Sunday, February 26, 2023

Dragons, Part 2

 Here's Part 1.

Elder Wyrms

Elder wyrms are widely considered hermaphroditic, although Makamendo Balette believes that they instead change their gender at will.  Boshmuir describes them as sexless.

All elder wyrms have a multitude of names.  It is believed that saying the name of an elder wyrm invites disaster, and so pseudonyms are common.

Orcs have an especially large oral culture surrounding the elder wyrms, and possess several names for each one.  For reasons not fully understood, orcs interact often with dragons and their drakkencults, typically without violence.  (In contrast to human interactions.)

Tar Lath Lien (Elder Wyrm)

Lon Lotha, Apocalypse Keeper, the Serpentine Supreme, the Final Dragon

Tar Lath Lien is destined to end the world.  More specifically, it is known that he alone possesses knowledge of how the Final Eon can be ushered in.

<Sidebar> It is common knowledge that the Authority intended for time to be sliced up into eons, each one 594 years long.  The current age has been going on for 695 years, so it's obvious that something is wrong.  The common explanation is that the trespass into Heaven (some would say the failed invasion of Heaven) has caused the Authority to abandon his covenant with Centerra, since Centerra broke it with him.  Other (heretical) explanations include false calendars and the death of the Authority. </Sidebar>

No serious attempt has been made to slay Tar Lath Lien.  He is the mage-dragon, who has courted immortality and become the first (and only) dracolich.  However, since he can switch between life and undeath with equal impunity, the distinction is little.  (One form is immune to magic, the other is immune to physical damage.)

In fact, Tar Lath Lien long ago mastered the secrets of undeath and found them unsuitable for his goals.  He currently researches preclusion, and is the only expert on this esoteric topic.

Preclusion is understood to be a counterpart to Preservation, perhaps even a type of magic discipline, similar to the metadisciplines of Creation, Preservation, and Destruction.  However, Preclusion uniquely only affects things that don't exist, either because they haven't been created yet or because they've been destroyed.

It has been described as "deepest necromancy" but that is a gross oversimplification.

Because of his studies of (and some say, communications with) the realms of Preclusion, he is never seen outside of Zaotan.

All other elder dragons rule over desolations--realms of predation where the only authority is the elder dragon itself.  But Tar Lath Lien has only the immense Lake Zao, which is perfectly circular.  The Final Dragon lairs beneath.

Tar Lath Lien's fire is love.  All who are burned by it are consumed by a powerful love that overrides all other emotions.  Every creature and plant in Zaotan loves the Final Dragon, with an unyielding intensity.  This compulsion is shared by one's offspring.  

The trees grow because they love him.

The fish swim into nets because they love him.

And the amazons of Zao guard his borders because they love him in a way that breaks their hearts.

The amazons of Zao have a poisonous bite and green skin that is rough like a shark's.  They fight with boomerangs and long spears.  When one dies, a bird flies out of her mouth and returns to Zaotan, where it informs her sisters how she was killed.  

The amazons of Zao serve Tar Lath Lien are intelligent and empathic.  They know that their psyches have been warped by the flames of the Apocalypse Keeper.  They know that their love is not organic--but then again, what love is?  Love has always been a wild thing that creeps into the heart and makes its nest there unbidden.  Theirs is no exception.

And so the amazons rationalize their love, even as it sickens them.

It is not known exactly what Tar Lath Lien's plans are.  But his amazons range far and wide.  Sometimes they kill and steal.  Sometimes they buy.  It is rumored (and hoped) that Tar Lath Lien is fighting wars in the realms of oblivion, building kingdoms that will not exist until the end of time (594 years after the start of the apocalypse).  Since Tar Lath Lien is the oldest and most powerful of the elder wyrms, it is certain that his aspirations are lofty.

Shadow Drakes (Drakes)

The offspring of Tar Lath Lien are even more tightly bound than the amazons.  They are his instruments, and nothing more.  They have some of the powers of shadows (being able to travel along surfaces as a flat shadow) and can travel through mirrors (of which are there many in Zaotan).

There are six of them.  If Tar Lath Lien's body were ever destroyed, he would be immediately reborn through one of his drakes.

Grox (Elder Wyrm)

Garbulgangus, Grave Thrasher, Lord of Filth and Flame, The Venom of the Earth

The largest of the elder wyrms, Grox is different from his kin.  He has no wings, possessing instead a pair of atrophied, useless appendages that appear to be vestigial/malformed heads.  Since all dragons are capable of guiding their own growth and development, it seems impossible that Grox would have useless anatomy.

There is a great deal of debate about whether Grox is undead or merely smells like it.  It is possible that he is some third category, neither living nor undead*.  His features are crocodilian, and his eyes are so small they are barely visible.  His body is wide yet muscular, and his eyes bulge madly from their sockets.

