Fire on the Five Peaks

This article is a
WotC Article

The contents herein are entirely copyrighted to Wizards of the Coast and represent official Birthright lore.
©1996-2010 Wizards of the Coast, Inc.

Original article from Dragon Magazine 230

©1996-2007 Wizards of the Coast, Inc.
©1996-2007 Wizards of the Coast, Inc.

Note that at the time of publishing this was 2nd edition, thus all stats are still in 2nd Edition format
Few and far between are the dragons of Cerilia, the setting of the BIRTHRIGHT Campaign. Solitary and immensely powerful, they still hide from the younger races of the continent. (No more than six exist in the fabled Drachenaur Mountains, the legendary home of dragons.) Even the life of the youngest of these dragons spans millennia. No dwarf, halfling, or human remembers when one of these creatures cracked its shell, and the immortal elves heard the last rumors of hatchlings over 500 years ago.
The youngest known dragon of Cerilia made a name for himself in northern Anuire. His is called Zakhur, which means ?Guardian? in the old tongue. By far the youngest and most vibrant of the known dragons, his birth predates the Anuirean Empire itself, and he survived its fall.
But even Zakhur did not hatch into this world before the Battle of Mount Deismaar, some 1,500 years ago. His mother, Weyrzak, laid his egg in the Stonecrown Mountains nearly 17 centuries ago. (Dragon eggs rest long before they hatch, though some magic must have kept Zakhur in his shell for centuries beyond his time.)
Those who remember the tales of Weyrzak remember her most for her part in the legendary Battle of Mount Deismaar. Azrai, god of evil and darkness, fooled the elves, ignored the dwarves, and corrupted the Vos, but he bargained with the dragons. None know now what the god of Shadow offered those creatures in return for their aid, but few flocked to his banner. Those that did, however, wreaked havoc on Azrai?s enemies. They protected his undead legions and shadow warriors from the priestly magic of the armies of light, and they thrice drove back the vanguard of Haelyn and Anduiras.
The land quaked with the dragons? tread, and the very air caught flame in their passing. The armies of Anduiras, the great tower ships of Brenna, and the hunters of Reynir withered before their breath. The dragons? leader, a great stone-drake of Aduria named Nargest (?Iceblood? in ancient Anuirean), personally destroyed a small mountain where Sera?s White Knights had held the line against the undead for nearly two days.
Some say Weyrzak the Thunderer felt the destruction of the mountain, while others believe Ruornil, Vorynn?s champion, summoned her with a powerful binding spell. Whatever the truth, Weyrzak furiously swept out of the north and engaged Nargest in a battle that lives in legend today.
When Nargest fell, his flesh burned away from his bones, and the flaming skeleton disappeared into a great crevice beyond the battlefield. Mount Deismaar trembled, and more earthquakes shook the region as the gods prepared to unleash their full might against Azrai.
The death of the old gods and the creation of the new is still a tale told many times from countless perspectives. The blooded survived somehow, and the new gods guided them back to their homes. But nothing protected Weyrzak from the cataclysm, and she found herself caught in the waves of destruction that obliterated the land-bridge between Aduria and Cerilia.
Wounded and dying, Weyrzak made her way toward the Stonecrown Mountains and her solitary egg. Her body swelled with the power of the gods but could not contain it. Like a cancer, the power devoured her from the inside. When she crash-landed deep in the Aelvinnwode, she felt her life ebbing.
The pitiable yet terrifying cry of Weyrzak to her infant son still echoes through the forest of the Aelvinnwode. Some name it the Call of Weyrzak, while others call it the Lament of Zakhur, and great songs have been sung about it. In answer to the dreadful wail, Zakhur imprisoned for too long in his egg, burst forth. The power of the cataclysm streamed from his mother?s call, infusing the infant with great energy and causing him to grow at amazing speed.
Still only a hatchling, Zakhur could not fly. He crawled, nearly blind, toward the anguished call. The first sound he ever heard was the death-scream of his mother, and some say it aged his heart far beyond his infant body. What terrors were instilled in his mind then, none can know.
Zakhur eventually found his mother, but her body had been transformed. Legend tells that the goddess Nesirie, newly brought to divinity, heard Weyrzak?s scream and tried to help the wyrm, remembering her deeds at the great battle. Nesirie could not heal the dragon, so she asked Ruornil and Erik to ease Weyrzak?s pain ? and so they did, transforming her into the Five Peaks of the Aelvinnwode.
When Zakhur found his mother, her pain was gone, but her body was changed. The northeasternmost of the Five Peaks grew over her head, and the last of the pinnacles, set alone in the west, covers the tip of her tail, thrust upward in the pain of death.
The young dragon took his name then, when he vowed to guard the resting-place of his mother. Slowly and painstakingly, he moved Weyrzak?s great hoard to the bosom of the Five Peaks, hid it, and rested upon it. When he hunted, he watched ever from afar, driving away the elves, orogs, or men who came too close to the treasury.
Over the centuries, Zakhur the Guardian ? also known as Lifesbane, for the number of inquisitive creatures he has sent to their screaming deaths ? has jealously guarded the Five Peaks. Many creatures live within the shadows of his mountains, and some even dwell within the Peaks themselves ? but none dare trespass on the interior of the mountains, and the Hoard of Weyrzak remains legendary.
Little is known of Zakhur in the intervening years, since he keeps to his home and allows few dwellers within. Many peoples and creatures inhabit the Five Peaks realm now, particularly the Eyeless One, said to control all the mebhaighl (magical energy) of the realm. If this is true, the wizard might be mining the source magic of Weyrzak herself.
