When in Waterdeep recently, Volo was smitten by a certain enigmatic, dark-eyed lady who whispered to him of rare and strange spells only she knew. It is impossible to say from the wildly boastful notes of the infamous traveler whether their brief dalliance involved any true intimacy, and how fondly (if at all) the lady in question regards Volo the Loose-Tongued now, but it is clear that the florid-quilled Volothamp knew he was in the presence of a shapechanger whose true nature he couldn't fathom. It is also clear from his notes that he had no idea he was flirting with the steel dragon Jalanvaloss -- even though he'd come to Waterdeep to find out all he could about the elusive Wyrm of Many Spells.
Few folk are aware they're dealing with Jalanvaloss until later, because she loves the bustle and intrigues of Waterdeep. As an unlicensed but very active mage, she is always on the run from the Watchful Order of Magists and Protectors. (This deception -- and other similar evasions of bureaucratic money-gouging -- are the only unlawfulnesses Jalanvaloss embraces. She prefers not to break laws or disrupt daily life openly, but she sees nothing wrong in hiring or manipulating others to do so.)
In her youth, this female steel dragon (known also as a "Greyhawk dragon," which is its proper name according to archmage Mordenkainen of Oerth) was a servant of the wizard Rythtalies, a reclusive, white-bearded human archmage who dwelt in a now-ruined mountaintop keep in eastern Amn, and who is now believed dead. Rythtalies used Jalanvaloss as a steed but worked on turning her into his best "secret weapon": a being far too magically weak ever to seriously challenge him but one who could aid him against foes by launching surprise attacks.
Rythtalies worked several mighty magics on his steed, whom he came to regard highly for her keen wits and sly sense of humor. His magical augmentations resulted in Jalanvaloss's acquiring the Spellcasting Prodigy feat long after she should have been able to develop that ability.
This power is apparently permanent, having (probably) outlived the mage himself -- though some folk whisper that Rythtalies lives on in the mind of the Wyrm of Many Spells, perhaps sharing her body, and that the spell expertise she exhibits when wearing the form of a tall, sleekly beautiful human female is actually that of Rythtalies himself. Other folk say that whatever the source of the spells used by the steel dragon might be, the sentience of Rythtalies is either dead or slumbering; in the opinion of most wizards to whom the question is put, Jalanvaloss has made too many mistakes with her spellhurlings to be guided by (or to be the work of) an archmage.
Jalanvaloss is known frequently to employ project image spells to put a human image of herself in situations that allow her to interact with Waterdhavians (and visitors to the city -- adventurers in particular) without their discovering her true nature. Volo wrote plenty of purple-prose nonsense about his "Dark-Eyed Lady," implying that her loving attentions surpassed all similar pleasures in his previous experience of ladies all over Faerūn, but readers have no way of knowing how truthful the famous scribe was, or how much Jalanvaloss employs magic to deceive or to overwhelm the senses of humans she meets. She is known to manipulate Waterdhavians playfully and out of a sheer love of doing so, and she promotes a general air of mystery to distract attention from her own deeds and to set folk to doing wild and reckless things (something that seems to afford her much amusement).
First mentioned in A Year of Sorcery: Wizardly Doings in the Year of the Dark Dawn (a widely-quoted chapbook by the sage Aldiber of Memnon), Jalanvaloss seems to have been the pet or servitor of Rythtalies since her birth. She might well have been reared by him from her hatching. Aldiber writes of her deep loyalty in 1104 DR (at an age when most dragons are particularly headstrong and rebellious or defiant of authority), when she braved the hostile spells of two archmages to swoop in and rescue her master from an ambush.
Rythtalies seems to have disappeared sometime in 1262 DR, though it must be emphasized that this figure is more of an estimation than any record of a specific disaster befalling the wizard. Whatever her master's ultimate fate, Jalanvaloss acted alone from then on, soon abandoning the keep in Amn -- which was often visited by greedy mages and adventurers, and well-nigh destroyed in her battles against them -- for the streets of Waterdeep, the City of Splendors. Jalanvaloss is now a mature adult steel dragon of sleek appearance, whose scales flash with an almost iridescent blue sheen when she's about to change shape into human form. She is a keen observer of people and things around her, never forgetting the smallest details, and she seems to revel in being part of as many intrigues and deceptions as possible. She is an actress of the first rank, and an adequate mimic. Over her years of residence in Waterdeep (in a succession of assumed human shapes, all female), she has become expert in recalling the genealogies, relationships, cabals, and alliances of Waterdhavians both high and low in station.
Jalanvaloss acquired the title Wyrm of Many Spells because of an epic spell-battle she once had with Khelben "Blackstaff" Arunsun: Discerning her true nature at an evening revel at the Brossfeather family villa, he casually tossed a wyrmbane spell her way, to drive her from the city. Jalanvaloss responded by peppering him with a barrage of spells, shifting from human to dragon form and precipitating a panic in the process that sent citizens leaping from balconies and trampling each other in gateways and on the streets of Waterdeep.
