upon it.

His neck is spined behind the head and a sturdy horn grows out of the top of his reptilian skull. A shorter horn is located between the nostrils, while a beard of tentacles decorates his chin. The Air-Dragon's feet are four-toed and each clawed paw can seize an entire tower as easily as a man might grasp a bottle. Hamahara has two great, ribbed wings, but naturalists do not understand how the dragon can fly. Certainly there must be something of magic in the AirDragon from Reiken. After years of searching, Hamahara located a home upon an ancient mountain that had defied the shattering power of the Cataclysm, yet was of a consistency which allowed him to burrow into it. The Goblins, who were later to drift down into the newly-risen Nithmere Mountains, sometimes saw the dragon come or go and wisely treated their titanic neighbor with studied respect. They called Hamahara's snowy mountain Nayugen Moeshter ("Winter Rest") and gave it a wide berth. For the first few centuries after the Cataclysm, Hamahara ranged widely, devouring whole forests in his preparation for hibernation. The hundreds of AirDragon legends that fill the folklore of Minaria most likely derive from sightings of the solitary Hamahara roaming at will during this long-ago period. But, finally, the firedrake retired to enjoy a long rest and was seen no more. Iudeu reckons that Hamahara's hibernation began in the middle of the 500's A.C. Centuries passed and although the Air-Dragon calling spell had been forgotten in Minaria since the destruction of Niiawee, the chief sorcerer of Reiken -- the Heirophant of the Luwamnas -- still preserved it on a scroll. In the looting and confusion that followed the fall of the last Luwamnas strongholds, this scroll fell into the hands of Mivioran scholars. It was brought to Colist where the archon, supposing it to be of historical value only, donated it to the library of the Invisible School of Thaumaturgy. There it was irregularly occasioned as a training exercise for advanced students, but the sleeping Hamahara did not hear it. Yet, inevitably, the dragon awoke. Not many months after Hamahara had first crawled from his cavern, stretched his wings, and mounted gloriously into the vaulted skies, a magic student at the School was practicing his incantations by using the supposedly-harmless scroll. To his shock, an Air-Dragon did appear, darkening the skies like some great nimbus cloud. Hastily the student bade the monster to go away in peace and to do no harm to the world. The governing committee of the school was delighted to learn that such powerful charm now lay at their beck and call. They reverently conveyed the scroll to the special vaults where their strongest magic was archived, intending that Hamahara should be a weapon for no one but their magical brotherhood. Alas, before enough time had passed to make the Air-Dragon subject to the spell once again, the Elven general Droncain sacked the School with fire and sword. He violated the vault and took the scroll with and much more magical loot back to Ider Bolis. The Elves likewise failed to benefit from the spell, since an alliance of their enemies soon sacked the city and distributed its plunder between its members. They were particularly interested in magical scrolls and artifacts which the Elves were known to have had. The calling spell was recognized for what it was and, lest fighting break out between the expeditionary forces, an accurate copy was given to each of the royal armies present. Since that day, the great firedrake Hamahara has become the common weapon of all the Minarian nations at war on a first call-first-serve basis. What exactly the Air-Dragon may think of this exhausting state of affairs he has never said. We imagine, however, that he must look forward to his next hibernation and a few centuries of well-earned rest.

The Leviathans of Minaria
Hamahara the Air-Dragon
Just how Hamahara came to Minaria remains a matter of speculation, since AirDragons are native to the continent of Reiken and have never been known to cross expansive oceans under their own power. If Hamahara's own story is to be believed (and if the scholar Iudeu has understood the great firedrake testimony correctly), Air-Dragons had long served the kings of Reiken. These monarchs owned powerful "calling spells" by which an Air-Dragon might be summoned. This compelled obedience from a dragon, though why creatures so formidable tolerate periodic episodes of servitude and not take vengence when they are freed of the spell is unknown. Iudeu found Hamahara evasive on the point; probably it is a penance imposed upon their kind so long ago that even the age-old Hamahara cannot remember. It was one of the Reiken kings -- Qarmesh of Burev -- who dispatched Hamahara to Minaria, via a barge of prodigious size, as a goodwill gift to Nibagisis, the Lloroi emperor in Niiawee. The emperor was pleased to receive such a worthy servant and appointed Hamahara an officer of his realm. If Hamahara much regretted being taken so far from his own kind, he has never said so, and has not made any known attempt to return to Reiken where others of his kind still dwell. Since Air-Dragons are orderly creatures not given to random violence against little people, Nibagisis allowed his magnificent new servant the freedom of his kingdom -- only charging Hamahara to come to the empire's aid as the need warranted. Such an occasion soon presented itself -- the revolt of the Scarlet Witch King. The Air-Dragon acquitted himself well against the enemy's armies and his conjured monsters. It is possible that he tipped the scale when it looked that victory or defeat hung in the balance. But the next Emperor, Tenguit, was a different sort from his father. Hamahara was not in a position to hear the rumors of crimes in the imperial court, but the evil which festered there touched him at least once. On one occasion, to distract his people from some flagrant act of corruption, the emperor ordered Hamahara to attack Bes, which he said was a city of rebels. Only afterwards was it revealed that what rebels that were in the province had never come within a hundred leagues of the city in a year. Tenguit shrugged off the whole matter for he did not care about his subjects' lives and, anyway, the atrocity had served its intended purpose. After the Cataclysm destroyed civilization, none were left to speak the AirDragon calling spell. A period of freedom now dawned for the dragon. According to the Hothioran scholar Iudeu, who collected the dragon's lore, the creature lost his palatial home previously provided by the emperors and was forced to search over the crumbled, smoking landscapes for another. As he sought a new resting place, the drake's passage was watched from the ground -- by the astonished survivors of the holocaust. Did some wonder whether Hamahara had destroyed the world, as he had destroyed the innocent city of Bes? Perhaps it was then that the legend of the Dragon God was born. To give these early Minarians their due, Hamahara is an astonishing sight. The dragon is as long as some small cities are wide. His scaly armor is so reflec tive that the firedrake seems to turn color as differently-directed light shines