It has been speculated that Zakhur allows the wizard, as well as the tribes of goblins and orogs, flights of griffons, and solitary trolls to dwell in and around the Five Peaks because they, too, remain territorial. They keep the Rjurik and Anuirean peoples from civilizing the area, and they discourage elves from delving into the mysteries surrounding Zakhur and Weyrzak too deeply. Some say Zakhur actually controls several of these creatures using strange magics and powers he learned from the spirit of his mother.
The Spirit of Weyrzak
Most bards and storytellers agree that Weyrzak, aided by the gods, did not really die but entered a sleep of death from which there can be no awakening. However, in her dreams her son, whom she linked to herself psychically when she imbued him with her last life-energy, can contact her.
Zakhur learned much magical knowledge from the spirit of his mother, and even as he protects her resting place, Weyrzak guides and protects Zakhur from harm. She taught him not to be enraged or manipulated by mortal powers, and she advises him on matters he might otherwise not understand. Zakhur has grown wise from her teachings, though he has learned little from outside sources.
The Heart of the Mountain
Many adventurers believe Zakhur Lifesbane guards more than just ancient treasure and his mother?s bones. They claim he guards a greater prize. They call it the Heart of Weyrzak, the Soul of the Dragon, and the Heart of the Mountain.
Rumored to be a gem the size of a man?s head, the Heart of the Mountain holds the ancient soul of Weyrzak. Lying somewhere in the middle three of the Five Peaks, it rests apart from the dragon?s hoard, in a great cavern lined with white and brown stone ? perhaps the bones and body of Weyrzak herself, or maybe just a mineral phenomenon.
Zakhur watches over the Heart, as does the spirit of Weyrzak herself. But both might be caught sleeping. The spirit of Weyrzak awakens less and less frequently as the centuries go on, and Zakhur sleeps for years on the bed of treasure that lies elsewhere in the mountains. Still, his link to his mother would warn him if any were to disturb the gem?or so legend tells ? and few adventurers could survive his wrath if he caught them violating his mother?s heart.
Should a miracle occur and a person come into contact with the gem, he might gain the following abilities:
Knowledge of all wizard spells. Weyrzak was a mighty spellcaster. Before the magic changed, she knew every wizard spell ever created. Her knowledge has changed with the times?perhaps as the Eyeless One mines her mebhaighl, she mines his knowledge right back. A wizard holding the Heart has no need of a spellbook, though he must still spend time memorizing the spells Weyrzak teaches him.
Accumulated knowledge. Weyrzak was old and wise when she died, and her memories lie within the gem. Using her link with Zakhur, she has learned much more over the years. When holding the Heart, one may ask her questions ? no more than three times a day, unless the subject is something that might interest Weyrzak ? and receive answers. The answers are usually truthful and helpful; Weyrzak has been at peace for centuries and does not begrudge a mortal her knowledge.
Magic resistance. The Heart protected Zakhur from magical harm before he could do so himself. Now, it passes its magical resistance on to a wielder. If Weyrzak is contacted, she might be persuaded to protect the bearer of the Heart with a portion of her magic resistance. Too much energy would kill a mortal, however, so the Heart provides only a 5% magic resistance per level of the wielder to a maximum of 50%.
Monster control. Three times per day, the bearer can cast charm monster at twice his normal level of ability, regardless of whether he could normally cast the spell. Weyrzak?s mental and magical power, channeled through a host, allows this power to take effect.
The Heart may have other powers as well. It cannot be destroyed by any known means, and its value simply as a gemstone is utterly incalculable.
Weyrzak?s Heart bears at least one curse, however, and perhaps two. The first should be obvious. Zakhur Lifesbane will demonstrate the truth to both his names if anyone steals the gem or even touches it. The dragon will go on a rampage, burning and killing anyone in his way until he retrieves the gem or is destroyed. His link to his mother?s spirit guides him in the direction of the Heart unerringly, and he will not rest until it is returned to him.
The second curse may or may not be legendary. Once Weyrzak?s Heart leaves the Five Peaks, the spirit within might grow restless. It could desire a body of its own again, and it might settle for a mortal form. Every time the wielder of the Heart of the Mountain uses it outside the Five Peaks realm, check to see if Weyrzak?s spirit attempts to take over his body. There is a cumulative 1% chance of this happening per use of any of the Heart?s powers. If Zakhur Lifesbane has somehow been killed, add a base 30% chance to the takeover happening.
Should the DM roll the necessary percentage for Weyrzak to take over a mortal body, she does so automatically?nothing can save a human, dwarf, halfling, or other creature from its possession. Even the ?immortal? elves submit immediately to Weyrzak?s control. True awnsheghlien or ehrsheghlien might survive. They can make saving throws vs. paralyzation (at -8) to resist possession, but Weyrzak never gives up after the first attempt. Every time the Heart is used thereafter, the same saving throw must be made, or the Thunderer possesses the wielder.
If Weyrzak possesses a body, it begins to age quickly ? at a rate of one year per week. Unless the dragon can somehow be expelled or convinced to leave, the mortal shell burns out (even elves won?t be able to stand this withering forever; most would die after about a year) and Weyrzak?s spirit returns to the gem. Some say this has already happened a few times over the centuries, but no one knows for certain except Weyrzak and Zakhur.