Distracted by the need to mitigate damage to the citizenry and the surrounding buildings, Khelben responded with magic designed to contain and hamper rather than to punish or destroy. Jalanvaloss took advantage of this tactic to make her escape. Thus, when the Blackstaff finally brought down a binding chain of fate spell on his opponent, seeking to both harm and capture her, it fell harmlessly through a project image spell. News of the spell-battle and the steel dragon's escape was all over the city by the following highsun, and the Copper Tongue (a broadsheet of news sold in the streets for a single copper coin; hence, its name) coined the name of "the Wyrm of Many Spells" for "the mysterious dragon who fought the mighty Blackstaff to a standstill." Jalanvaloss secured her fame in the lore of the city when she defiantly reappeared several nights later, flying in dragon form over Blackstaff Tower and raking it with spells (causing no damage and vanishing before the annoyed archwizard could respond or lay any sort of tracing spell on her).
According to the sage Velsaert of Baldur's Gate, an expert on Sword Coast dragons, the Wyrm of Many Spells has "shown no signs of desiring the company of other wyrms, nor of dwelling in solitude or defending any sort of territory."
Volo found that while Velsaert's observations might well be true, Jalanvaloss does seem to enjoy wiping out rival dragons who cross her in any way. She is known to have destroyed utterly the blue dragons Calaunthriina and Daereveroese (in Amn), and the wicked black dragon Nabalnyth, who briefly laired in the Rat Hills.
The key to Jalanvaloss could be said to be her love of, and outstanding aptitude for, scheming. She always has a few plots to spare and can respond to those who cross her by calling on many (usually unwitting) allies. If she has a main foe, it would be the Cult of the Dragon, whom she would like to destroy permanently in the vicinity of Waterdeep. She has ignored, and will continue to ignore, attempts on their -- or anyone else's -- part, to lure her out of the city. Khelben Arunsun she regards more as an honored opponent, to be teased and frustrated whenever doing so will afford her a means of escape from his seeking magic, and taking up his time won't endanger the security of the city.
The Lair of Jalanvaloss
The Wyrm of Many Spells rents various upper-floor rooms all over the city and owns several shops in Southern Ward, Trades Ward, and Dock Ward. (That is, the buildings are hers, and she rents the premises to various merchants, to run their businesses in.) All of these buildings are crowned with one or two floors of rental apartments, and at least two of them incorporate "secret apartments" (rooms retained by Jalanvaloss herself, which have their own entry stairs linking to cellars -- and thence, to nearby stables -- or the sewers). The Wyrm of Many Spells also owns several houses full of genteel rental rooms in Sea Ward and North Ward; she customarily assumes a different human shape when buying and visiting one shop than she wears for dealings with another. She is known to have at least one secret cache somewhere in the sewers and another in a spell-guarded tomb somewhere in the City of the Dead that contain nothing but clothing, makeup, and accessories that allow her to change one human identity for another.
It is hard to say which of her various Waterdhavian properties is her true lair; Jalanvaloss has even been known to curl up for a rest in dragon form on the roof of a tomb in the City of the Dead and use a spell to make her appear to be no more than sculpted -- and weathered -- stone.
In her various human guises, Jalanvaloss is the friend, ally, or business partner of many Waterdhavians, but (so far as is known) she can't be said to have any true servants or kin.
The Domain of Jalanvaloss
Jalanvaloss doesn't patrol and defend a territory as most dragons do, but her domain could be said to be the city of Waterdeep, its underside in particular (though the pretentions and indulgences of its nobles afford her the most fascinated viewing and amusement). She'll happily share the city with other dragons who hide in humanshape and don't disturb city life, and she tolerates the brief visits of such wyrms as Galadaeros (keeping herself hidden), but will reveal herself to savagely fight off any wyrm who dares to attack the city or folk in its immediate surroundings.
The Deeds of Jalanvaloss
Jalanvaloss is both a sponsor and an enthusiastic fan of adventurers. She spends most of her time consorting with such daring folk. Though she admires the most capable, daring, and clever of such persons, her love of watching their exploits (via scrying and arcane eye spells) doesn't stop her from constantly manipulating them.
The Wyrm of Many Spells uses adventurers to extend her own long-term goals (of which more later); to set the intrigues she loves so much into motion; for practical reasons (such as frustrating local Cult of the Dragon agents as much as possible), and for short-term entertainment.
The Fate of Jalanvaloss
The Wyrm of Many Spells has a long-term dream of founding her own kingdom, with herself as queen, commanding an elite army of human adventuring bands, to protect a cultured, prosperous elven populace. Perhaps in the western High Forest. . . . Realizing such a dream will be very difficult; it is likely to result in Jalanvaloss's death. She knows this danger, and that's why her notion of a realm of her own is a "some-distant-day" vision; she'll pursue it in earnest only when the daily cuts, thrusts, and intrigues of Waterdeep grow wearisome. Judging by her performance thus far, that's apt to be centuries yet and to involve the climbing of one of her human personae to the heights of noble rank. There is always the danger of her true nature being discovered, but it seems unlikely that Jalanvaloss will lose out in many struggles for power, or not have adventurers galore to call upon if something goes seriously wrong.