<Digression> The manthrian view of life is essentially: the three lower souls power and sustain the body, while the four upper souls direct the lower three it.  Undeath is simply the colonization of a body by foreign souls (typically demons) which then retrofit the body to suit their own inorganic metabolisms and motive forces.  Hypothesized "third kinds" include large souls capable of independently fulfilling all seven roles, or theorized "hyperdraconic" souls that subsist on a separate energy source (possibly their own will, external to the universe) and are capable of metasubstantiation--each part of the whole is a whole</digression>

Grox cannot be killed.  He was quieted for a while, when the Fourth Emperor hammered cold iron spikes through his brain and forced him to a lake of acid.  In this state, Grox struggled only feebly, never able to fully regenerate or think.  During the Age of Ruin, economic hardship prevented the renewal of the acid lake, and eventually orc were able to reach Grox and remove the spikes from his brain.

Now Grox roams freely across his Desolation at the northeastern extremity of the Grey Waste, where feeds on the rich fields of bacteria-rich mud, gulping down acres every day.  He primarily engages in two activities.

The first is digging great holes, like pit mines.  Although he sometimes sleeps at the bottom of these, the actions seem to be directionless.

The second is to sing to the Three Brothers of Abomination.  These are three "mountains" that resemble squat stone teardrops.  The Three Brothers of Abomination glow at night, with green, forking flames similar to St. Elmo's Fire.  There are a number of rumors about these "mountains", all unsubstantiated.
  • They fell from the upper air in response to Grox's song.  
  • They sing back to Grox on certain nights.
  • They are from the elemental plane of Poison.
  • They are growing.
They are intensely poisonous, and the dust that they shed is poisonous.  Only orcs are immune to this poison.  Travelers must protect themselves against inhalation, or die rapidly as their blood foams and seeps from the creases in their skin.

Grox prefers to trample and swallow, but his green flame is poisonous.  Anything struck by it is poisoned forever, barring a miracle.  And this poison does not seem to be weakened by dilution (and in fact, some say that it is strengthened by it).  A corpse poisoned by Grox will eventually poison the entire churchyard, and then the entire town.  When people flee, they will take the poison with them, eventually spreading it like an epidemic.  

People killed by this poison are turned into brittle stone.  If these corpse statues are washed in aqua regia will stain in odd patterns resembling runes.  The dragon scholar Makamendo Balette claimed that she was on the verge of decoding these runes, and had promised to announce a great discovery, when she disappeared.  It is dangerous to study the Lord of Filth and Flame, who is the oldest and greatest of the elder wyrms.

Grox's drakkencult is the only one that is composed entirely of orcs.

Basilisks (Drakes)

The basilisks are the children of Grox.  When Grox bleeds, his blood seeps into the ground and forms eggs.  These eggs hatch into basilisks, which are as diverse in form as they are in size.  They range from serpentine, to crocodilian, to the full-size basilisk drakes capable of flight, to multi-headed dragonoid phenomena.

Basilisks have a poisonous glare.  Averting your eyes provides only partial protection.  Full protection requires complete obscuration of all of  your senses.  Those killed by basilisk poison are turned into brittle stone.

Basilisks are also the only creature that can be "manufactured".  The full process is considered to be forbidden knowledge, but it involves re-concentrating the Grave-Thrasher's venom by feeding it to a small creature that tolerates it well (such as a dungeon bug), feeding those corpses to something larger that tolerates it well (such as a hyena), and then finally feeding those hyenas to a large reptile (such as a crocodile), which will then lay a single basilisk egg in the final stages of its life.


  1. Looks like you left a sentence hanging under Grox's section. "There is a great deal of debate about whether Grox is undead or merely smells like it. It is possible that he is some third category, neither living nor undead*. His features are crocodilian, and his eyes are so small they are barely visible. His body"

  2. Man really came up with a new category of (non-)being for a blog post. Love it.

    Also like how it ties together some disparate parts of the setting like void monks.

  3. "It is common knowledge that the Authority intended for time to be sliced up into eons, each one 594 years long. The current age has been going on for 695 years, so it's obvious that something is wrong."

    I feel like there's a simple solution, here--who says the current age hasn't ended already, out of sight?

    1. The sun (the Throne of the Authority) wasn't destroyed and rebuilt like it normally is.

    2. Unless they destroyed it at night when nobody could see. And muffled the sound with a pillow.

  4. Absolutely fantastic. I'd love to hear more about the invasion of heaven!

  5. You've mentioned this a few times, but did you ever explain the "Dragons warp reality" thing?

    1. You know how phantasms aren't real, but if they are perceived to be real, they can deal damage?

      Phantasms are to humans what humans are to dragons.

  6. There's an asterisk with no corresponding note (or does it refer to the sidebar?) after the word undead.

    Also,Grox has "eyes are so small they are barely visible. ... and his eyes bulge madly from their sockets."

    Is... is it a very tiny bulge?

    The magic of your writings is how at least 4 campaign ideas are in each post, while still being an OSR lesson in design.

    Great to see your posts, every time.