©1996-2007 Wizards of the Coast, Inc.
©1996-2007 Wizards of the Coast, Inc.

Using Zakhur Lifesbane in a BIRTHRIGHT campaign
Engaging a wyrm such as Zakhur Lifesbane in battle would be probably the most foolish thing an adventuring party could do?but it could happen. Exploring the Five Peaks in search of the Hoard of Weyrzak or the Heart of the Mountain would certainly be nearly as foolish?but, again, stranger things have happened. While Zakhur?s power and influence within the Peaks are legendary, they cannot be as complete as tales say, or no word of the creature would ever leak out to the rest of the world.
Some say the hoard of Weyrzak does not lie in one cavern. Small hoards rest stashed among the Five Peaks, and some have been found by the goblins and orogs that dwell there. True, most have paid the ultimate price for their foolishness (along with their tribes and their neighbors), but some ancient magic and coins have slipped out to the world. After all, Zakhur cannot be in every cavern at once.
Every so often, Zakhur goes on a rampage. Tales tell of heroes adventurous enough to quest for the hoard, and succeed, causing the Guardian to fly out for vengeance. If this is true, then a regent might find his domain beset by the great wyrm ?all because of a hero too greedy for his own good, who plundered the hoard and passed through the kingdom. Preventing Zakhur from laying waste to an entire realm could prove a mighty campaign motivator, and finding the treasure to return it to the beast?s hoard would be the most logical solution.