Elminster of Shadowdale, the Lady Mage of Waterdeep Laeral Arunsun, and at least three Harpers resident in Waterdeep know of the presence (if not the precise current human disguises) of Jalanvaloss in the city, but they're quite willing to let her remain part of life in the City of Splendors. In the rueful words of Laeral, "In many ways, she's more Waterdhavian than most Waterdhavians."
The Magic of Jalanvaloss
Here are two of the many magics employed by Jalanvaloss in her Waterdhavian life of endless intrigues and deceptions.
You create six areas of magical darkness within the area, which randomly and rapidly move about, giving concealment to nearby creatures. The areas of shadow (called "glooms") are the size of a Medium-size creature; they cannot leave the area of the spell.
The movement of the glooms gives all creatures within the area one-half concealment (20% miss chance). This concealment applies to attacks made against or by creatures in the area. An attacker may ready an action to attack when he has a clear line of sight to the target, avoiding the miss chance.
Two of the glooms are under your limited control. On your turn and as a free action while the spell is in effect, you can direct a controlled gloom to envelop a particular target and follow it. Each gloom can affect a single target of up to Medium-size in this manner, enshrouding it in total darkness. The target can attempt a Will saving throw to avoid the gloom. Success indicates the gloom goes on a random path like the others and does not remain affixed to the target, failure means the target is surrounded by magical darkness. Once directed at a target, a controlled gloom is out of your control.
You can shape the controlled glooms to resemble a shadowy creature of Medium-size, including an undead shadow. They retain their shape even after you send them after a target, so it appears that the gloom is some sort of incorporeal creature that has enveloped the target. A shaped gloom has no other abilities, it cannot be attacked (dispel magic and similar spells affect it normally), and it is not susceptible to turning attempts.
You can see normally through the glooms. This spell is often used to enshroud its caster (to conceal identity), with the second controlled shadow being "set" across a window or to block out light to conceal the presence of the caster.
You create a brief maelstrom of daggerlike flying darts of force that spin, slice, and rebound within the area. All within the area suffer 1d6 points of force damage per caster level (maximum 10d6). The name is a misnomer, for the spell creates neither steel nor a true sting.
Folk who must deal with dragons can never carry enough spells. To aid such "doomed unfortunates" (as he muttered darkly), Elminster reluctantly agreed to furnish details of a spell Khelben used in his famous "duel" with Jalanvaloss, as follows:
You create a chain of force links that whirl into a loop above a single creature of your choice, making a metallic rattling sound as it does so. The chain is 10 feet high, 10 feet thick, and forms a loop large enough to completely contain the target. If the creature fails its saving throw, the chain encircles it. The chain has several effects, some of which are redundant.
No magic functions within the chain, as if the chain defined the area of an antimagic field. This means that the target cannot use any magic, and no magic from outside the chain affects the creature. Any creature within the area defined by the chain is subject to this negation of magic.
The target creature cannot leave the area defined by the chain. Other creatures can enter or leave the area (although they normally must go over or under the chain, since the chain itself is a force barrier similar to a barred cage form of the forcecage spell). If the target was in midair (flying, levitating, and so on) when the chain took effect, the chain suspends the target in midair safely as if it had a solid floor.
The chain prevents the target from changing form, including lycanthropic form changes, vampiric transformations, or polymorph or similar effects.
The chain acts as a dimensional anchor upon the target.
The chain deals 1d6 points of force damage per round to the target.
The chain cannot be dispelled, but it can be destroyed by more powerful magic such as disintegrate, miracle, Mordenkainen's disjunction, wish, or a rod of cancellation.
There is a specific but little-known counterspell that prevents a protected target from being enchained. Certain writings in Candlekeep also speak of at least two methods of magically shattering a chain, each employing a different trio of specific 9th-level spells that must be cast at or on the chain (obviously by someone outside of the chain's area) within 3 consecutive rounds.
Material Component: The hair of a creature with at least three spell-like abilities and any magic potion.
About the Authors
Ed Greenwood insists that only Elminster knows which gates link our real world with Toril, Oerth, and Krynn. He does admit that he's wandered the back streets of Waterdeep more than once in the Old Mage's footsteps, though -- and he has a bathrobe that reeks of truly strange pipesmoke to prove it. Elminster said that the torn and patched blue terrycloth was the only clothing Ed owned that was good enough for his debut in the City of Splendors.
Sean K Reynolds is a game designer, computer artist, and philanthropist currently working for Black Isle Studios in Irvine, California. He prefers a shower to a bath. You can find more about him at his website, www.seankreynolds.com
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