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Notes to Dragon Society in Wyrmsteethby John Calvin & Giulio N. Caroletti
Some of the information that will be found in this addendum for the Wyrmsteeth setting, which was presented in the Tome issue #2, could be difficult to understand if you are not in possess of the article "From Hatchling to Dragon Immortality", found in Dragon #170, by Bruce Heard.
It is not possible for us to present the article, obviously, but we are going to resume its main points, just in order to allow everyone to enjoy fully our work, which cost us several hours of slave labour and the frustrating experience of dealing with e-mails when one of you is in California and the other in Italy.
But let's start.
Introduction: A Dragon's Life
In Mystara, Dragons are slightly different from those of other TSR fantasy worlds.
The Dragons of Mystara live a cyclic existence, that revolves around a number of Quests, that can be better described as states of existence where the dragon's main concern is to fulfil one goal. The first of these Quests is the Quest for Wealth, with the dragon amassing the greatest amount of treasure that he can put his claws on. Then comes the Quest for Magic, when the dragon tries to learn magic and find magical items; then comes the Quest for Power: in this period, a dragon battles every other dragon he might find, because he wants to acquire the control of other dragons. If a dragon beats another, he becomes its suzerain; the relationship between the suzerain and his vassal is similar to that of a feudal one: a suzerain to a dragon takes control also of all his vassals. Naturally, as in the case of humans, there is no reason for a vassal not to plot and conspire for the downfall of his suzerain, although a direct action isn't allowed. Then comes the Quest for Knowledge: in this part of its existence, the dragon amasses information about the Ceremony of Sublimation, travelling through his dreams in the Outer Plane. The Ceremony of Sublimation, preceded by a period of Feeding that the dragon uses to recover from the months he spent sleeping, is the final goal of a dragon's cycle. Through the Ceremony, a dragon may grow in size, in power and even obtain Immortality as an underling of one of the three Lesser Dragon Rulers, but the dragon could also be killed and consumed in the process, that always annihilates his hoard an magical items. When the Ceremony ends, if the dragon is still a mortal creature, the cycle starts anew.
How are the dragon society in Wyrmsteeth influenced by these cycles?
Surely not much changes with the first two quests, that are related simply to the particular dragon, but when we take a look at the 3rd Quest, we can understand much of the political organisation of the Dragon Kingdom.
Mors Rufus, Dragon King of Wyrmsteeth, is the most important Suzerain of the area, thus the title. Since the "founding" of the nation by Syare/Pearl, the title of Dragon King has always been a self-appointment, as is often the case with chaotic or evil creatures.
Anyway, given the massive number of vassals dragons the King has, it is difficult that a strong dragon is ever contested this title. Other powerful dragons have mostly ignored the King, not willing to transform Norwold in a giantish battlefield, with the chance of being killed or subjected by another dragon. This is especially true since a dragon powerful to that level, having the chance to attain Dragon Immortality in the Ceremony of Sublimation would hardly risk its own life in such a manner.
Since 802, when Mors Rufus began to attract humanoids in Wyrmsteeth, dragons have slightly changed their view on things. The position of Dragon King and the influence in human and demihuman politics has become much more interesting to the eyes of powerful dragons, allowing them to gain considerable advantages at all stages of their Quests. A good example of this is the disposal of troops to protect their lairs during the Ceremony of Sublimation itself, the shield against wyrmslayers and other crusaders at any stage in their life provided by an entire nation of minions, and the possibility of using their minions to provide them with the materials needed for their first two quests.
The creation of a Wyrmsteethian Army was not so easy. Although the idea for the human "colonisation" of Wyrmsteeth was of Mors Rufus, a decisive contribution was given by the other great dragons of the region, that requested positions of power in the new nation from the "King", as soon as they understood the potential of the idea. Here are the individual entries for the dragon's behaviour in this matter:
Mors Rufus: The Dragon King was formerly the most powerful vassal of Incendiarious, the former dragon king which attained Dragon Immortality.
