Palarandusk, known as the Unseen Protector and previously as the Sun Dragon, was a male gold dragon who lived in the Sword Mountains on the Sword Coast North. He was the chosen guardian of the gnome village of Ieirithymbul, and previously the self-appointed protector of the city of Neverwinter. He was a great wyrm by the mid-to-late 14th century DR, but he was forced to live in an invisible, inaudible, and insubstantial state.
Exceptionally ancient for even a gold dragon, Palarandusk still had bright and keen eyes, but his scales were cracked with age and much use and they had become pale, with his jaw turned white. However, he was rarely, if ever, seen like this, for he spent nearly all his existence in his invisible, silent state.
Palarandusk was good natured and gentle and had a light and whimsical sense of humor combined with a strong desire to protect others. He appreciated beauty in the form of artwork and had a great interest in philosophy and morality. He'd acquired a collection of human writings on the subjects and he had talked with elves and dwarves about their outlooks and personal views. He developed a deep and sympathetic grasp of human and gnomish nature.
From these, he developed a rigid personal code he lived by and was slow to change, but would adjust on rare occasions after long reflection and introspection. It was his view that all dragons had a duty to live in harmony with nature; that it should be protected from harm in fire, flood, or other disaster; that prey should be killed only for food, not for enjoyment; that things should not be destroyed unnecessarily; and that a dragon must defend their domain from invaders. Each time he was forced to kill in battle, he wept, yet he did so without mercy or second thoughts. He also fought without regard for his own safety and without traps or tricks, finding premeditated violence repugnant—it was fine for him to grab a handy boulder and hurl it at enemy, but not to put them there beforehand for the purpose. He had no interest in accruing a huge personal wealth. It was said even paladins could learn a thing or two from Palarandusk.
Although he kept himself hidden wherever possible for fear of being hunted, Palarandusk grew frustrated at his so-called "shadow existence". He would have liked to live an unmasked existence and yearned to be respected as a major power on the Sword Coast North, as he once had been.
By using potent magic of his own creation and other magical augmentations bought or traded from other mages, Palarandusk staved off natural death and the effects of decay, extended his existence, and kept his broken body together. But even this magic weakened over time, while his body still deteriorated, such that by the mid-to-late 1300s DR he could only risk materializing his true form for a few minutes a day, and even then only for a seconds at a time, to give or take an item or to attack. Yet at such times he possessed all the might and significant powers of a gold great wyrm.
But, unique among dragons, he also had a semi-incorporeal form, placing him partway in the Ethereal Plane, though not as insubstantial as a ghost or other incorporeal entity, but he could interact with incorporeal things. In this state, Palarandusk could not be seen or heard, levitated, was only semi-solid, and could not attack with claw or fang, fire breath or spell. With his spectral touch, any physical attacks he made caused the target no harm except for short-term nausea, but his semi-solid body was damaged as if crushed; this caused minor but permanent damage. The only spells he could cast were those that only affected himself. He could not carry anything he had not swallowed. Yet he was otherwise as capable as he was when solid and he could still see, hear, and speak. Moreover, he did not age, the spells maintaining his body remained intact, and he was unaffected by the environment. Naturally, he stayed in this state almost constantly.
Due to the magical effects in operation on his body, Palarandusk needed very little food and rarely felt hungry. On the occasions he did, he ate rocks, tailings from mines, and the creatures that attacked Ieirithymbul. He lay under the rain and or in the ice-cold Felrenden stream and absorbed water and washed away waste. He didn't required warmth or shelter. In addition, he had no need to sleep, but this might've been to his detriment—wyrms of his age slept almost constantly and Elminster speculated that staying active and forgoing rest were responsible for the acceleration deterioration of his body.
An epically powerful natural sorcerer like any dragon, Palarandusk knew a wide range of spells, most quite unusual or rare among gold great wyrms. Many of them he learned from the spellbooks of ancient Netherese mages and were long-forgotten by the 1300s DR. Only one of these spells was known to Elminster: whipstrike, a battle spell that Palarandusk employed only rarely as he considered it "unfair" but useful in defending gnomes against a lone foe while he engaged with another. Two were unknown, unique spells dedicated to keeping his body together. A few other notable spells were Gedlee's electric loop, hand of divinity, monstrous regeneration, and undeath's eternal foe.
He was an authority on the flows and effects of magic and could predict with reasonable accuracy the outcome of multiple spells impacting on the same target or location. A wizard from Neverwinter once gave him a spell that he could use to drain a certain type of magical rod of its charges to boost his own powers. However, by the 1360s DR, Palarandusk had long since drained all the magic from the rod he had and he needed fresh rods of the appropriate types.
Palarandusk passed his time in magical studies on how he could bolster his failing body through magic and in drifting around the village of Ieirithymbul as its guardian, and almost always while in his invisible, inaudible, and intangible state.