Urmoff and the Sea Serpents
The oldest stories of the Sea Serpent race come from the Trolls. These stalwart non-humans believed that the ocean-dwellers were a kind of Trollish fairy folk in disguise. The human seafarers of Minaria have not had cause to wax so romantic in their tales. Neshub Musruma tells a chilling yarn of a ship doomed by a Sea Serpent attack in the fall of 1319. Musruma's ship sighted a derelict with straining topmasts hanging tangled in the shrouds and slack sails blowing in the wind like a phantom's sheets. The only


man that the telescope espied was tied to a high mast, dead, with gulls tearing at his flesh. When Musruma and his companions warily boarded the vessel and read the captain's log, they found a strange tale of terror and death. An excerpt reads: "I don't know how many are left; Elbour tied himself to the mast when he went mad, and he stopped screaming two days ago. I have not been out of my cabin since the Sea Serpent came at us in the fog. Seven men are dead that I know of. Tukultae deliver us!" The narrator goes on to describe the Sea Serpent's watch over the deck, days of agonizing waiting for more victims to be plucked from deck, or for the battering at the hull to stove it in at last. Demented by hunger and thirst, the besieged captain concludes: "I haven't heard or seen the creature since last night. I pray to Tukultae that it is gone. I must reach the water barrels or I perish anyway. Better a quick and merciful death than a slow one of thirst...." Testimony such as this places Sea Serpents in a very bad light, but most known cases of Sea Serpent attacks have been provoked by their victims. The venom of the creature is much sought after by sorcerers and alchemists and large boats sometimes hunt Sea Serpents on the high seas, slaying small ones with harpoons. According to natural history scholars, the Sea Serpent is an intelligent creature who lives in deep water but must come to sheltered coves in order to spawn. In Minaria the spawning place is Serpent Bay. Holopaus of Boran, who studied the bay first hand, found that one male guards the spawning grounds for decades at a time. Usually the great male and the smaller females do not menace ships calling on the bay. However, in the winter -- spawning time -- Sea Serpent tempers are short and no wise captain will steer his ship into Serpent Bay. For this reason no port-town has developed along its shore. Sea Serpents may grow as large as a warship. They have fan-like sails on their backs and fleshy fins on their necks. A Sea Serpent's muzzle is long and wields a double row of teeth. Feeding tentacles, each several feet long, writhe on both its upper and lower jaws. The serpentine body ends in a supple forked tail. Sea Serpents are able to communicate with other races by means of sign language conveyed by their feeding tentacles. The Trolls learned to communicate with the creatures first, which allowed regular intercourse and good relations. Later they passed on this code to human beings. The Troll's friendship with the Sea Serpent kind served them in good stead during the Tenth Century when Mivior made a concerted attempt to militarily seize the Trolls' territory beyond the Bay. The Miviorans found themselves not only fighting Trolls on land but Serpents on the ocean swells until peace was concluded. Sea Serpents have also gone to war in their own behalf. When the Minarian seafarers commenced to hunt them for venom, the creatures warred grimly upon the offending nations' entire shipping, when scenes like the one Musruma reported were commonplace. Reason prevailed in the end and formal agreements to respect one another's lives were drawn up between the Serpents and the humans. In return for the guarantee of a safe haven within Serpent Bay, the Sea Serpents agreed to restrain and punish members of their own kind who made unprovoked attacks upon humans and to hold public trials in Serpent Bay should the justification of the party be in doubt. They also appointed a racial ambassador to a thirty year appointment, his embassy being Serpent Bay. By this time Trollish interpreters were no longer needed by most of the sea-faring nations. During war, governments have regularly attempted to ally the Sea Serpents. How successfully these embassies fare depends largely on the personality of the ambassador serving at Serpent Bay. In the Eleventh Century, the Serpent Vasimir was bribable and more often than not would pledge his people to the largest bidder. Analzak, in the twelfth century, was a saturnine creature who would not involve himself or his kind in the causes of other races. Muslusard in the thirteenth century would lend his aid only to his personal favorites, the people of Zefnar, and therefore, indirectly, to the desert state of Shucassam. We may infer from the record that Sea Serpents tend toward the eccentric. For the last quarter century, the Bay has been protected by the magnificent Urmoff. He cares little for bribes, but is something of an intellectual with an

