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Dragonlord Chronicles - Detailed Summariesby David Keyser
I have written up detailed summaries of the Dragonlord Chronicles with a focus on setting material as part of a massive thread on RPGNet. I will go ahead and share them here, along with all the tie-ins that appeared in other products. The objective when I wrote these was to capture everything important so I would never have to read the novels again. In terms of quality, the best of these novels is mediocre, while the worst is completely, totally and utterly boring tripe. IMO, I consider Dragonmage of Mystara to be the best written of these novels, with Dragonlord second and Dragonking to be the worst.
A few general words on the Dragonlord Chronicles trilogy, before delving into the first book.
The series is set in the past, 500 years ago. The region in focus for much of the series is the land that will be Glantri in 1000AC, but in this time period it is known only as the Highlands. The Alphatian followers of the flame, known as the Flaem, have migrated here from off-world a few generations ago. Their capital city is Braejr, which will eventually become Glantri City. The only other people also living here are the elves in the southern highlands, which are the Belcadiz if we take into account later sources like Joshuan's Almanac, but that is never made clear in the book which stays vague as they only play a small role in the the series.
The author, Thorarinn Gunnarsson, definitely used the Gazeteer series as a research source. He also used either the Rules Cyclopedia or more likely the Masters black box set, and either the original Immortals box set or the Wrath of the Immortals set(or both). He actually did a pretty good job on staying consistent with the Gazeteer timeline, making only relatively minor mistakes on that score. He didn't use PC1, as drakes are not fairy folk in this series but are dragonkin as specified in the RC/Masters box set. He also read Bruce Heard's articles on dragon politics although he adds heavily to the idea to the point where it becomes something almost altogether different, likewise he gives elves a new origin which conflicts with the idea of Ordana creating them.
These books are similar to the Harry Potter series or the Drizzt Do' Urden books in the sense that you are intended to identify with the main character and experience the adventure through his eyes. If you identify with the character you will find the book somewhat enjoyable, if you find the character inadequate than you won't.
With that said, unfortunately, the series isn't well written. The first book I didn't notice it but as the trilogy continued it became obvious that all of the villains were characterized in a similar manner and were even recycling the same dialogue. All the major villains tell the protagonist that in truth they could not blame him for opposing them. I would give 2 stars or less for dialogue, prose and characterization, with 2.5 for plot and a 3 for ideas.
Also annoying is the presentation of dragons throughout the trilogy. Dragons are presented as the most wonderful, noble, and graceful creatures on Mystara. Someone literally says that. And while it could just be point of view, it happens so much it becomes pretty clear the author is enamored with dragons and the constant reminders end up just pushing the author's viewpoint. In fact elements of the second and third books remind me more of the Council of Wyrms setting rather than Mystara.
Dragons in this series are also the most powerful race on Mystara with the only exception being Blackmoor when that civilization was at the height of their technology. This simply isn't very credible with some of the game materials, where the Alphatians have their 1000 36th level wizards and the Heldannic Knights are able to use their flying warships to fend off a concerted effort by the dragons of Wyrmsteeth at Oceansend in the second Poor Wizard's Almanac.
But one very cool thing about this trilogy, it gives us the origin of the gemstone dragons. Oh, and the Radiance is going to factor into the story, the Highlands were chosen for a reason.
With that said, on to the first book and some spoilers...
1994 - Dragonlord of Mystara : Bk 1 of the Dragonlord Chronicles Trilogy
Pursued across rugged mountain country by dragons until nearly dead from fatigue, the sorceress of unknown origin lived only long enough to give birth to her son.
Now years later, the dragons have returned in fury to ravage the northern lands in search of the sorceress's orphaned offspring.
Thelvyn Fox Eyes and his guardian, one-handed adventurer Sir George Kirbey, embark on a fantastic quest to unlock the secret of an elusive prophecy that will lead them to the legendary Dragonlord.
For if the dragons decide to go to war, only the Dragonlord can hope to stop them...
We get a color map of the area of the Known World circa 500 AC covering the Highlands, Ethengar, Alfheim, Rockhome and part of Darokin.
The main events of the first novel take place in 500 AC plus or minus a few years with the prologue occurring sixteen years before that. Sir George is an ex-knight(The Darokin Order of the Road) and an adventurer that lists his profession as antiquities merchant. Thelvyn grows up among the Flaemish, and there is much speculation about who his mother was and whether she was an unknown breed of elf(this book follows GAZ5 that there are no half-elves...in a couple of cases some elves Thelvyn encounters wonder if he is a mythical half-elf) or a survivor of the ancient Blackmoor race. When he is old enough Sir George brings him into his adventuring party which consists of Solveig White-Gold(a warrior woman native to the Northern Reaches that was raised in Thyatis), Korinn the Bear-Slayer(a dwarf warrior from Rockhome), and the Mage Perrantin. Just having an adventuring party in a D&D book is worth 0.5 to 1 star to me due to keeping the spirit of the source material.
Thelvyn's first adventure with the party takes them to Torkyn Fall, a gnome city in the Wendarian Ranges(this city is a new addition to the setting). They find that dragon attacks are compelling the gnomes to abandon their city, and they are in the midst of an evacuation. Returning to the Highlands they visit Braejr and its library, and meet with the ruler of the Flaemish, Archduke Maarsten, who gives them the same task he has assigned his fire wizards...find a way to fight the dragons who even now are attacking the outlying settlements of the Highlands.
We already get oblique references to the Radiance as the Flaem wizards admit that their power is only great enough to fight the dragons close to the capital, not at the borders. So Thelvyn and Sir George's party head off on an adventure into Ethengar to get help from the powerful spirits of World Mountain to power an artifact that will enable them to fight dragons. (Because the premise is already established that you can't possible hope to fight dragons unless you have some incredibly powerful near artifact-level magic item on your side...or the Radiance.) While there, Thelvyn is able to see and converse with his mother's spirit until a dragon spirit forcibly ends the audience.
With their new weapon, they return to Torkyn Fall which is now occupied by dragons, only to find their weapon is a dud. They survive this encounter with dragons in part due to Thelvyn manifesting magic powerful enough to hold a dragon. The dragons recognize Thelvyn and one cries out in shock that the "ordained one is still alive" and the "Prophecy may yet be fulfilled". Also Sir George is outed as a mandrake at this point, and as per the monster entry in RC/Masters he is a dragonkin who can transform to human form. Sir George is the source of many words telling us how awesome and cool dragons are and how they are so much better than everyone else.
The quest then changes to try and find out Thelvyn's origins and what this prophecy is actually about. Unfortunately this means the story becomes less about the party and more about Thelvyn the savior, but thankfully the adventuring party shares the heroics in this book to almost the very end. They avoid the Highlands because it is clear the fire wizards were setting them up to be killed with that dud artifact. This takes them to Rockhome and Alfheim to consult with clerics there.
In Rockhome they meet the dwarf king who turns out to be Korinn's father. At this time, the king is of the Syrklist clan rather than an Everast and he is struggling to ensure his heir can hold onto the crown. Thelvyn meets with dwarf clerics in a sacred cavern of Kagyar not far from Crystal Lake, but they can't tell him much.
The party then takes the Darokin tunnel the dwarves use to sneak into Alfheim to find elven clerics of Terra. Terra is the sponsor of the Great One(I believe according to WotI) and Sir George states there are a few rare elves dedicated to Terra in Alfheim(another new thing this book introduces). The clerics of Terra don't know much either but send them along the Path of the Rainbow (from CM7 The Tree of Life) to the Sylvan Realm in the far north of Brun to find a cleric of the Great One. At this time the Sylvan Realm is still controlled by elves. In the third book, this shrine to Terra is actually revealed to be a shrine to the Great One. Monte Cook, however, accepted this novel at its word and created an NPC from Alfheim who is actually a cleric of Terra. This is just an example of how authors who are not in sync end up contradicting each other. In this particular case, you can reconcile these sources by assuming that both Terra and the Great One have small hidden shrines in Alfheim among the elves.
Thelvyn's party arrive in the Sylvan Realm and receive a chevall escort north into the mountains, where they meet a gold dragon cleric of the Great One, Kharendaen. She informs them that the Great One had withdrawn 20 years ago after giving a prophecy to the Nation of Dragons that the Dragonlord would return. The Dragonlord was a wizard-warrior wielding near artifact-level armor and weapons who led the Blackmoor army that defeated the dragons long ago. What the Great One did not tell the nation, but did tell his clerics, is that they should assist the Dragonlord to prevent the dragons from going to war.