He watched over the village of Ieirithymbul with care and close attention, monitoring the gnomes and making sure they came to no harm. Palarandusk's habits were like those of a worried sheepdog. He generally just drifted from one gnome to the next, checking up on them and updating his overview of their activities and locations in the valley. He particularly liked to listen in on arguments, feasts, and other events where the usually reticent gnomes were talking freely about their goals, personal views, or opinions. Generally, he escorted them when they went to the edge of the Felrenden valley to herd sheep, gather edible flowers, or engage in prospecting and mining, and when they left the valley to trade with the outside world.
He followed Ieirithyn gnome traders all the way to trademoots on the High Road and into the town of Leilon itself. Though he rarely went beyond the Felrenden valley, Leilon, and a narrow corridor of land linking them along the gnomes' route, Palarandusk believed he had the right to go wherever he wished if he had the need or the inclination.
During these outings, he learned quite a lot about trade on the High Road, alliances between merchants, and other goings on, and kept an ear out for news from across the North that could give him advance warning of migrating monsters, gathering orc hordes, and refugees and stragglers of defeated armies. Meanwhile, he looked out for any and all creatures coming to the Felrenden valley—even lone birds, who might well be spellcasters in magical disguise. When he discovered raiding orcs, marauding monsters, and reckless adventurers as far as the High Road near Leilon, Palarandusk took action.
Palarandusk was keen to keep his presence and his identity concealed, for fear of dragon hunters seeking to slay him for rare trophies or body parts to sell to alchemists and spellcasters. Regardless, some wizards aware of him sought him out in order to trade magic. He generally gave them only a brief audience if their magic did not suit his aims of maintaining his life and power.
Palarandusk was happy with his solitude, and had no alliances with other beings or factions in the 1300s DR—not even with other dragons, whom he avoided wherever he could. While he worked peaceably with fellow wyrms, such as when a slave in Netheril, he didn't seem to seek them out, nor did he especially welcome their company and companionship. Palarandusk had apparently never had a mate as far as any historian knew, though they couldn't say he hadn't in his youth either. While Palarandusk was not hesitant to enter another dragon's domain, and did not seek to offend them, he would defend himself if attacked and often fought to kill or maim. Evil and aggressive dragons, in his view, ruined the reputation of all dragons, which thus threatened all dragons, and so must be slain. Good dragons he viewed as only misguided and did not try to kill them. His view was that, while other dragons had their domains and were welcome to defend them, he predated all of them and likely would outlast the almost the lot of them.
Finding no appeal in lying on a pile of treasure and having no need of shelter, the Unseen Protector did not maintain a lair like other dragons, but instead simply lived in the valley of Felrenden, a high narrow place amidst the peaks of the western edge of the Sword Mountains, near the High Road and Leilon. He stayed close to Ieirithymbul to better watch over it.
Although Palarandusk did not desire riches, he did appreciate beauty, in the form of statues and paintings and other works of art. These could be found hidden all around the Felrenden, whether propped up in clefts in the rock or under overhangs for shelter, their only protection being from the weather. He did value coinage for the purpose of buying magic and the services of humans, dwarves, and elves. He stashed caches of such treasure in remote caves, rifts, and rock clefts, often beneath boulders he put on top, around the Sword Mountains and in the southern Crags.
Palarandusk would only reveal himself to foes when it was absolutely necessary. Although he reacted quickly when an Ieirithyn gnome in danger, he preferred to spy on enemies first to learn their plans. He watched and waited until there was no other choice, then materialized and attacked without warning or negotiation, nor regard for his own defense when gnomes were at risk. He threw boulders from the mountains at his foes, but hated the idea of employing traps or ambushes or any other form of premeditation where combat was concerned.
His early life was an enigma to historians, and a secret known only to him. The earliest known record of Palarandusk was found in a fragmentary book, its name unknown and its pages sheets of burnished electrum stamped with characters that couldn't be read by the 14th century DR without magical aid. Palarandusk was known to be active in Faerûn before the founding of Netheril, (−3856 DR), living somewhere on the Sword Coast North and hunting wyverns and similar prey between the later sites of Luskan and Waterdeep. He was already a mature adult dragon in Netheril's early history.
Then the early Netherese sorcerer Mileirigath enslaved the great dragon, or else forced him into servitude lest a worse outcome occur. Compliant and unknown to the world, Palarandusk served him and his apprentices for centuries. They cast countless spells upon him, in the process altering his draconic nature, longevity, and powers. Finally, when magic failed and Netheril fell in Year of Sundered Webs, −339 DR, Palarandusk was liberated and he seized as many spellbooks as he could from Netherese ruins before mind flayers and other dark forces could loot them.
