision, SR 26, water breathing; AL LG; SV Fort +26, Ref +17, Will +23; Str 31, Dex 10, Con 25, Int 22, Wis 23, Cha 22.
Skills and Feats: Balance +2, Bluff +16, Concentration +27, Diplomacy +43, Escape Artist +10, Heal +14, Hide -8, Intimidate +8, Jump +12, Knowledge (arcana) +15, Knowledge (history -- the North) +16, Knowledge (local - the North) +31, Listen +41, Search +39, Sense Motive +28, Spellcraft +36, Spot +41, Swim +18, Tumble +16, Survival +22; Alertness, Endurance, Flyby Attack, Great Fortitude, Power Attack, Snatch , Toughness, Wingover.
Breath Weapon (Su): Once every 1d4 rounds, Lhammaruntosz can breathe a 100-foot line of electricity. Any creature in that area takes 18d6 points of electricity damage (Reflex DC 32 half).
Breath Weapon (Su): Once every 1d4 rounds, Lhammaruntosz can breathe a 50-foot cone of repulsion gas. Any creature in that area must succeed at a Reflex save (DC 32) or be compelled to do nothing but move away from the dragon for 1d6+9 rounds. This is a mind-affecting compulsion enchantment effect.
Crush (Ex): When flying or jumping, Lhammaruntosz can land on Small or smaller opponents as a standard action, using her whole body to crush them. A crush attack affects as many creatures as can fit under Lhammaruntosz's body. Each creature in the affected area must succeed at a Reflex save (DC 32) or be pinned, automatically taking bludgeoning damage during the next round unless she moves off. If Lhammaruntosz chooses to maintain the pin, treat it as a normal grapple attack (grapple bonus +48). A pinned opponent takes crush damage each round if it doesn't escape.
Frightful Presence (Su): This ability takes effect automatically when Lhammaruntosz attacks, charges, or flies overhead. It affects only opponents within 270 feet that have 29 or fewer Hit Dice. The affected creature must make a successful Will save (DC 31) or become panicked (if 4 or fewer HD) or shaken (if more than 5 HD). Success indicates that the target is immune to Lhammaruntosz's frightful presence for one day.
Spell-Like Abilities: At will -- speak with animals; 3/day -- create food and water, detect thoughts, fog cloud, polymorph self. Caster level 13th; save DC 16 + spell level. Lhammaruntosz's polymorph self ability works just like the spell, except that each use allows only one change, which lasts until she assumes another form or reverts to her own (which does not count as a use of this ability).
Blindsight (Ex): Lhammaruntosz can ascertain creatures by nonvisual means (mostly hearing and scent, but also by noticing vibration and other environmental clues) to a range of 270 feet. Invisibility and darkness are irrelevant, though she still can't discern ethereal beings. Lhammaruntosz usually does not need to make Spot or Listen checks to notice creatures within range of her blindsight ability.
Fast Healing (Ex): Lhammaruntosz regains hit points at the rate of 2 per round. Fast healing does not restore hit points lost from starvation, thirst, or suffocation, but it does allow Lhammaruntosz to regrow or reattach lost body parts.
Low-Light Vision: Lhammaruntosz can see four times as well as a human in low-light conditions and twice as well in normal light.
Healing Burst (Ex): Three times per day, Lhammaruntosz may accelerate her body's fast healing ability, healing 6d4 points of damage. This is a standard action, and works exactly as if she had healed the damage with fast healing.
Water Breathing (Ex): Lhammaruntosz can breathe underwater indefinitely and can freely use her breath weapon, spells, and other abilities while submerged.
Sorcerer Spells Known (6/8/8/7/7/7/5; save DC 16 + spell level): 0 -- detect magic, disrupt undead, flare, light, mage hand, mending, open/close, read magic, resistance; 1st -- alarm, charm person, endure elements, expeditious retreat, unseen servant; 2nd -- darkness, endurance, invisibility, resist elements, whispering wind; 3rd -- dispel magic, protection from elements, suggestion, tongues; 4th -- arcane eye, dimension door, scrying, stoneskin; 5th -- cloudkill, prying eyes, Rary's telepathic bond; 6th -- acid fog, greater dispelling.
The Cult of the Dragon is increasingly interested in the Claws of the Coast because of her interest in human society, her profitable shipping fleet (which could be turned to enriching them, were she to become a dracolich under their control), and -- most importantly -- her regenerative powers.
Certain individuals within the Cult are secretly researching a means of magically achieving "weredragonhood" (that is, acquiring the means to temporarily take on fully-powered draconic shapes, when desired, though the term is a misnomer because dragons are not animals and thus this ability is unrelated to lycanthropy and the moon), so as to use their abilities against not only the hostile world but against fellow Cult members and rise from the lower ranks to leadership of the Cult. At least two of them (Elminster smilingly refused to furnish names) covet Lhammaruntosz's regenerative powers, seeing them as a means to virtual immortality for either humans or weredragon-humans.
Whether or not what aids her can be made to aid anyone else is a mystery "best left to the gods," Elminster commented, "because it's a rather certain bet that no mortal knows."
If Lhammaruntosz eludes the clutches of all the folk who want to get their hands on her powers, she still risks treachery at the claws of any dragon she dares trust enough to mate with; Elminster sees the chances of her developing any such trust as being extremely unlikely. This would seem to indicate a long and lonely life, with eventual destruction at the hands of a magically powerful foe that can shatter her regenerative powers. The usual candidates for such villainy (such as the Brotherhood of the Arcane, Red Wizards, Zhentarim, and the phaerimm) are all likely to see Mother Wyrm as a useful slave-steed and to try to magically control her mind rather than destroy her utterly.
Little is known of the spells wielded by the Claws of the Coast; they seem to be both minor and familiar. She even employs her natural abilities (such as polymorphing into other creature forms) very sparingly. On several occasions, however, she has used her "acid-ball wand" in aerial battle. Elminster says this is an old Halruaan weapon similar to the one used by the wyrm Malaeragoth (and he'll give us details of this particularly wicked wand with that dragon's chronicle).
About the Authors
Ed Greenwood grew up glorying in the great fantasy epics of masters from Tolkien and Dunsany to Leiber and Zelazny. He's always wanted more stories of his favorite heroes and villains, so he created the Forgotten Realms as a place to tell them in.
Sean K Reynolds spends a lot of his time on trains, working on his laptop or reading books that usually end up left behind on the train for some other person to enjoy.