The way this Nation of Dragons works is that many dragons belong to it and those that don't are either rogues or renegades. Those dragons that terrorize civilization are renegades. Sir George later goes as far as saying that dragons are so noble and honorable they can't even lie, and that for a dragon to lie they would have to be mad, which, of course, is what renegades really are...crazy. Of course, in the second book we learn Sir George who is dragonkin has been lying through his teeth to Thelvyn(and the reader). The lie happens to be on the order of, "A young Jedi named Darth Vader...betrayed and murdered your father." I dislike this portrayal of dragons as if they were something like celestial angels.
But I digress...Kharendaen leads them to the Citadel of the Ancients, also known as Dragonwatch Keep, which is the last surviving hidden fortress built by Blackmoor. The clerics of the Great One have been maintaining it, and inside is the Dragonlord's plate armor and sword, which gives the wearer full protection from magic and the physical blows of even the largest dragons, while the sword has the ability to project powerful force blasts. These blasts can be powerful enough to be fatal, but also reduced in power so as to subdue dragons, just like the rules from D&D which allow dragons to be subdued and controlled. This allows dragons to surrender and submit to the Dragonlord.
Thelvyn and the party hurry overland back to the Highlands...an often overlooked fact in CM7 is that the portal between the Sylvan Realm and Alfheim works both ways...you don't actually have to travel overland across two-thirds of the continent of Brun to get back to the Known World. The author glosses over this trip by suggesting the part encounters little and the territory is mostly uncivilized. Upon reaching the Highlands, they find the Flaem nation in dire straits and the archduke's army facing certain defeat. Thelvyn challenges the red dragon Jherdar, who leads the rogue dragons, to trial by combat. As the new Dragonlord, Thelvyn battles Jherdar and two other dragons at once, defeats them and gains their submission. As Jherdar belongs to the parliament of the Nation of Dragons, this allows Thelvyn to negotiate a peace treaty with the dragons. The book concludes with Thelvyn appointed adviser to the archduke of the Highlands and Kharendaen as the Dragonlord's companion, taking Jherdar's place when that dragon made his pledge of service. Thelvyn still does not know his true origins.
One last detail is that more history between the dragons and Blackmoor is revealed, that Blackmoor attempted to defeat the dragons as a plan to conquer the world. While the Dragonlord was able to achieve victories over the dragons, he and Blackmoor eventually made peace with the dragons. As part of the peace treaty Blackmoor gifted the dragons with the artifact the Collar of Dragons which the Nation of Dragons still possesses. This sets up the second book which occurs five years after the events of the first book.
1994 - Hail the Heroes
To support the new Karameikos : Kingdom of Adventure box set, TSR released two audio CD adventure box sets in October. Hail the Heroes was the first one released, written by Tim Beach, and it was also advertised as having a tie-in to the first novel of the Dragonlord Chornicles. What wasn't mentioned is that Beach also threw in a reference to the first Mystara trilogy, the Penhaligon Trilogy, as well. This never happened again, so this adventure stands as the one gaming supplement with tie-ins to both Mystara trilogies.
The background of the adventure adds some new details to the history of Traladara. It was around 400 AC when the epic ballad the Song of King Halav was written down by Thyatians. About a century later, soon after Thelvyn Fox Eyes became the Dragonlord, two of Thelvyn's adventuring companions, Perrantin the Mage and Solveig White-Gold visited Traladara.
Solveig became a hero to the Traladarans when she found a relic on an adventure there, the magical bronze Shield of Halav. As it was supposedly used by Halav during his time as a mortal, it sparked a religious revival and growth for the Church of Traladara. Solveig later left Traladara but Perrantin decided to stay and settle.
Perrantin was instrumental in helping to construct the Temple of the Shield to house the artifact. He wrote a history of the dragon war in the Highlands(starring Perrantin and his adventuring companions) and placed a copy in the temple. He created animated statues in the likeness of Solveig called Guardians of the Shield to protect the temple, and used permanent magic mouth spells to speak bits of the Song of King Halav to those visiting and touring the temple.
For many years the temple was popular, and a small town called Zadreth sprung up around it. Later, however, a rumor called into question whether the shield truly belonged to Halav, and when a plague wiped out most of the population of Zadreth, this rumor gained more weight and the temple fell out of favor. Bit by bit, the population of Zadreth and the temple declined and fewer and fewer visitors came. Eventually all that was left were the die-hard clergy and as they grew old and died off there was no one new to replace them.
The last surviving cleric continued to maintain the temple, even after it was largely forgotten and people stopped coming. When he felt his life was near its end, he set about closing the temple, preparing traps that could be bypassed by the faithful but difficult for others, trusting that some day future generations would have their interest rekindled in the shield. Once finished he closed the doors and soon after passed away.
Fast forward now to 1012 AC. The Church of Traladara has seen its membership being squeezed on two sides, the Thyatian-dominated Church of Karameikosis gaining popularity among the conventional folk while the Cult of Halav is picking up those with the most fire and zeal. The elders would love to locate the Shield of Halav to try and spark another religious revival, but unfortunately no references to the location of the lost temple have survived...until now.
Recently a hand drawn adventurer's map fell into the church elders' hands, and based on the map and the accompanying notes someone seems to have located a lost temple that just might be the Temple of the Shield. It was recovered on the banks of the river in Mirros and has suffered water damage, so there is no one to question, just a band of heroes to recruit.`
The Shield of Halav gets a sidebar which won't definitively state that Halav actually used the shield, but it is a shield +1 that if it undergoes a special ceremony in the Church of Traladara it becomes a shield +5 in the hands of a designated champion. So I assume that makes it a relic in 1E/2E terms.
The map the PCs are given, which comes as a large poster map included in the box set, only includes part of the chambers of the temple, so they have to first find the approximate location of the the temple. Two libraries in Mirros, the library of the Church of Traladara and the library of the Magician's Guild Hall contain clues which will point to Zadreth being close to where Threshold is now located.
This part reminds me of Moldvay's M3, we get a few book titles and authors here...
As I Journey : the Tale of a Rural Preacher by Blynos Kivinivich. This book was written two hundred years prior, and describes some of the Temple of the Shield which the author visited, so it has been lost for less than two hundred years.
The Life of the Black Peaks by Katarine Mulopolus. The journal of a naturalist.
Reminiscences from a Life Well-Spent by Blynos Kivinivich. Written 25 years after his first book.
Mysteries of the Grand Duchy by Zarno Morescu. A book which argues for the presence of a non-humanoid race living in Karameikos before humans, dwarves and elves.
In Defense of My Theories by Zarno Morescu. A sequel for his first book.
Return to the Black Peaks by Katarine Mulopolus. Another of her journals.
Ramblings of an Old Cleric by Blynos Kivinivich. The third book by this prolific author.
Still More Mysterious Happenings by Zarno Morescu.
an untitled diary by Hansig Kavor, an adventuring mage
The Dragon's Tomb by Johauna Menhir. Say what?
I did a double take when I first read that last one. Here is the connection to the Penhaligon trilogy, and yes this adventure retcons that trilogy.This small volume, written by an adventurer, tells the tale of a magical sword and an epic battle...it depicts Threshold as a very small village, when it is really a town with about 5000 residents. Since the date of the manuscript is not given, it is difficult to tell whether the author was writing entertaining fiction without a real basis in fact or if the adventure simply took place before Threshold grew to its present size.
So there you have it, the Penhaligon trilogy has been retconned to either being a fictional work that exists in the setting, or it happened some time in the past. The second choice doesn't really work because Arteris Penhaligon is part of the present of the setting and her family land and title didn't exist prior to 970 AC. But that is the last mention of the Penhaligon trilogy as it gets dropped down the memory hole.
The PCs proceed to Threshold dealing with encounters along the trip until they reach the town. Once there they need to locate the proper ruins. If they ask were the ruins are they get directed north to the ruins which have existed since the Mentzer set, but those aren't correct. Zadreth was actually to the east and proper deciphering of the clues from the libraries will indicate that, although an alternative location if the DM wishes is to make the ruins underneath Threshold and have them connect to the dungeon from the first adventure of the Karameikos box set.