Free at last, for the first time he also began to explore his enhanced magical powers. Having been dominated and damaged by Netherese magic, with his body already partially insubstantial, Palarandusk developed spells to fortify his mind in the first few decades.
Then, in the Year of Wan Shades, −306 DR, Palarandusk encountered a group of free-willed shadows, who had been emancipated after the destruction of their master, a shadow Netherese arcanist. Among them was the elf sorceress Anastrianna Galanodel. Rejecting evil, these so-called "wan shades" were seeking to reclaim their identities, but were lost and purposeless. It's probable Palarandusk sympathized with their plight as freed slaves also changed by Netherese magic, for he sought out and aided them by using his own magic. He even helped the shadows to assault the Netherese ruins and destroy the remaining Netherese undead, though many were destroyed themselves by the undead and well-meaning clerics and their own families. Yet Anastrianna and others survived.
He flourished for centuries after this.
The Sun Dragon
Resurfacing with the moniker "the Sun Dragon", he protected Neverwinter on a number of occasions, from both orc hordes and Northmen invaders from the Moonshaes. When the Everhorde of orcs led by mind flayers laid siege to Neverwinter in the Year of the Normiir, 611 DR, the Sun Dragon and the allied armies of Phalorm, Uthtower and other realms were vital in lifting the siege. The Neverwintans came to see the Sun Dragon as their heroic and benevolent protector, and some even prayed to him.
As he continued to age, however, and his strength and agility declined, the threat and frequency of challenges from younger, more able dragons increased. Palarandusk was also loath to proudly stand his ground, accept one of these challenges, and then be defeated and leave Neverwinter and its surroundings unprotected. Moreover, there was no worthy successor to whom he could pass his mantle as Neverwinter's protector. Thus, Palarandusk was forced to go into hiding, appearing less often in Neverwinter and steadily passing into legend. He particularly feared the rise of the Arcane Brotherhood of Luskan, worrying that they would discover his magical nature and enslave him as the Netherese had done, and this prompted him to disappear completely.[note 1]
Palarandusk (in human form) purchased a dilapidated country mansion southeast of Neverwinter and used it as a home and personal library. For decades, he lived there in human form and in seclusion, studying his spellbooks and learning as many spells as he could. But eventually a band of adventurers destroyed the house using their own spells—whether they were incredibly lucky in their choice and effect or were very well-prepared by someone who'd sent them to destroy the dragon remains unknown. Either way, the house exploded in a magical blast and flaming debris while Palarandusk was still in it. Though taken by surprise, he only just managed to protect himself with his spells. Although he managed to escape, his body was so badly injured it was only held together with a web of shattered spells. Moreover, nearly all his precious spellbooks had been obliterated.
Exhausting all his remaining magic, Palarandusk reconstructed his body, enabling him to transform into his invisible, inaudible, incorporeal state. However, because of his injuries and deteriorated abilities, Palarandusk decided he was no longer fit to defend Neverwinter. In any case, the city no longer needed him, with its own great mages and resident adventurers, with him but a glorious legend there.
The Unseen Protector
He spent some time traveling the Sword Coast North, but found much of it unrecognizable compared to how he remembered it from his youth, while old friends and old enemies had passed on. Finding himself discontented, he felt that his true purpose, now and still, was to be a guardian and protect people and a patch of land. So, he searched for a small (for a dragon) corner of the Realms for himself. While he wished to remain close to an active and vibrant city, he preferred someplace isolated and obscure. He had a liking for a community of hard-working honest people who lived close to the land. Weary of ambitious human mages, Palarandusk took a liking to gnomes, the Forgotten Folk of Faerûn, and to Ieirithymbul in the Sword Mountains, near to Waterdeep and Neverwinter. With his magic, Palarandusk summoned lone gnome elders out of town to meet with him, then revealed his true nature and asked to be allowed to live in the area in exchange for his protection. Awed and moved, they all accepted the Unseen Protector as he came to be known.
In the early 800s DR, Anastrianna Galanodel spoke of Palarandusk to a young and promising mage named Sammaster. This conversation was recorded in A Wandering Halfling's Tales, published in 862 DR.[note 2]
In the Year of the Cold Claws, 940 DR, Palarandusk prevented the orc King Rauragh of Uruth Ukrypt in the Sword Mountains from forming an orc horde to attack Waterdeep, by destroying them even before they could fully gather after arriving through Underdark passages. He was also responsible for killing a number of villainous human mages, such as Cult of the Dragon wizard Radiglar "the "Worm-tamer", and destroyed the Koroaver's Raiders adventuring company, preventing them from creating a Zhentarim-allied mining stronghold outside Waterdeep.
The Arcane Brotherhood of Luskan finally targeted Palarandusk for its own ends in the month of Uktar in the Year of the Gauntlet, 1369 DR. Palarandusk was caught in a magical snare and he was freed by Burlmarr, a psionically talened gnome.