Xanesh: Xanesh have remained mostly uncaring of humans, and he has been the last of the great dragons of the region to ask for alliance with Mors Rufus. He is still not sure of what human followers could do to help the dragons, and secretly he has an anarchical desire to throw out humans and destroy the political assessment of Wyrmsteeth, with an exception to the Order of the Holy Blood Sword. His hate for Ipsilon has more than once led him to the thought of defeating the green dragon to become suzerain to the great number of followers he has got. This could also help him to threat the authority of the Dragon King. But he is still inferior in power to Ipsilon, so he is desperately searching a way to hasten his steps in his Quest for Power. To further it, he has travelled out of Norwold in the past decades, to find new vassals without letting the other Dragon Rulers know.
Incendiarious: An exception to the rule that wants female dragons to mate with weaker dragons is her relationship with Mors Rufus, but Incendiarious is a very powerful dragon indeed, maybe more than her ally knows. She is backed by her loyal seven children and all their vassals, plus a number of weaker dragons used as occasional lovers...so in fact it could be that the female dragon is more important to the Dragon King than Mors Rufus is to her.
Ipsilon: The green dragon has got the greatest number of vassals of all other dragons of Norwold, but fortunately he is too savage and impetuous to make a really good use of them...he is a very contradictory figure: he hates humans, but he is the dragon that most resorts to them in order to attain his goals; he feels he is the stronger dragon of Norwold, but he has never challenged old and huge dragons, and thus most of his followers are weaker than the stronger vassals of the other Rulers.
Hk'rhal: The bizarre Hk'rhal is, although it is not known by the most, a vassal of Mors Rufus. He was defeated three centuries ago, when the two dragons were much younger. Hk'rhal hasn't got too many vassals, and is tempted by the idea of becoming a Renegade, entering the service of the Sphere of Time, to better help his lizard followers, but he hates the idea of becoming hated by the others of his kind.
The feeding problem
The fifth cycle (feeding) also raises problems for a land which holds so many dragons. Why don't they eat the human population?
The dragons, in fact, hide a terrible secret among their mountains.
Buried deep under the rocky cliffs of the volcanic area of Wyrmsteeth, where red dragons especially thrive, are vast complex of underground caverns, where dragonkin known as the Claenra feed and raise a quite special dragon-cattle: a degenerate and mingled race of humans, descended from war slaves, prisoners serving a life sentence, sentenced-to-death, and especially all the humans and werewolves that were officially driven off Wyrmsteeth's borders after the 832 treaty between humans and dwarves...
In the caverns, there are more than 8'000 degenerated humans, raised as idiot cattle. Put in great pens, these poor creatures are forcibly fed and controlled by the Claenra, who control their matings and keep their intelligence from growing. The degenerates can't speak nor understand each other, communicate only grunting, are extremely pale and many have atrocious deformities due to the fact that nobody cares if relatives intermingle. An elite association of the Claenra, known as the Seers, control closely the dragons, and are generally well informed on the status of the cycles of the dragons. These information are used to help the human and dwarven population in Wyrmsteeth, preparing them to the Omens of Coming and the eventual problems that arise when a dragon completes his cycle, but also to prepare a stock of degenerates to feed the dragon and at least keep their hunger to a level at which they are reasonable enough to avoid attacking the humans. The dragons are not at all disgusted by their use of the degenerates. They believe that the people they used to breed the degenerates would have died anyway following the human and dwarven laws, and by this way they used them in a more rationale form to avoid problems to the honest (and profitable for them) humanoid population of Wyrmsteeth!
The Claenra are a reptilian race that were stranded on Mystara from another world, where they were nearly exterminated by elves. Led by the Word of the Dragon (Pearl), they arrived in Norwold around AC 800 and were soon "employed" by Mors Rufus to work for him. Nowadays there are about 1'500 Claenra, 300 of whom are "Seers". Claenra are much similar to drakes, in aspect, but they are tall like elves and possess two arms, adapted to the use of most weapons and human tools. Their skin is a sickly light blue, and they have three rows of short but very sharp teeth. The white of their eyes is...red, with serpent-like black pupils.