The temple is a dungeon crawl where most of the guardians and traps can be bypassed if the PCs know the Song of King Halav well enough to answer the many riddles and questions posed to them as they explore the temple. The last cleric of the temple is now a wight who will allow the PCs full access if he is convinced they seek to return the shield to the Church of Traladara. The Solveig statues are a version of jade living statues.
The Hall of the Dragonlord is one of the last two chambers, in it is a statue of a dragon holding the book containing Perrantin's account of the Dragonlord. The adventure suggests it would be a nice touch to hand a copy of the Dragonlord novel to your players when they take it. Returning the book to the Church of Traladara earns the PCs(not the players) a monetary bonus. The final chamber hidden behind secret doors contains the shield of Halav as well as a second manuscript by Perrantin which tells how Solveig battled giants(frost giants in the Black Peak Mountains?) to retrieve the shield as well as how the Temple of the Shield was built.
July,1995 - Dragonking of Mystara : Bk 2 of the Dragonlord Chronicles Trilogy
...but also covering the background from...
April,1996 - Dragonmage of Mystara: Bk 3 of the Dragonlord Chronicles Trilogy
Like the first book, these two novels are set in Mystara's past, roughly five hundred years before the present day. The events of the second book take place five years after the events of the first book and the third book simply continues those events to their conclusion over the course of another year.
Because these two books portray so much of dragon culture and history on Mystara, they feature prominently in the fan work of Simone Neri, titled History of Dragons. I will rely on this pdf in some places so you can reference it for more information. For a brief synopsis of the events of the three books, start on page 13 at The Time of the Second Dragonlord and finish on page 15 with the first paragraph after Peace and Disunion. If you want to read all the background which builds up to the events of those books you can go back to page 12 and start at The Dawn of the New Millenium and the Dragonking Prophecy. Just be aware that Simone spends quite a bit of effort harmonizing the Dragonlord Chronicles with other sources so his footnotes will explain where he starts adding his own ideas. For example, in the second novel, the war finally happens between the Nation of Dragons and six nations of the Known World, Braejr(Flaemish Glantri) with its allies Alfheim, Darokin, Ethengar, Rockhome and Thyatis. The book never calls it the Battle of the Six Kings, but Simone uses that term because CM8 Endless Stair mentions a Battle of Six Kings.
It is more informative to explain the major background details first because the plot unleashed in the second book only makes sense once you reach the third book and learn about the villain pulling the strings behind the scenes. This also lets me explain upfront the major retcons and changes which happen in these novels. Retcons? Changes? Yes, brace yourself...
Let's start off with the Eldar. You did brace yourself, right? Yes, the Eldar are introduced in these latter two novels and the early pre-recorded history of Mystara gets rewritten. The Hollow World box set was clearly not one of the author Thorarinn's sources. The Eldar lived "many thousands of years ago" before men, dwarves, elves and dragons. They are tall and well-built, typically taller than men. Thelvyn Fox-Eyes' humanoid form in the first and second book is that of an Eldar. They had great kingdoms and individual Eldar could live almost as long as dragons which in these books(as well as the novel Son of Dawn) are thousands of years. The shorter several century-long lifespan of dragons as reported by Bruce Heard is no longer true(although the concept of dragons building their own kingdoms through domination of other dragons and having a network of fealty from that article is used in these books.) The Eldar built great kingdoms and wielded magic unimaginable to the newer races.
Eventually, Eldar became so awesome that their bodies could not handle all the awesomeness. At that point, the magic the Eldar used transformed them even as they lost control of it. The small percentage of Eldar who could handle these great magics were transformed into the draconic races, while those who could not handle it became Mystaran elves. There were still a few remaining Eldar left, but so few that they took shelter with the dragon races and lived among them. The higher dragon forms like gold dragons retained the ability to polymorph their form into Eldar(as well as other forms like human, elf, etc).
This retcons dragons completely, going all the way back to the original Immortals box set which states that dragons pre-date Immortals. It also retcons everything we know about elves being created by Ordana. It also leaves us the question of whether the Eldar pre-date dinosaurs and Brute-Men or if they were contemporaries. Ironically, the impact of Eldar on the Dragonlord Chronicles is minor because so few exist in this time period. It doesn't really add anything to the trilogy except that it left us guessing who Thelvyn might be until the end of the second book. The author really wanted that to be a mystery, so we got a new race and back story to justify Thelvyn's polymorphed form.
Polymorphed form? That's right because it turns out Thelvyn isn't really an Eldar. He is a gold dragon in polymorphed form. The astute reader might very well have guessed that early in book one, considering that the pregnant mother is first seen walking down a mountain in the nation of Braejr with dragons in pursuit. But the author decided that he needed to mislead the reader in order to keep the mystery going until the end of the second book where it's revelation is supposed to be a great surprise. The author does this by a blatant lie which, IMO, does a disservice to readers that I will talk about later.
Moving on to the Gemstone Dragons. I like both their origin and history as presented in these books. About five hundred years before the Great Rain of Fire, a fellowship of powerful dragon sorcerers observed the slow advancement of their race and wished to accelerate the natural process. They took it upon themselves to evolve into higher forms rather than wait naturally for their descendents to do so. The Immortal Great One at this time was a mortal dragon and cleric of Terra. He supported these dragons for a time but withdrew that support when their goal became that of becoming Immortals.
They worked their magic and transformed themselves into gemstone dragons, which was short of their goal, though they became more powerful than other Mystaran dragons. They were not satisfied with their work, but decided to turn their attention to dominating the world. They began to force lesser nations to bend to their well, and eventually made war against Blackmoor. This led to the creation of the Dragonlord as was explained in the first book.
Blackmoor and the Dragonlord didn't really distinguish between Gemstone Dragons and the rest of Mystara's dragons, so they went to war with all the dragons. The Immortal Terra foresaw that the dragons were in danger of extinction, so she sponsored the dragon now known as the Great One to the path of Immortality. Once the Great One became an Immortal, he was powerful enough to defeat the Dragonlord, at which point he spared the man in exchange for an alliance between the dragons and Blackmoor against the Gemstone Dragons. In a series of battles, the Gemstone Dragons were defeated, but not destroyed. Instead the Gemstone Dragons used their magic to escape through a gate to an outer plane.
The Gemstone Dragons ended up, at least eventually, on an outer plane called Veydra. (These books assume an Immortals/WotI cosmology, not the Great Wheel from 1E/2E.) There they plotted revenge and planned to one day return and take back Mystara. But then they encountered the Overlord. The Overlord's primary weapon was its mental domination powers which allowed it to mentally conquer entire civilizations..and multiple civilizations at that. The Gemstone Dragons didn't stand a chance, and the Overlord mentally dominated them as well. He found them to be worthy generals and champions for his armies, and became intrigued when he learned about their homeworld. At some point, the Overlord and Gemstone Dragons discovered the existence of the Radiance, which the Overlord also coveted.
The books don't make it clear exactly what the Overlord is. I presume it was just a unique creature of the author's imagination with exalted or near-Immortal levels of power. Of course, the creature's domination powers are way beyond what an Immortal could do. It may be that the Overlord's attempted conquest of Mystara and capture of the Radiance was part of its own path to becoming an Immortal of the Sphere of Entropy. A kryst is the closest I can come up with for a physical description as it is some kind of crystalline being, but it doesn't exhibit the behavior, alignment or powers of a kryst. Our only view of it is in its final battle with Thelvyn in the third book.
Curiosity about the Overlord was the only thing that got me through the third book as I tired of the author's writing style and dialogue, and I was nonplussed when I found out what it was. But the idea of the relationship between the crystalline Overlord and the gemstone dragons has grown on me as a concept and idea over the years. It is hinted the Overlord further modified the gemstone dragons and the idea of him molding them further in his own image, whether out of vanity or to enable them to act as an arcane node through which his domination powers are extended, is an interesting idea.
After the Overlord took over Veydra and made it his home base, the Flaems came to Veydra, still wandering the planes at this time after the original Alphatian world's destruction. The Overlord dominated and enslaved them, adding them to his collection of peoples and forces. When the Overlord was ready to put his long-term plan for invading Mystara and seizing the Radiance into motion, it started with the Flaems. He erased their memories of himself and their period of domination, and sent them through a gate to Mystara close to the location of the Radiance. That is why the Flaems came to Mystara and settled in the Highlands, they were left with some mental conditioning by the Overlord to do so. They essentially served as his unwitting advance scouts to establish a beachhead and secure the prize before the rest of the Overlord's forces would arrive.