In the Dracorage of the Year of Rogue Dragons, 1373 DR, Palarandusk was fortunately unaffected, as he spent the duration in his incorporeal form and thus in the Ethereal Plane where the magic of the Dracorage mythal could not reach him.
While Elminster predicted, or feared, that Palarandusk might one day be slain by a band of wicked mages like the Arcane Brotherhood or an alliance of dragons (at least three), they deemed it more probable that he would persevere for several hundred years more before his body at last gave out. Even so, his magic might sustain him as a disembodied sentience, but this was uncertain. Elminster warned that the Unseen Protector, doomed to always watch and never protect, might be driven dangerously mad with frustration, or else exist in impotence.
Palarandusk did well at concealing his nature, fooling bards and sages alike into thinking he was anything but a dragon. The majority thought him to be a local guardian spirit keeping the Ieirithyn from harm. Other theories held he was a gnome wizard who could project himself out-of-body in an invisible flying ghostly form called a "send-forth" while retaining the use of his senses, speech, and ability to cast powerful spells. Ideas that posited a connection with a dragon were dismissed as absurd, sightings by humans were rare, and few scholars could accept or understand Palarandusk strange state of existence. Volo learned of the appearance of a dragon somehow but misinterpreted it as the illusion of a powerful spellcaster. The renowned dragon expert Velsaert of Baldur's Gate was barely aware of his existence. Only a few folk, mostly great wizards such as Elminster, knew the truth of Palarandusk and of course the Forgebars were well aware of the aged gold dragon that slaughtered them. And the gnomes too, obviously.
Palarandusk was one of the more powerful creatures of the Realms.
- The "Palarandusk" article in Wyrms of the North has fear of the Arcane Brotherhood drive Palarandusk to disappear, but the Arcane Brotherhood only formed in 1311 DR, which seems much too late for all the following history. However, Palarandusk's timeline is not definite and many key events are undated, so it may be rearranged. Moreover, Palarandusk may have feared Luskan mages who were precursors of the Arcane Brotherhood.
- Anastrianna refers to Palarandusk as both "Sun Dragon" and "Unseen Protector", suggesting his settling in Ieirithymbul is before this date.
- Realms of the Dragons II: "How Burlmarr Saved the Unseen Protector"
- Ed Greenwood (October 1998). “Wyrms of the North: Palarandusk”. In Dave Gross ed. Dragon #252 (TSR, Inc.), pp. 70–74.
- Ed Greenwood; Sean K. Reynolds (2004-12-01). By Dragons Ruled and Divided. Wyrms of the North. Wizards of the Coast. Retrieved on 2016-08-13.
- Ed Greenwood; Sean K. Reynolds (2003-10-22). Palarandusk, "The Unseen Protector". Wyrms of the North. Wizards of the Coast. Retrieved on 2016-08-13.
- Eric L. Boyd, Eytan Bernstein (August 2006). Dragons of Faerûn. (Wizards of the Coast), pp. 44, 154. ISBN 0-7869-3923-0.
- Brian R. James, Ed Greenwood (September 2007). The Grand History of the Realms. Edited by Kim Mohan, Penny Williams. (Wizards of the Coast), p. 50. ISBN 978-0-7869-4731-7.
- Eric L. Boyd (March/April 1999). “Eye of Myrkul”. In Christopher Perkins ed. Dungeon #73 (Wizards of the Coast), p. 24.
- Richard Baker, Ed Bonny, Travis Stout (February 2005). Lost Empires of Faerûn. (Wizards of the Coast), p. 138. ISBN 0-7869-3654-1.
- Brian R. James, Ed Greenwood (September 2007). The Grand History of the Realms. Edited by Kim Mohan, Penny Williams. (Wizards of the Coast), p. 92. ISBN 978-0-7869-4731-7.
- Eric L. Boyd (June 2005). City of Splendors: Waterdeep. (Wizards of the Coast), p. 9. ISBN 0-7869-3693-2.
- Richard Baker, Ed Bonny, Travis Stout (February 2005). Lost Empires of Faerûn. (Wizards of the Coast), p. 140. ISBN 0-7869-3654-1.
- Brian R. James, Ed Greenwood (September 2007). The Grand History of the Realms. Edited by Kim Mohan, Penny Williams. (Wizards of the Coast), p. 112. ISBN 978-0-7869-4731-7.
- Template:Cite book/Realms of the Dragons II/How Burlmarr Saved the Unseen Protector
- Ed Greenwood, Eric L. Boyd (March 2006). Power of Faerûn. (Wizards of the Coast), p. 32. ISBN 0-7869-3910-9.
- Eric L. Boyd (June 2005). City of Splendors: Waterdeep. (Wizards of the Coast), pp. 156–157. ISBN 0-7869-3693-2.