The Claenra doesn't leave Wyrmsteeth too much; they have a long life-span (400 years), and are used in the breeding and controlling of the Degenerates. Pearl has a plan for them to be re-shaped in a race that can be more useful to his purposes in Mystara, and thus nearly all their offspring are born as Seers (see below). The existence of the Claenra is known to only some of the highest ranking officials of the Army and the clerics of Pearl.
Although the Seers are a branch of the Claenra dragon-kin, they possess the power, imbued to them by Pearl, to disguise in the population like humans. This is not a magical power, rather a natural one, so it can not be detected with magical means. The Seers have several important duties: apart from the ones described above (control the status of dragon cycles, inform the humanoid population of Omens of Coming, provide Degenerates to feed the dragons awakening from the Quest for Knowledge), the Seers are also charged with the duty of providing new "animals" to the Degenerate herds. Whenever a man is sentenced to be jailed for life, he is taken by the Seers and brought to the Claenra. If they may prove useful to the dragons in some way, they are employed by them, otherwise they are put in the underground caverns with the Degenerates, not before they are feebleminded permanently.
The Seers act also as guards for dormant dragons in the Quest for Knowledge, although in this case they usually work along soldiers from the Army or clerics of Pearl.
SAMPLE DRAGON HIERARCHY
This part's purpose is to show how a dragon hierarchy works, and may explain how the Suzerain/Vassal relationship is founded and how it can develop in time. It is also useful to build the hierarchies between the Dragon King and other dragons of the region, explaining the reasons for his power.
Ferrimyx - This huge red has scales of the deepest crimson. Around her jaw and eyes they darken black, as if burnt to a crisp. Blue and purple veins can be seen shot through her wings. She has mated twice in her lifetime, once very recently (4 decades ago).
Her first mating with the dragon Aarl'lek produced seven offspring. Of that brood, only three still survive, Virraxn, Nithramor, and Lithiar.
Three of that brood were slain by their father before they reached maturity, while the fourth, Hedfang was killed in a battle of dominance. Her second mating with the dragon Emberash produced five offspring. All five still live with Ferrimyx in her lair, too young yet to venture out on their own.
For several centuries now Ferrimyx has dwelt in the western range of the Wyrmsteeth Mountains. She is slowly, but steadily building up a power base in the area, and in surrounding regions.
Directly controls Aillucent, Gwa-Dthorim, Hekhekh, Sutkehr, and Emberash
Aillucent - This ancient white's scales have yellowed with age. His shrivelled wings are smaller than they should be, preventing this wyrm from ever taking flight again. His claws and teeth appear to be made of clear ice.
Over 5 decades ago, Aillucent's power was challenged by a younger, and stronger white. Aillucent fled, beaten and near death. Ferrimyx found him in this condition. Instead of dispatching the wretch, Ferrimyx granted him shelter inside of her own territory. Now he uses his magical knowledge to benefit his red benefactor.
Aillucent hates Ferrimyx, who taunts and tortures him every time she visits his laboratory lair. He has led her to believe that he is working on a way to distil lycanthropy, information he knows Ferrimyx will use against Mors Rufus' dwarven allies. What he has told Ferrimyx is only half of the truth however. Using were-creatures provided by the Seers, Aillucent is devising a way to infect himself with lycanthropy.
He hopes to strengthen his failing body and extend his already long lifespan. Several lycanthropic servants assist him in his efforts.
Gwa-Dthorim - This slender and agile green has scales streaked with greens and browns. His small wings grant him a greater manoeuvrability, but also prevent him from attaining the speed and altitude of most dragons.
Gwa moved into the forests below Ferrimyx's lair nearly a century ago.