In the second novel, the Overlord attempts to foster war between Mystaran dragons and the nations of the Known World by having the Collar of Dragons stolen by one of his agents, a Flaemish wizard. The Collar of Dragons is an artifact that the wizards of Blackmoor gave to the dragons after peace was established and the gemstone dragons driven away. Designed to be worn by a dragon, it was never worn but set aside for a prophecy when a future dragonking would arrive to lead the Nation of Dragons. The Collar of Dragons was kept in the dragon city of Windreach which is hidden inside the Wyrmsteeth Range. It is also where the few remaining Eldar can be found. Each time we see Windreach in the books, it very much reminds me of the Council of Wyrms setting, even the relationship between the Eldar and dragons there reminds me of the demi-human vassals of the dragons in Council of Wyrms. So I assume Thorarinn was borrowing ideas from that setting as well.
With the artifact stolen, the dragons know from the wards they set that only powerful wizards or renegade dragons could possibly have stolen it. The current leader of Parliament of the Nation of Dragons, a gold dragon named Marthaen, directs their efforts toward the Alphatians, who have been establishing colonies along the Great Bay in what will later be Norwold. On the plus side, this pinpoints the time frame for one of Alphatia's earlier colonization attempts(as outlined in the early CM modules) and gives a reason they were driven away, because of the dragons of Wyrmsteeth. On the minus side we get a confrontation between the great Alphatian arch-wizards on one side versus dragon mages on the other; and, as portrayed in the first book, dragons are simply so much better at magic, that the Alphatians can only pose a moderate challenge before being defeated. Not only is that a load of BS considering the portrayal of the sheer number of high level mages Alphatia has in CM1 and the Gazeteers, but it also just doesn't jibe with D&D in general. While dragons are generally portrayed as some of the most powerful creatures in the game, that is due to a combination of their breath weapons, their powerful physical size and attacks, and their magic. Their magic alone doesn't best the masters of magic of other races.
In any case, the Thyatians soon become aware of this Alphatian-dragon war, and they call on the Dragonlord. We learn that over the last five years, Thelvyn has become the designated dragonslayer for the Known World nations on Brun, slaying renegade dragons which attack those nations. He is still closely tied to the Flaems, being an adviser to the former Archduke and now King of the Highlands/Braejr, Jherridan Maarsten. Thelvyn meets with the Thyatian emperor, Cornelius, as well as a Thyatian admiral by the name of Darius Glantri; which is a nice touch, placing an ancestor of Lord Alexander Glantri in the novel. Thorarinn is unaware that Ylaruam is currently occupied and split between Thyatis and Alphatia, for in Cornelius' conversation with the Dragonlord he refers to the emirates as if they are free. After the Alphatians submit and allow dragons to use magic to ascertain the Collar does not reside on their continent(preposterous for the Alphatia of CM1 and DotE), the dragons turn their attention to other suspects. Thelvyn is already searching for the Collar as well in the hopes of averting a war.
The Flaemish wizards are one of those suspects, so Sir George and Solveig break into the wizard academy to search for the artifact, but don't find it. Thelvyn is ambushed by assassins in the capital of Braejr who turn out to be two renegade dragons polymorphed into human form. Solveig and Kharendaen come to his assistance and save his life. King Jherridan begins mobilizing his army anticipating either a dragon invasion or a chance to invade Alphatian territory in Norwold.
Sir George next infiltrates the lair of a very powerful renegade red dragon by the name of Kardyer, who is given a rich history that is summarized in a paragraph in the second column on page 12 of the History of Dragons pdf. Sir George confirms Kardyer did not steal the Collar, but is captured. Kharendaen is captured next, but Thelvyn and Marthaen join forces and slay Kardyer and six other dragons that served as his bodyguard. With the Collar nowhere to be found, the dragons begin mobilizing and raiding the border of the Flaemish Highlands.
So Thelvyn leads an army assembled by King Jherridan to the northern border near the Wendarian Range. He has a force of 2500 Flaemish and 500 allied elves, whom Thorarinn is careful to never describe, but we can still presume they are the Belcadiz elves. Thelvyn battles a band of a dozen red dragons and drives them off without killing any with the help of siege weapons from the army. The text identifies these as catapults but the shot itself sounds more like the giant bolts of ballistae.
Kharendaen visits a small forest in the Wendarian Range called Shadowmere which is a holy site of the Great One. The Immortal appears to her and confirms that the time of the Dragonking has arrived. In the meantime Thelvyn has distributed his forces and siege weapons amidst the forts and settlements along the border and proceeds back to Braejr.
Thelvyn is more and more suspicious of the Flaemish wizards and they soon make their play. It is already clear they were attempting to goad their king into war against the dragons so that he could fail and discredit both himself and the Dragonlord in the process. They stage a coup, attacking the king's palace and slaying Jherridan. They shapechange into small dragons to kill the guards and king. Thelvyn and Sir George arrive too late and the Flaemish wizards ambush them. In the final confrontation it is clear they are tapping into the power of the Radiance and in the throne room the focus crystal they use to do this allows them to suppress the Dragonlord's magic sword and armor. Thelvyn still manages to shatter the crystal and the magical feedback slays the wizards, including their leader Byen Kalestraan.
Thelvyn learns Jheriddan had named the Dragonlord his successor as the king had no heirs. The people already consider the Dragonlord a hero and are shocked at the betrayal by the senior wizards so the nation quickly rallies behind him. The more junior Flaemish wizards not part of the plot ally behind Thelvyn as well. This also rallies the dragons who are alarmed and believe the Dragonlord is recruiting the Known World nations to conquer them.
The next chapter has Marthaen conversing with his friend and Eldar wizard Alendhae, which is where we first learn of the Eldar. The dragon parliament meets and during the debate Nithia gets mentioned, it seems that the dragons are allowed to remember Nithia and know it is forgotten by all others. Given that these books assume dragons live thousands of years, there are still some dragons present who were alive when Nithia was destroyed. They agree to gather their forces and confront the Dragonlord even as he withdraws the Highland forces from the border and concentrates them in the capital Braejr. Each chapter that focuses on Windreach has this disconcerting tendency to anthropomorphize dragons. There are references to dragon couches and dragon beds without any effort to describe them. It is as if dragons live more or less like human beings do except they need really spacious living quarters and their driveways are landing strips.
The last quarter of the book builds up to this expected battle between one thousand dragons on one side and the combined armies of the Known World which rally to defend the Highlands and the Dragonlord from what those nations consider dragon aggression. Griffon riders from Thyatis arrive first, with improvised ballistae the riders can fire from the saddle. When the Ethengarians arrive with their cavalry, the Dragonlord has a short battle with the dragons who try to stop the reinforcements. You see the dragons adopt new tactics each time the Dragonlord overcomes them, this time dropping massive rocks from the sky and squashing Thelvyn's horse.
As the dragons attempt to close off Braejr, more allied armies arrive, two thousand dwarves from Rockhome, an army of elves from Alfheim, and an army from Darokin. The remaining Flaemish wizards attempt to find the Collar of Dragons while Thelvyn negotiates with Marthaen, but the artifact is not found. The Alphatians decide the dragons mobilizing in the Highlands is an opportunity to reclaim all their abandoned holdings in the Great Bay, but a second dragon army ambushes their armada and wipes it out. So dragons definitely caused at least one of Alphatian's colonization attempts to fail. A humanoid army from the Broken Lands also arrives hoping to loot the remnants of Braejr after the dragons destroy it.
That second dragon army returns from wiping out the Alphatians and the dragons besiege the city for a bit before Marthaen calls out the Dragonlord to speak at the walls. With much of the city witnessing the conversation, Marthaen reveals to everyone that Thelvyn the Dragonlord is actually a polymorphed gold dragon. This causes Thelvyn to quickly lose the support of the allied nations and the Flaemish, over the course of the next week each army abandons the city to return home even as the dragons begin to depart. It also provides an explanation for why the history of the second Dragonlord is forgotten five hundred years later, as the people of this time sought to forget that they had put faith in a renowned dragonslayer to protect them from dragons only to learn it was some sort of elaborate trick and the dragonslayer is actually a dragon. The Flaems eventually assume the Dragonlord was using them to fight some kind of internal dragon power struggle.