interest in Continental politics. It is said that Urmoff enjoys a good debate with an ambassadors and will ask informed questions regarding current events. It is a rare war, however, that Urmoff does not finally make up his mind about and gather a school of warlike volunteers for his enterprise. The sight of the undulating humps of a school of Sea Serpents can throw an enemy war fleet into panic or inspire their allies with new hope.

Llomar the Wyrm
The first confirmed encounter with a wyrm in Minaria occurred in the year after the Cataclysm 1351. A band of caravan guards south of Pon sensed something large stalking the darkness and indirectly approaching the night corals. When the thing pushed its hideous head into the campfire light, the travelers were afraid but yet manfully stood their ground and beset it with arrows, javelins, and torches. The night attacker then unleashed a mephitic blast and instantly the guards' torches flared, the very air seemingly to burn. The wyrm then stole a bullock and departed, leaving many a guard and merchant howling and weeping with burns. Thus from the very start the belief that the land wyrm of the desert country breathes fire was born that day, a fallacy that is still maintained by unenlightened people. For years after Minaria's first introduction to the race of the wyrms (or, rather, "Wyrms," for it is degrading for a sentient being to be written of as if it were a common beast) little was discovered about their nature. Nonetheless, that little bit amazed persons who understood the Wyrm to be just a wild marauder, like a four-legged, fire-breathing Ogre. But we know now that the creatures do not actually possess fire-breath in the manner of the golden Air-Dragon. Instead, the Wyrm vents a gas that asphyxiates and stuns, and prolonged exposures will certainly slay. Such fright-stories as were told of the Wyrm should have deterred the most intrepid investigator from approaching their abode, the area of the Southeast, between the Digs and the Barbarian Frontier. But amazingly, there are men to whom the prospect of danger acts not as a bane, but as a lure. Wyrms are intelligent, as we have said. An intrepid scholar, one of the daring ilk, Telemur the Haian by name, embarked upon a ostensibly mad venture. He hired drovers and trail-drove a herd of cattle south from Grugongi into the Blasted Heath during its brief rainy season, at which time enough grass grows to support the bovines. In due course, Telemur's party was approached by a small pride of Wyrms. The bold naturalist quailed not at all, but took a calf in tow behind his palfrey and met the oncoming creatures warily. The Wyrms held off and gave the man time a chance to make general hand-signs indicating that he would like to make them the calf as a gift. He who seemed chiefest of the Wyrms accepted the courtesy with a twist of its neck that might have been a shrug or a nod, and then gobbled down the calf in a rapid series of swallows and bites. Then the scholar made the sated creature other signs to indicate that he had come to offer the visitors the herd as a banquet. The Wyrms sated themselves upon the herd. Interestingly, they didn't kill more than they needed, but drove the living cattle away with all the skill of trained cattle dogs. Approaching what looked like an old, well-sated Wyrm, Telemur renewed his efforts to communicate. At length, the beast he approached made gestures which Telemur interpreted as an invitation to come along with the pride. The drovers who saw him go doubtless believed they had seen the last of the man and so fled back to Pon, glad to be alive. But return Telemur did, and he reached Pon he had with much to tell. While the young Wyrms, he said, were of an impatient disposition and one deals with them at hazard, their elders demonstrate better hospitality. Surprisingly, many of the old creatures had enjoyed peaceable commerce with humans in their earlier home in the East. Over all, the scholar rated their intelligence at about the level of primitive tribesmen or Trolls.