Zakhur Lifesbane, the Guardian





DIET: Special



ALIGNMENT: Lawful Neutral



MOVEMENT: 9, Fly 30 (B)

HIT DICE: 20 (142 hp)

THAC0: 1

NO. OF ATTACKS: 3 (claw-claw-bite) or special.

DAMAGE/ATTACK: 1d12+10 / 1d12+10 / 2d12+10

SPECIAL ATTACKS: Breath weapon, spells, dive.

SPECIAL DEFENSES: Fear aura, gaze, spells,invulnerability.

MAGIC RESISTANCE: 50% or special.

SIZE: G (90? long)

MORALE: Fearless (20) at home; Champion (15) away.

XP VALUE: 28,000

S: 25 D: 14 C: 21 I: 17 W: 15 Ch: 16
Gray with gold flecks, smooth scales cover Zakhur Lifesbane?s serpentine body. Protected by sharp layers of decorative hide, his face and belly resist the puny attacks of mere mortals. Fully grown, this dragon would make a match for the hardiest of Cerilia?s dying breed. Zakhur attacks using his fore claws and bite, or he can execute any of the special attacks described in the ?Dragon? entry of the MONSTROUS MANUAL tome.
Combat: Zakhur?s breath weapon may be the basis for the flaming death that fills the stories of so many dragon-tales. Lifesbane?s fiery breath can still be seen on occasion, lighting up the deep passages between the mountains when the dragon hunts. Zakhur can use his fiery breath once every six rounds, immolating anything within a 50? long cone that extends at its widest point to 30?. It inflicts 20d6+20 hp damage on anything in the cone, though victims may attempt to save for half damage. Nonmagical and magical objects alike must save vs. magical fire or be burned, melted, or disintegrated.
When hunting, Zakhur uses his gaze attack to freeze opponents (save vs. paralyzation at -4 or be paralyzed with terror for 1d3 turns), then he kills and consumes them at his leisure.
Just like other great wyrms, however, Zakhur can spend an entire round exerting his will against a victim caught in his gaze and use the powers of geas, suggestion, or feeblemind on his foe with no saving throw allowed.
If Zakhur engages in combat, all enemies within 50? must save vs. a fear spell (as described in the MONSTROUS MANUAL tome, with a -4 to the roll). Zakhur has learned to mask this ability, however, on those rare occasions that he does not want to kill his opponents ? though even the bravest hero may feel his knees knock at the sight of the great wyrm.
Because of his great scales and the energies imbued upon him by his mother, Zakhur Lifesbane can ignore a portion of the damage he suffers. Any damage die that rolls a natural ?1? against him is ignored, regardless of modifiers or spell effects.
Zakhur shares another great ability with his Cerilian cousins. He can cast wizard spells at the 16th level of ability (or 18th when he actually holds the Heart of the Mountain and uses his mother?s energies). Zakhur, however, uses this power only on rare occasions ? his mother has taught him to be discrete with his magical energies, lest he anger the gods that have blessed her with peace. Victims of Zakhur?s magic suffer -2 modifiers to their saving throws (or -4 if he holds the Heart). Zakhur knows many spells unknown to human or other spellcasters of Cerilia.

Ecology: More lively than most dragons, Zakhur seldom sleeps for more than a dozen years at a time, and then only lightly. He sees his entire purpose in life as protecting the Five Peaks (the mountains, not the realm) and subjugating or destroying intruders. Stout heroes seeking wisdom may approach Zakhur ? though he must be contacted carefully. Actually seeking out his lair could be disastrous. Like most dragons, Zakhur loves treasure (and has accumulated quite a bit to add to his mother?s legendary hoard over the years), but he will not forgo his personal mission just to acquire more.

©1996-2007 Wizards of the Coast, Inc.
©1996-2007 Wizards of the Coast, Inc.

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