Before Thelvyn loses all influence, he sets up a parliament for the Highlands after getting the dukes and the Flaemish wizards to agree. He appoints Solveig as leader of the parliament and departs north for the Wendarian Range. The last revelation is the female elven cleric of Terra who befriended Thelvyn in the first book and joined him during the siege turns out to be his gold dragon companion Kharendaen. That enclave of clerics of Terra in Alfheim from the first book turns out to have been a disguised shrine of the Great One. Or at least some of them were Great One clerics, it isn't completely clear.
At the shrine in Shadowmere, Thelvyn learns how to shapechange back to his natural gold dragon form. There is one last confrontation between a horde of fearful renegade dragons who seek to destroy Thelvyn while the dragon clerics of the Great One stand with Thelvyn along with Marthaen. It is revealed that Thelvyn is the foretold Dragonking and the Great One himself manifests and makes his will known when they refuse to accept it. With that, the dragons submit and the second book ends.
The trilogy does provide a lot of new material for D&D campaigns, but as novels they are very poor.
The biggest problem is the dialogue. There is a lot of talking going on with a few action scenes interspersed throughout the talking. Lots of talking in and of itself is not a bad thing, if the characters have interesting things to say or at least have some clever wit when they say those things. But Thorarinn writes very tedious conversations, with people often speaking indirectly and passively. Each villain we meet recycles the same phrases, like, "In truth, I cannot blame you for opposing me" and "I must confess, I am surprised to see you here".
The second biggest problem is the lead character, who is extremely meek and his chief qualifications for being the hero of the story is the Great One chose him and he fits into the Dragonlord armor. Rather than prove himself, he just gets gifted with what he needs to overcome each challenge. Things just keep falling into his lap, like becoming king of the Flaems. No one would ever mistake Thelvyn for Conan the Barbarian. As the Dragonlord, Thelvyn would make a good henchman for Conan. One really telling example of this occurs the only time where Thelvyn directly kills someone with the intention to kill them, using the full force of his Dragonlord power. This is during the battle with Kardyer, and normally in battles we are inside Thelvyn's head getting his perspective of the fight. That doesn't happen against Kardyer, the perspective is told from Kardyer and Marthaen's point of view, with at most a paragraph or two of ambiguous perspective describing Thelvyn's actions. The author simply shies away from portraying his character in this aggressive and deadly situation. Thankfully, whatever the reason for this inhibition, it is gone in the third book.
The portrayal of dragons is also out of step with standard D&D portrayals, and out of whack in terms of power levels comparing dragons to high level archmages like the Alphatian Council. The anthropomorphizing of dragons happens at odd times and goes unexplained. In the final confrontation at Shadowmere, when Marthaen stands against the renegades with Thelvyn, Marthaen draws a huge sword. How exactly does a dragon start fighting like a bipedal humanoid? Why would Marthaen even choose to use a sword? Does it give him a tactical advantage against other dragons? Is there a bipedal dragon martial art? These questions go unanswered. What do all the couches and beds dragons seem to use in Windreach even look like? If fact, who actually builds all this dragon furniture? Are the remaining Eldar full-time carpenters building giant-sized...er...dragon-sized furniture?
The most annoying author sin, however, is how Sir George lies once in each of the first two novels to throw characters off the suspicion that Thelvyn is a polymorphed dragon. The only real purpose in this is to lie to the audience to keep them from guessing Thelvyn's true race and spring the final surprise at the end of the second novel. Now, IMO, having a character lie about an important plot point in and of itself isn't wrong, provided it is somehow possible for the reader to figure out a lie is being told. In each case here, however, Sir George appeals to a law of magic that is unfalsifiable for the reader. He tells different characters that no shapechanged creature can be born in shapechanged form, it has to be born in its natural form. Since dragons come from eggs and Thelvyn's mother gave birth to him he couldn't possibly be a dragon. I will contrast this with a scifi book I read in the past year by a much more competent author. There a character also lied to another character about a major plot point, but did so in such a way it immediately set off alarm bells that something was wrong and the real truth wasn't being told. It was subtle, but it was there.
This trilogy provides plenty of background material to the setting, both good and bad, and the seeds of an interesting epic story are sown here. Unfortunately that interesting epic story will only appear if someone re-writes these novels.
1995 - Mark of AmberNPCDave wrote:The party then takes the Darokin tunnel the dwarves use to sneak into Alfheim to find elven clerics of Terra. Terra is the sponsor of the Great One(I believe according to WotI) and Sir George states there are a few rare elves dedicated to Terra in Alfheim(another new thing this book introduces).NPCDave wrote:The last revelation is the female elven cleric of Terra who befriended Thelvyn in the first book and joined him during the siege turns out to be his gold dragon companion Kharendaen. That enclave of clerics of Terra in Alfheim from the first book turns out to have been a disguised shrine of the Great One. Or at least some of them were Great One clerics, it isn't completely clear.
Mark of Amber was released a month before Dragonking of Mystara. I mention it here because of one NPC which appeared in Mark of Amber that was based on this idea that there were clerics of Terra in Alfheim.
Tariana d'Ambreville was first introduced in the Glantri: Kingdom of Magic box set, a creation of Monte Cook who was married to Jean-Louis d'Ambreville. She is full stated out in Mark of Amber, as a half-elf 6th level multi-class fighter/cleric. She was born in 988 AC, her mother an Alfheim elf of Clan Chossum and her father an adventurer in Karameikos. Her mother died in childbirth and she was raised by the clan. She joined the small cleric order of Terra there. In 1007 AC she joined the Alfheim elf northern migration to Wendar when Canolbarth was abandoned to the shadowelves. She met Jean-Louis on a raid into Glantri to obtain food, and he assisted her and her companions. After the relocation to Wendar was complete, she returned to Glantri and they wed.
April,1996 - Dragonmage of Mystara: Bk 3 of the Dragonlord Chronicles Trilogy
Recapping the events from the third book, which begin more than six months after the second book left off...
Alessa Vyledaar, now the highest ranked Flaemish wizard in the Highlands, hears the voice of the Overlord calling to her from a jewel in the chambers of the deceased Byen Kalestraan. We see how she falls under its control gradually as it learns who she is and what happened to Byen. We also get glimpses of the outer plane of Veydra, home of the Overlord.
Thelvyn has been spending the last few months in Shadowmere learning how to be a gold dragon with his companions Sir George and Kharendaen. They travel to Silvermist, which was the shrine to Terra in Alfheim they visited in the first book. It turns out Silvermist is really dedicated to the Great One, not Terra, with both elven and dragon clerics(in polymorphed elven form) present.
At Silvermist, the Great One appears to Thelvyn privately and reveals that Thelvyn is the Great One's son. The Great One was absent for a time in order to become mortal so he could procreate and have his dragon cleric give birth to a champion Mystara would need to lead them. The impending invasion has so many Immortals worried that they agreed to not interfere while this happened. In both sets of Immortal rules, taking a mortal form doesn't require one to lose access to Immortality for a time, but the idea of doing so in order to procreate mortals with exceptional abilities has been seen before, like Vix, daughter of Nyx from HWQ1 The Milenian Scepter.
Thelvyn and his companions resume the search for the Collar of Dragons. Alessa provides a clue that the Flaemish wizards were working with a renegade black dragon king, and Marthaen is able to point them to Murodhir, a renegade black dragon with a lair near the north shore of Lake Amsorak. Thelvyn, Marthaen, and the red dragon Jherdar, complete with his bodyguard entourage, locate it, and we get a short battle between their force and Murodhir's black dragon cohorts and an army of goblins who also serve him. Murodhir has a fortified wall blocking most of his cave entrance with the goblins manning the crenelations and the black dragons hiding behind it. The fight is short, Marthaen draws his sword again but doesn't use it. Captured, Murodhir admits that he had been an ally of the Flaemish wizards since soon after their arrival in Mystara, and that Byen Kalestraan had approached him to steal the Collar of Dragons, giving Murodhir the magic needed to enter the dragon city and bypass the wards. Murodhir delivered the Collar to the wizards at Braastar, a city north of Braejr. (Braastar is part of the Principality of Krondahar in modern Glantri.) Murodhir suddenly puts up a fight(the Overlord triggers this suicidal action) and Thelvyn is forced to kill him. At least the author has gotten past that particular difficulty from the previous two books, Thelvyn kills a number of dragons in this book. Every time renegade dragons are defeated in their lairs in this trilogy, time is spent divvying up the dragon hoard among all the dragons who partake in the battle. I will give Thorarinn a point for sticking to that particular D&Dism, figuring out who gets what from a dragon's hoard is serious business.