The huge red left him to his own devices until 990AC when a flock of young greens moved into the area. Gwa quickly dominated the young dragons, and began to use them to expand his own territories. Ferrimyx decided that she had ignored Gwa for too long and challenged him in his own territory. After a short and bloody battle, Gwa submitted to her authority. Being a brutal savage at heart, he doesn't mind the situation as long as Ferrimyx allows him to occasionally vent his frustrations upon the local countryside.
Directly controls Gwa's Flock.
Gwa's Flock - This flock of seven (2 small dragons, and 5 young [treat as 1/2 hit die of Small in the RC]) are all obviously hatched from the same brood. Their bright green scales are accentuated by russet patches across their faces and along their spines. Still quite young for dragons, these greens act mostly on instinct, although Gwa can generally get them to follow his commands. The oldest of the flock is just starting to pick up a few bits of Dragonish from its master, although its comprehension is limited.
Hekhekh and Sutkehr - This brother and sister pair have glimmering black scales that dull to a grey on their undersides. Hekhekh has numerous scars and acid burns across his back and neck. Sutkehr has a vicious gash across her left nostril, as well as several broken horns.
Both dragons know a smattering of Dragonish - enough to have gained them the following of several different lizard men tribes in the area.
They have just begun to use the tribes in order to raid other lands and amass a sizeable amount of treasure (a portion of which they pay in tribute to Ferrimyx). Tensions are heating up between the pair of small blacks, as they both prepare for their first Ceremony of Sublimation.
There may not be enough wealth in the area to sustain them both.
Emberash - This large red male's scales are almost a glowing orange in colour, the edges flaked in greys and blacks.
Emberash was brash and arrogant when Ferrimyx took him as a mate 4 decades ago. Little did he suspect that the older and wiser red would turn on him soon afterwards. She had little trouble in humbling Emberash. Now he seethes with hatred for her and her new brood.
Although he would not, and could not, openly defy Ferrimyx, he secretly plans for her downfall.
Directly controls Laythanix, Ellimyris, and Emberash's Flock of Whites.
Laythanix - This large red has just emerged from a successful Ceremony of Sublimation and is feeling the pains of extreme hunger. Fortunately Seers in the area have spent long years in preparation for this event, and have a herd of "cattle" ready for him to devour.
Laythanix has scales of blood red, with horns protruding from every joint. With his newfound size and strength, Laythanix is considering re-challenging his feudal lord Emberash. He has already made up his mind not to accept Emberash's surrender, should it be offered. After his master is taken care of, Laythanix intends to widen his power base.
Ellimyris - This small gold has very fine golden scales with intricate coppery patterns interspersed throughout her hide. Her eyes and teeth are the same coppery colour, as well as the few horns that protrude from her head.
Ellimyris left her overcrowded homeland in search of greener pastures.
Unfortunately the best territory she could find was in a mountain range surrounded by reds. For many years she avoided them, focusing her attentions on the local humans and dwarves. Several years ago however, Emberash caught up to her and subdued her. She detests obeying the hateful red, but has to admit that her fealty to him now affords her the ability to act in a much more open manner in this harsh land.
Emberash's Flock of Whites - This small flock of six white dragons live near the peaks of Emberash's mountain territory. They are stupid and vicious, but he can control them enough to get his wishes across to them. The whites are obviously not from the same brood. They have banded together in order to better survive in these lands.
Power ChartFerrimyx ------------------------------------------------------------------------------- | | | | | Aillucent Gwa-Dthorim Hekhekh Sutkehr Emberash | | ------------------------ | ------ ---------------------------- Gwa's Flock | | | Laythanix Ellimyris White Flock
Ties of Blood
Young Red Flock - This brood of dragonlings was produced by the mating of Ferrimyx and Emberash just over 40 years ago. The five young reds are striped with crimson and orange scales, and various patches deepen to an almost black colour. Still very young, the dragonlings lack any horns on their bodies, and their wings are as yet too undeveloped for flight.