Over months of on-site ethnographic work, Telemur had worked out sign language with the assistance of the old Wyrms who tolerated with an amiability which he hadn't expected. Gradually, a picture of the Wyrm way of life began to emerge. The nature of the beast, so to speak, was to live in small herds of cows and young protected by a single adult male, the herd-leader. These herds were, roughly speaking, the equivalent of Wyrm "tribes." The large amount of game these large creatures needed tended to keep their numbers restricted. Characteristically they were nomadic, following herd creatures that they could not run down, but which they might stun with their mephitic breath. When a herd bull grew old, he was either ousted by one of his own sons, or by some rogue Wyrm returning from the wilderness for the purpose of taking over a herd by force. Oddly, an aging bull would oftentimes resign his place voluntarily and go wandering alone, like an old soldier who gives up the his old way of life and either wander alone until death, like a hermit monk, or join a male pride, like a monastery monk. As for the younger Wyrms, the day inevitably came when they were not calves anymore and the herd leader would then start bullying them to either leave or fight. Those who could not stand up to their mighty sire and win soon left to join up with some band of similar male cast-offs until they grew stronger and fiercer. Should a Wyrm be mad or of an evil, quarrelsome disposition, he probably would not be kept long by any bachelor band and would live as a shunned rogue. It was such rogues, the Wyrms told Telemur, who were responsible for the notorious random attacks on people and livestock. The sane Wyrms knew that such chaotic behavior only brought trouble down on the herds. The pride is itself a thing of little "pride," but the Wyrms' way of life forces the old and young into such an ad-hoc support group. Only a single pride existed in Minaria when Telemur wrote; the herds as yet had not drifted so far. Prides, as a rule, tended to wander much further afield than the herds did. They served, in a sense, as scouts for new hunting grounds for herds. The pride with which Telemur was dwelling seemed to be organized like a native military society with the best and most successful leaders in authority, and either the old or the young might equally serve in that capacity. All that mattered was demonstrated vigor and ability. The most trusted leader present in the Blasted Heath pride was at that time, and may be to this day, a young male named Llomar. Or perhaps not. From the flattering description Telemur draws, it is hard to believe that Llomar wouldn't return East and seize a herd of his own. Most of the best young Wyrms do so eventually. Old Wyrms, on the other hand, tended to stay with the pride until they could no longer keep up with its wanderings, weakened by old age or disease. Another interesting fact which Telemur learned was that the Wyrms had longdwelled in the East only lately had felt the need to migrate West because a new nation of men, one very powerful and warlike, oppressed them, desiring them to serve its military forces so exclusively as to threaten their preferred way of life. Oddly enough, the Wyrms grasped the concept of and desired to acquire treas ure. This particular pride had little of it, but they knew of Wyrms who had hidden great hoards. Possibly, the leader Llomar speculated, the gods had crafted the Wyrms from the primordial clay to guard their treasure troves. When Telemur explored the subject further, he learned that not only were pretty metal things and bright stones a great status symbol, they also provided the wherewithal to make peaceful purchases of livestock from herding races, as they had often done in the East. So far the Wyrms had found buffalo and antelope enough for their small numbers, but in the future Llomar desired to make contact with Minarian herdsmen. They dared not do so earlier, knowing that men would either flee or attack them. Only now, with Telemur's visit, did it seem pos sible to change things for the better. Telemur had observed that the Wyrms, without dexterous hands, worked no craft, produced no products, and even lacked the means to cut usable animal hides for sale. His informants explained that all they had to offer to men was their prowess in battle. They were naturally brave, their armor was strong, and their breath vented with the wind behind them could unman the largest armies.

They particularly looked forward to the sack of cities, which would bring in much loot. Llomar and the other young pride members had not had not enjoyed such a windfall as yet, but some of the old bulls had helped human armies to plunder towns in Trazig. The monarchs of Minaria who read Telemur's book were soon sending recruiting agents to Wyrm's Lair, offing treasure or herds of livestock for the privilege of enlisting Llomar's fearsome war-band. Wyrms are mercenary creature, or so it seems -- and that may be the very quality by which they shall get along in close proximity to Minaria's other sentient races. That is, it shall until our world is a much better place than it is. A recent war in the south found Hamahara, Urmoff, and Lomar all fighting on the same side to good account. This rare occurrence inspired a poet to compose this merry song:

The Great Leviathans
In the war not long ago Three soldiers had no hands: A serpent and a dragon and a scalèd wyrm, The great leviathans! The great leviathans! The sea the serpent plies; The dragon soars the skies; And the scalèd wyrm searches the waste For him whom his wrath defies! For him whom his wrath defies! The serpent sank a fleet; The dragon scorched with heat; And that scalèd wyrm blew noxious gas To make the rout complete! To make the rout complete! Now our serpent rules the waves; The dragon seeks its caves; And that scalèd wyrm still prowls the heath Giving chase to the foeman's knaves! Giving chase to the foeman's knaves! Yes, that scalèd wyrm still prowls the heath Giving chase to the foeman's knaves!


Sign up to vote on this title
UsefulNot useful