While this is going on, dragons strike without warning in the dead of night, destroying Alphatian and Thyatian naval fleets in major ports, attacking Karrak Castle in the Sardal Pass of Rockhome, and attacking locations in Darokin and Alfheim. Darius Glantri reports this to Solveig (these two marry at the end of this novel which is how Darius ends up leaving Thyatis for the land of the Flaems) and Alessa. Alessa reports to the Overlord in her dreams, who gives her instructions on what to tell Thelvyn when he returns. The Overlord has prepared a trap for the future Dragonking and is using the Collar as bait.
When Thelvyn returns to Braejr, Alessa reports that she has learned the Flaemish wizards kept a stronghold on the other side of the planar gate which was created to bring the Flaemish people to Mystara. The location is not far from Braastar. Thelvyn, Sir George and Kharendaen follow this promising lead, and locate the hidden gate in a wooded area south and east of Braastar. Sir George gets his moment to shine by disarming the magical trap. On the other side, they find the the outer plane of Veydra, a land of dull gray sand and cold winds. What appears to be a lake is just dunes of this sand in the form of waves, and a massive fortress composed of high walls and towers nearly the size of towns sits between the lake of sand and cliffs behind it. Here Kharendaen loses access to her clerical spells while Thelvyn is, of course, unaffected.
On the way to the fortress they are attacked by an alien dragon(actually a ruby gemstone dragon) and drive it back before it is reinforced by three more. They manage to evade the dragons by feinting a retreat back to the gate and then slipping past them. Inside the fortress, sized for dragons, they locate the Collar and battle an amber dragon, another ruby dragon, and five Flaemish wizards. Here they first learn about the Overlord and his Masters, the gemstone dragons, and a captured wizard begs Thelvyn to free his people; before dying from some remote trigger by the Overlord which wracks his body with tremendous pain and internal hemorrhaging. Thelvyn and his companions use misdirection to evade more pursuers and ambush a crystalline and jade dragon guarding the gate before escaping back to Mystara. Thelvyn uses his power to destroy the gate before their pursuers can use it.
With the Collar, Thelvyn and his companions travel to Windreach where he is officially recognized as the Dragonking. We finally get a description of Windreach, which lies inside a massive extinct volcano. The city itself resides at the bottom, with enormous dragon-sized buildings including a university and school of magic that teaches magic far more advanced than that of other races(of course). Dragons have their cave apartments hollowed out on the inside walls of the volcano all the way up. The city also has a massive library with the greatest collection of books, many from before the Rain of Fire. Ironically, when Thelvyn brings the news of alien dragons, it becomes clear the pre-Rain of Fire section of the library doesn't see many visitors, since no dragon in Windreach has a clue who the gemstone dragons are until the Great One gives us the info dump. We do get a bit on dragon culture here, they like heated baths and dragons practice all sorts of crafts in the city including making their furniture and harnesses. The book modestly tells us that dragon jewelers are "among the most skilled in the world" which means jewelry craftsmanship is one of the few things where dragons are not always superior to other races.
There is one error here, the book states that the elves of Wendar in the wild forests around Windreach trade with and are protected by the dragons. The second book clearly stated Windreach is in the Wyrmsteeth range, which is far east of Wendar. It isn't clear if the author relocated Windreach to the Wendarian ranges or if he doesn't realize Wendar is far to the west of Wyrmsteeth. It is possible he was thinking of the Norworld elves who might be closer. The elves of Denagoth are also alive at this time and might be able to make such a trek to trade for valuables.
Back to the story, Thelvyn visits the Hall of the Great One, the tallest building in Windreach(1200 feet high), a tower of white stone. The upper half of it is a stronghold of the dragon clerics of the Great One. There, Thelvyn conferences with the Great One(the Immortal Terra is also present) and learns all the historical background I explained in an earlier post, except for the details about the Overlord. It seems neither the Great One nor any of his many Immortal allies can see the plane of Veydra, and the Overlord's identity is unknown to them. Thelvyn then addresses the Parliament of Dragons and the dragon nation accepts him as the Dragonking, agreeing to his plan to unite the nations and races of Mystara to repel the Masters' invasion.
Returning to Braejr, Thelvyn breaks the Overlord's control over Alessa and engages in a battle of wills with the being as it tries to mentally dominate him through Alessa's jewel. The Overlord fails, and Thelvyn learns the Overlord was not part of the original conflict that drove the gemstone dragons from Mystara. Thelvyn calls on Solveig and Darius to spread word of the threat and offer the nations of the Known World an alliance with the dragons.
The invasion begins in Ethengar, where the Masters open a gate. The Ethengarian tribes are driven south into Rockhome, with the fastest riders given permission to rush a message to the dwarf king in Dengar. There we see Darius Glantri is already present. The Ethengarians describe multiple armies of men and monsters, each army led by about twenty gemstone dragons. (The dragons later estimate an army of 100,000 ground invaders in the steppes.) The armies push into Rockhome, we get an account of the battle at Fort Denwarf, where the dwarves spring traps including rolling boulders down the mountain pass to crush troops on foot. The dwarves are forced to withdraw as the Masters attack the towers and battlements. The invading army besieges Stahl even as a portion splits off to march to Dengar. Much of the dwarf army continues to withdraw to Dengar, using a tunnel that goes under Lake Stahl. We see all this through the eyes of Thelvyn's dwarf friend Korinn. When Korinn arrives in Dengar, he learns a second army of 50,000 has made its way through the pass at Hrap River and is about to besiege the city. The battle for Dengar is described as the Masters and their army begin breaking down the walls and scattering the dwarves on the battlements with one jade dragon slain by a dwarf trap. But then Thelvyn comes to the rescue, having brought one thousand dragons to Rockhome and divided them up to lift the sieges taking place in the various dwarf cities. Thelvyn and two hundred dragons battle a much smaller force of Masters at Dengar, and in a fight against an amber dragon, Thelvyn finds the gemstones are much more powerful in Mystara then they were in Veydra. At this point, the Collar of Dragons kicks in and amplifies Thelvyn's strength and powers, allowing him to slay the amber dragon. As the Overlord's invasion forces are driven out of Rockhome, Thelvyn cements his alliance with the dwarf king. There is mention of wyvern-like creatures who wield spears in their claws and serve as bodyguards for the gemstone dragons. They differ from wyverns in that they have four limbs in addition to their wings, just like dragons, but they do stand upright like wyverns.
Next Thelvyn secures an alliance of all the Known World nations when he meets their representatives in Braejr. Thorarinn has done enough research to know Karameikos is the nation of Traladara, but refers to the Heldann Freeholds, which is a mistake according to the history of the Joshuan Almanac, as Heldann will not live for another couple of hundred years. The Emirates of Ylaruam also don't exist yet as mentioned before. Ierendi also doesn't exist as Ierendi, at this time only the Makai natives live there with even Thyatis unaware of the islands for another seventy years or so. Minrothad does exist but it isn't the Minrothad Guilds yet. Thelvyn suspects the Alphatian ambassador is another Overlord dominated pawn. Dragons are stationed in locations spread throughout the Known World, including the Highlands, Wendar and Darmouk, the abandoned dwarven city in Rockhome occupied by Kardyer in Book 2.
The next stage of the invasion happens at the gate near Braastar, and this time the Masters transport the entire fortress which originally held the Collar. Once they have the fortress secured in Mystara though powerful magic cast by an amber dragon, they then open a second gate within the fortress, allowing them to protect it from dragon attack. A young gold dragon spots the fortress the next day and brings a warning to Braejr. Thelvyn, Kharendaen and eight other dragons arrive at Braastar soon after, finding an army marching on the city and the Flaemish people of the town feeling the pull of the Masters. Some of the Flaemish are dominated and begin attacking their fellows, but many more retain their will while suffering pain and distraction from the voice inside their heads. Thelvyn helps most of the Flaemish evacuate south using the river while he and his dragons fight a distracting rear guard action by engaging in hit and run tactics as a superior force of Masters pursues them. Jherdar arrives with a larger force of dragons and a stalemate ensues as each force withdraws to defensive positions.