Ferrimyx still does most of the hunting for her brood, although a few of the larger ones are starting to venture out on their own. Ferrimyx keeps a watchful eye on them whenever they do. Although they are still too young to be of any political help to their mother, the dragonlings take a very active role in maintaining their lair. Their mother often has the Seers deposit herds of degenerates, who the dragonlings toy with at their whims. They organise the "beasts" into squadrons, and often have mock battles with them before ending their games and devouring them.
Virraxn - This small red female has coal black eyes, and dull red scales flecked with yellows. The smallest of Ferrimyx's offspring from her mating with Aarl'lek, Virraxn is content to stay in her mother's shadow. She lacks the ambition and drive that is common amongst her kind, and instead of building an empire for herself, she has chosen to live off of her mothers resources.
Ferrimyx tolerates the young female, for she is completely beholden to her mother. Virraxn often acts as messenger for her mother, and infrequently will perform feats more demanding, such as small raids or minor acts of terrorism. She lairs very near to her mother, but can most often be found in the presence of Ferrimyx.
Nithramor - This large red has a skull covered in horns and bony protrusions. His eyes are lit like flames, and a constant trickle of smoke can always be seen escaping his maw. Nithramor is the only remaining male of Ferrimyx's first brood with Aarl'lek.
Nithramor banded with his brother Ligander, just after leaving his mothers lair. The two brothers did fairly well for themselves in the overcrowded Wyrmsteeth Mountains, hiring their services out to other, larger reds in the area. Unfortunately their rapid progress caught the eye of their father Aarl'lek who promptly descended upon them to end perceived threats to his own power. In the battle that ensued, Ligander was slain, and Nithramor driven away.
While in exile, Nithramor established a small domain in the deserts of Ylaruam. Over the course of a century, he established himself over the other dragons in the area, personally subjugating a small bronze and a large blue. After completing his first Ceremony of Sublimation, Nithramor has returned to the Wyrmsteeth to reclaim his birthright. He and his vassals, are now trying to carve out their own little power bases from this great kingdom.
Ferrimyx has lent him support in his efforts to re-establish himself, and Nithramor is not an ungrateful son. He may be persuaded to offer support to his mother in a time of need, but will not risk what he has built needlessly. He has also formed tentative alliances with several dragons laired near his father, in the hopes of overthrowing Aarl'lek and avenging his lost brother.
Lithiar - This large red female is covered in blood red scales and horns of ebony. She is considered beautiful among her own kind (although what that means to humanoids is unclear).
Another offspring of Ferrimyx and Aarl'lek, Lithiar was the first to leave her mother's lair. She has no fixed lair, but instead roams about the entire Wyrmsteeth range. Despite the lack of a permanent home, Lithiar has already performed the Ceremony of Sublimation successfully once, and is preparing to do so again.
Lithiar despises her father, and covets his lands. She has helped in various schemes of Nithramor's, but has never proven to be completely reliable to him. She holds Virraxn in contempt, and is disgusted by her total lack of ambition. It is because of this, and because of the fact that Ferrimyx continues to harbour her poor excuse for a sister, that Lithiar has not spoken to her mother in over 150 years. She has never lifted a finger to harm either her mother or sister, but neither would she lift one to help them in any way. In fact she often dreams of their eventual downfall, and how sweet it would be to witness it from afar.
Aarl'lek - Not really considered to be tied by blood to Ferrimyx, this huge red male was her first mate, and probably worth discussing here.
His powerful wings are large, and when spread out against a sun lit sky, they shine like rubies. His scales are large and tough, and although he lacks many horns his skull is unusually thick and bony.
Sensing treachery in his partner, he did not tarry long after his brood was born. Ferrimyx has proven to be a dangerous and crafty opponent in the years since then. Her offspring are just as treacherous, and Aarl'lek knows that they all plot his downfall. Over the past centuries he has hunted them down wherever he could.