The Masters and the Overlord are able to strengthen their domination effects over the course of the next few days, but the Flaemish wizards in Braejr are able to use the Radiance to erect magical shielding around their city to protect against it. After some argument, the Flaemish reluctantly agree to allow the dragons access to the Radiance, and dragon sorcerers begin studying the magical effect trying to trace it to a source.
Elvish scouts near Braastar report an army of 50,000 occupying the town along with 200 gemstone dragons. There are also reports of creatures never before seen on Mystara, and one of those described are clearly beholders. So this book posits that beholders came to the Known World through this invasion. There is also mention of giant insects and "flowing, formless creatures that hide in the shadows to trap the unwary"...shadows?
As the domination power continues to increase, Thelvyn decides to see if he can create his own artifacts. At some point in this novel, it is made clear that the Dragonking's power is nearly that of an Immortal while he wears the Collar of Dragons. Thelvyn succeeds in crafting his own artifacts in the course of a day, imbuing large stones with magic he draws from an "opening to a plane of natural magical force". Setting these stones outside the city, these artifacts double the power of the protective shield the Radiance is generating.
Dragon sorcerers who access the Radiance soon learn enough about it to identify the machine deep below the earth which generates the power. While they don't call it a nuclear reactor, the dragons pretty much understand everything else about it, even suspecting it is an alien device. As they prepare to unleash the power of the Radiance, a gargantuan automaton is spotted making its way on foot to Braejr. It is a metal-armored shell roughly in the shape of a dragon, but with eight legs, no wings, 300 feet long and sixty feet high at the shoulder. Thelvyn fails to stop it in the Dragonlord armor, but soon realizes the shell is empty with the Masters guiding the automaton. It nearly slays the Dragonking with some kind of deadly red rays from its eyes as he engages it outside the city of Braejr. But the Masters guiding it are forced back by Jherdar and the other dragons protecting the city, and it makes a fatal misstep, causing it to plunge into the river. The full power of the Radiance is unleashed by the dragon sorcerers, and this breaks the control of the Masters over their ground armies(who surrender or flee) and utterly annihilates their fortress near Braastar. The gemstone dragons are forced to flee to another invasion base with a gate a few hours of dragon flight west of Wendar. Most of the gemstones are pulled down and slain by Thelvyn's dragon army in pursuit.
The Great One visits Thelvyn in a dream and instructs him to travel to Veydra to learn who the Overlord is. The Great One admits the Overlord is shielded from Immortal observation, and has the equivalent power of a lesser Immortal. Thelvyn and Kharendaen enter a portal the dragon sorcerers create and begin exploring. They eventually find their way out of the sea of desert and come upon the ruins of a city and empty fields. There they meet the wyvern-like Veydrans who are free from the Overlord's control. The world belonged to the Veydrans until the Overlord came some 5000 years ago. For a time he was their god and protector but eventually turned evil and enslaved all he could. Those Veydrans who know his true name could not be dominated and enslaved. The Veydrans he captured had descendents who never learned his name. The Overlord released a Wind of Fire to punish the rebellious Veydrans, changing much of the world to sand and dust. Because Thelvyn uses magic and telepathy to converse with the Veydrans, he doesn't quite understand what the Overlord's true name is at this time.
Continuing on, Thelvyn finds more settled and cultivated lands with terraces, high walls to shield crops from the wind and aqueducts to carry water to the capitol of the Overlord. The capitol is basically an enormous complex of interlocking fortresses. There Thelvyn finds an army of one million soldiers mustering in a massive courtyard along with hundreds of gemstone dragons and several gargantua automatons near a world gate to Mystara. The Overlord demonstrates his godlike power at this point, capturing Thelvyn and Kharendaen simply by teleporting them into an audience chamber where they are surrounded. The Overlord is in the body of a more elaborate version of the automatons. He mentally dominates Thelvyn, and forces him to fight as the Dragonlord and the Dragonking, defeating him easily and breaking his back. He then teleports them to a prison of enclosed walls to wait for Thelvyn to recover so he can continue to humiliate him. Thelvyn finally works out the Overlord's true name to break his control and escapes. They hide with the Veydrans for a bit, sharing a meal of some type of deer venison. Thelvyn and Kharendaen head back to their world gate, and barely survive an ambush by the Masters guiding more automatons. Thelvyn creates his own gate with the help of the Great One and returns to Mystara.
The dragon army is already aware of the threat of the immense army mustering north and west of Glantri. In addition to the million men and beasts(minimum) that form the foot soldiers, there are about 500 gemstone dragons and 40 automatons massing there. Against this there are the Known World armies plus about 5000 Mystaran dragons. There is mention the total population of dragons in the entire world is around 8000, and more dragons are still mustering. When Thelvyn meets with the Known World leaders, he uses the Overlord's true name to free the Alphatian ambassador from domination, and learns about a dozen more key Alphatians are under the Overlord's control. The Alphatians were bringing their armies by ship to land behind the Known World forces and betray them. Now that the ambassador realizes he was being controlled, he departs to free his fellows using the true name and at the minimum have the Alphatian force return home if not join with the Known World nations to fight.
The invading army advances on the Highlands from the west, and the Masters reflect that they have done this before on a hundred worlds, conquering all of them and utterly destroying some of them. The 5000 dragons led by the Dragonking attack all along the twenty mile front of the army advance, allowing them to gang up on the Masters. One hundred gemstone dragons are slain, and another 300 are freed from domination through the use of the Overlord's true name. Thelvyn questions a freed crystal dragon and is warned that when the Overlord arrives he can transform gemstone dragons into the equivalent of a phoenix. The freed gemstone dragons flee for remote areas of Mystara, knowing if the Overlord detects them he will be able to dominate them once again because of his former complete control. Thelvyn orders his dragon army to disband and withdraw.
The Overlord arrives in Mystara wreathed in storms by gating his entire fortress capital into Mystara, for it contains some power or anchor that allows him to travel. The Overlord sends eight gemstone dragons, animated like phoenixes, to pursue Thelvyn and a small band of dragons who remained to observe the invasion force. One advantage Mystara dragons have over the gemstones in the novel up to this point is they are better and faster flyers, but in phoenix-form the gemstones are faster. Thelvyn is pursued into Wendar but when the Masters catch up they find themselves surrounded by the dragon army who had refused to disband and were waiting for their Dragonking. The phoenix Masters are more powerful in this form but are overwhelmed by hundreds of dragons.
Thelvyn communes with the Great One and confirms that Entropic Immortals are backing the Overlord, without the Overlord's knowledge. Following the Great One's instruction, Thelvyn returns to the Citadel of the Ancients(see book one) to complete the final tests to become an Immortal. The Dragonlord armor is returned to the Citadel to await the time for when it will be needed again(campaign seed!). The Great One explains that aside from the four main paths to Immortality, there is a "Hidden Path" available to dragons and other creatures of strong magic. This is true, and was discussed by Bruce Heard in Dragon Magazine #170. Unfortunately, this trilogy set up everything on a young human timeframe, not a dragon's timeframe, so we get a new Hidden Path, which I will now henceforth refer to as the Fast Track. The Great One states that when he forsook his Immortality for a period of time to sire Thelvyn, this put his son on the Fast Track to Immortality.
The Immortals Terra, Kagyar and Ilsundal all manifest to witness Thelvyn's final test and ascension to Immortality; they also consider Thelvyn their chosen champion to defeat the Overlord's invasion. Thelvyn finds his surroundings have changed from the citadel to some forest grove sacred to the Great One. The Great One asks Thelvyn to review his great deeds that make him worthy of becoming Immortal, listed are his time as Dragonlord, King of Men(the Highlands), King of Dragons, stopping two wars and uniting the dragons against the threat of the Overlord. The Great One asks next for a gift, but Thelvyn has nothing prepared so he offers his own life. The Great One replies that since dragons value their own lives above all their treasure, that is the greatest gift Thelvyn can offer. I consider that too easy, but the Great One pauses to allow the other Immortals to object, and they remain silent. Last are the Seven Tests, which the Great One considers to be already complete. I would call these the Seven Qualities instead. They are honesty, dedication to service, persistent in the face of adversity, brave, merciful, wise, and a teacher of all these qualities to the dragons.
Thelvyn next takes flight and we get a brief review of Immortal cosmology from WotI, as the Great One explains there are many planes of existence which exist naturally, but other planes were created by Immortals and others. Thelvyn journeys across the planes to his new home plane that is created from his memories, desires and hopes. It is described as deep valleys carpeted with towering pines and stark ranges of stone and vast peaks crowned with snow. There are already dragon spirits soaring there. Next, Thelvyn visits the Great One's home plane which consists of primeval forests and they meet in a great palace on a hill there. In the conversation that follows, the Great One explains that he was the first Dragon Immortal(a retcon, once again, of the Immortals box set and previous material) and that Thelvyn is now Diamond, the Star Dragon, dragon ruler of all lawful dragons. The Great One says that in time there will be two more dragon rulers, Opal for neutral dragons and Pearl for chaotic dragons. Thelvyn's Immortal form is a bit similar to the gemstone dragons, in essence he has become what the gemstone dragons tried to become when they transformed themselves.
Meanwhile, the Overlord presses his army to continue marching east to the Highlands and the Known World. Diamond returns to the dragons and leads them into the final battle. The army of the Overlord is split into five columns still numbering well over a million, along with his remaining gemstone dragons, of which there are 300 left. The Overlord is always wreathed in massive dark storms which obscure a large portion of his army as well. Against this is Diamond and his force of 7000 dragons who dive to the attack as the Overlord's army approaches the western spur of the Wendarian Mountains. That attack is really just a bluff to get Diamond as close as possible in his mortal form as a gold dragon. When Diamond's army pulls back, the gemstone dragons pursue while one gold dragon continues to dive toward the Overlord's storm.
Diamond in mortal form battles Masters in phoenix form(when he briefly manifests his Immortal form they can't stand against him) and as he glides over the ground forces, Diamond dispels the control the Overlord has over his troops. When he confronts the Overlord in the storm he destroys more of those gargantuan automatons and the Overlord teleports back to his fortress. Diamond pursues and the final battle between the two takes place inside the fortress, where Diamond assumes his Immortal form once again and disintegrates the metallic shell of the automaton the Overlord wears. We see the Overlord is an alien entity of crystal from the remote outer planes and then Diamond slays it.
In the aftermath, Diamond and the dragons manage to return most of the slave races comprising the Overlord's armies to their homeworlds, or at least a new suitable world for those whose worlds were destroyed. A few settle in Mystara, some supposedly in the Highlands. Many of the pack beasts and monsters are rounded up as well and returned, although some escaped into the wild and were never located. It is mentioned that the threat of the Overlord invasion results in the subsequent period being a relatively peaceful time among the Known World nations for at least a few years.
The dragons have a big celebration in Windreach, and at night they go onto a remote plateau in Norworld and sing as they do on special nights of the year, like midwinter and midsummer. We are informed the elves(of Norworld) will walk hundreds of miles just so they can hear the dragons sing. Dragons singing is something I can easily picture, but we get some more odd dragon anthropomorphizing here, they bring out barrels of wine(?), play drums(?!?) and the dragons take turns dancing(?!?!?!). The dragons know Thelvyn is now an Immortal, and he says his goodbyes.
An epilogue chapter takes place three years later, when Thelvyn and Kharendaen return to visit Sir George in Braejr. Four gold dragons are granted special places of honor attending to Diamond, Kharendaen was the first. Sir George is chosen as the second, with Diamond transforming him from a wooddrake to a gold dragon. It is mentioned that Thelvyn sired one daughter with Kharendaen while Thelvyn was still mortal, so the gold dragon Therandael is the daughter of the Immortal Diamond(sans Fast Track) and would be almost 500 years old in 1000 AC. The book ends on the note that Diamond knows one day the dragons would be going to war again. Perhaps a reference to WotI, but more likely just leaving it open for another trilogy.
Some final comments on the trilogy-
Despite all the retconning of dragons and dragon history in this trilogy, there was an effort made not to step on the history of the Gazeteers. The only country which gets devastated is Ethengar, where much of the steppes is burned. It was obviously chosen because the Ethengarians would just pack up and move everything out, which they do and stay in Rockhome for awhile until everything grows back. Rockhome gets invaded but the dwarves built so much underground that the invasion only does temporary and superficial damage for the most part. In Braejr/Glantri, only Braastar is destroyed and that is in the time period when only the Flaems and Belcadiz are present, so it is pre-history for most Glantrians of the modern era. The Overlord's biggest invasion force is placed in an area never developed by TSR and never quite makes it to Wendar or Glantri/Highlands. This trilogy does admittedly give the Immortal Diamond a more interesting background then we previously had.
So why do I consider the last novel of the trilogy better than the first? Well, there is less talking and more action with the actual war going on, and Thorarinn is better at writing action. The war is also handled in a competent manner. Magical gates to establish armies on the ground is definitely the way to go for fantasy invasions, and frankly, that is how the war should have developed in Wrath of the Immortals, with Alphatia attempting to establish gates to attack Glantri directly, rather than the WotI re-enactment of World War 2 between Alphatia and Thyatis. I might rate the first novel a bit higher if I consider it in a vaccum, but the deception about Thelvyn's nature revealed in the second book drags it down a bit.
While I don't consider these novels to be worthwhile fiction, the plot and background material are definitely useful for DMs to flesh out, as Sturm has well-demonstrated.
This trilogy assumed BECMI D&D dragon types rather than 2E which had more metallics, so the only metallic dragons are the gold dragons, who get most of the attention. Red dragons get some focus too(Jherdar becomes a big ally and friend of Thelvyn in the final novel), and, of course, the gemstone dragons are a big part of the third book; although sadly we never get a gemstone developed as a character. Black dragons get a minor role, in addition to black dragon renegades being villains of book 2 and 3, the leader of the black dragons in the final battles gets named. White dragons are only mentioned once when it is pointed out they can't keep up with the faster dragons in the final battles. And there is no mention of green or blue dragons to be found anywhere.
Another thing of note, the book claims gold dragons can make a flight from Braejr/Glantri City all the way to Thyatis in a single day. That is much, much further than the Rules Cyclopedia allows flying creatures, which is 120 miles a day.
There is no mention of how the Overlord and Masters knew about the Radiance, but re-reading the final novel, it is clear they each wanted to conquer Mystara for different reasons(Masters-revenge,Overlord-general principle), so lots of spying and scrying likely led them to discover it. They then factored the Radiance into their invasion plans so that they could try and capture it from the start.
The whole true name business to nullify the power of the Overlord reminds me of the original Immortals box set, I presume that is where Thorarinn got the idea. He also collected information on Diamond and the gemstone dragons from the Masters set.
There is a mention in this book of a legend that the Eldar were created by "elemental Immortals" at the time of the creation of the world. But there is no confirmation of that legend being actual history.
There is a timeline in the History of Dragons pdf, but that was harmonized with other sources. A rough timeline purely as presented by this trilogy would be...
prehistory and a long, long, long time ago - Rise and fall of Eldar civilization, dragons and elves spawn from Eldar.
4000 BC - Overlord arrives at Veydra, assumes position of a god
3500 BC - Dragon sorcerers seek to achieve Immortality, falling short they become the Gemstone Dragons
Sometime between 3500 and 3000 BC - War of the Dragonlord, Great One achieves Immortality, Blackmoor and Dragons banish Gemstone Dragons, Collar of Dragons created
3000 BC - Great Rain of Fire
395 AC - Flaems arrive on Mystara from Veydra to unknowingly prepare the way for Overlord invasion
Sometime between 495 and 505 AC - Rise of second Dragonlord, events of Book One of Dragonlord Trilogy
5 years later - Rise of Dragonking, events of Book Two of Dragonlord Trilogy
6 years later - Rise of Diamond, events of Book Three of Dragonlord Trilogy
There is a page in the back of Dragonmage promoting more novels from TSR that involve dragons. This includes a few novels from the Dragonlance series, The Veiled Dragon novel for the Forgotten Realms setting and a couple of scifi books titled Dragons Can Only Rust and Dragon Reforged. TSR was trying to hit another pot of gold as they did with the original Dragonlance Chronicles. But those books were much better than this trilogy.
For those interested in more Mystara novels, it recommends Dark Knight of Karameikos and Son of Dawn.
By the time this trilogy was completed, TSR was starting to operate with a deficit in the profit/loss columns, and Random House, which distributed these books, would soon pull the trigger and ship a bunch of book returns back to TSR.
I really like the cover art for the third book by Paul Jaquays, featuring one of the gemstone dragons attacking the battlements of Dengar.