Brown dragons revel in the comfort of sand-covered lairs filled with treasure they have filched from desert tombs. Browns also like exotic live food kidnapped from far lands.
To come face to face with a brown dragon requires extra work on the part of a would-be vanquisher. Brown dragons accomplish their goals in a manner that puts them in the least amount of danger— or, more accurately, requires the least effort. For instance, if given a choice between attacking an armed castle to eat the baron’s horses or swooping down on a straggling bull among a herd of buffalo, a brown dragon chooses the latter.
Nevertheless, a diet of buffalo or other easily acquired herd animals pales after a time, so even risk-averse, relatively easygoing brown dragons might take progressively greater risks to try new flavors. Brown dragons, enamored with eating well, sometimes design elaborate schemes for obtaining unusual morsels—schemes of a sort that other dragons would apply toward stealing great treasure or defending their lairs. To brown dragons, life is best lived by eating often and well. A black dragon might find satisfaction in a diet of swamp things and the occasional drowned adventurer, but a brown dragon’s ultimate happiness comes with new tastes and spices.
In the extreme, this peculiarity can result in a brown dragon taking unnecessary risks in the heat of combat, all for a chance to bite a species never before tasted. After a brown dragon samples such a new taste, it invariably muses aloud about the flavor while the fight continues. Possibly browns intend this as a tactic to demoralize foes, but more likely they follow a gastronomical compulsion.
Brown dragons stand out for another reason apart from their love of food. They have the ability to exhale screaming, blinding sand that hits like a concentrated desert sandstorm. Indeed, these dragons are like elementals of the wastelands. The natural dangers of its favored terrain are part of a brown dragon’s armory. At the extreme, an ancient brown dragon’s sandstorm is large enough to encompass an entire battlefield. Anything caught within such fury is tossed about like a doll in a tornado.
Lairs and Terrain
Brown dragons favor desiccated and deserted landscapes, places where humanoid societies are less likely to thrive and bother them. Browns locate their lairs beneath the desert floor, in hollows of empty air supported by old ruins or in buried cave mouths. Other browns might occupy large ruined structures on the desert’s surface, such as grand tombs from which looters have long departed.
A brown dragon’s lair consists of a series of rooms or hollow spaces cut off from each other by earth or shifting sand. A burrowing brown digs tunnels as needed.
Brown dragons covet food as much as treasure, and even the treasure they favor takes the form of cutlery and crockery, from silver tea sets to crystal decanters once used by deities. Brown dragons cannot resist seizing fine utensils of great value or of noteworthy past ownership. They might even employ intermediaries to buy these types of treasure.
Brown dragons appreciate treasures of other sorts, too: coins, artwork, rare lore books . . . anything valuable that can fill out their hoards. They might also use these kinds of treasure as bait.
- Also see: Dragon Life Cycle
Brown dragons lay their eggs after about five months of a fourteen-month incubation period. They lay clutches of five to six eggs, with an average of three hatching successfully under optimal conditions.
The wyrmling stage of brown dragon development lasts for approximately eight years. Young browns reach adulthood around age 130 and become elders after their 600th year. A truly ancient brown dragon has lived for at least 1,250 years, give or take a century or two. The oldest known brown dragon lived for about 2,000 years.
When a brown dragon dies of old age in its desert lair, the dry air might preserve and mummify it, making it one more relic of lost time buried by the desert sands. When a deceased brown dragon experiences environmental diffusion, the result is an area of quicksand.
The various hues of a brown dragon’s scales allow it to blend in with the sands of its terrain. Like green dragons, brown dragons might allow their scales to become scarred, tarnished, and rough to make them appear more like earth or like rocks in the sand.
The greatest difference between a brown dragon and other chromatics is the strange structure of its wings. Instead of normal dragon wings, a double crest of spines stretches from the head to the tip of the tail, each crest connected to the other by a membranous frill. The frill allows a dragon to swim through sand and earth, and, if need be, fly through the air.
Dry winds and hot sand sweep across a once fertile land. Prehistoric ruins and mighty monuments emerge from the desert like the grasping fingers of a buried corpse. Here, in what had been one of the greatest draconic empires of the past, an ancient emperor and the last of his line refuse to let go.
Nefermandias, often referred to as the Forsaken Pharaoh, is an enormous, writhing wyrm of ancient knowledge and boundless rage. He is longer and larger than other ancient brown dragons, but his great age wears on him. His torso and limbs have grown gaunt, his eyes locked in a perpetual squint. His scales have faded to a dull and dirty yellow, and he carries with him the odors of baking sand and lingering death. Yet Nefermandias is driven by a will older than mortals can imagine, and a wrathful frustration as unquenchable as the sun. Though impossibly old, he is one of the mightiest dragons that still draws breath.
The last ruler of the draconic nation of Maru-Qet was a great brown dragon called Nefermandias. He is called the Forsaken Pharaoh, for he reigned even as his nation was torn asunder, and some believe he lives still.
Nefermandias indeed lives, ruling a clutch of offspring and devoted servants that, in turn, lord it over the few remaining city-states and tribes of what was once grand Maru-Qet. Desperate to restore his kingdom to its former glory, Nefermandias attempts to enslave any humanoid creatures who draw near. Slaves of the Forsaken Pharaoh can expect short, miserable lives; in his frustration, Nefermandias has grown cruel and vicious.
Although it is a brutal wasteland, and those who survive its dangers might wind up as slaves or worse, Maru-Qet is also a land of forgotten treasures and ancient secrets that even Ioun or Vecna might covet. Nefermandias and his brood hold many of these, but others still remain hidden in the ruins or buried beneath the desert sands.
Nefermandias and his offspring dwell in great pyramidal tombs, intended to serve as their homes both before and after death. These complexes are filled with traps of lethal power and intricacy.
Located in an immense valley of lush rivers and fertile fields, this ancient nation boasted rich agriculture, great wealth, and unsurpassed military might. It thrived in the days before the rise of human culture, before the tiefling empire of Bael Turath or the dragonborn nation of Arkhosia. In Maru-Qet, ordinary humanoids were subservient to dragonspawn, dragonspawn to chromatic dragons, and dragons to the great Qetian Dynasties. These pure bloodlines of brown dragons ruled as pharaohs and as demigods, exarchs of Tiamat, for a thousand centuries. Then it ended. The last pharaoh of Maru-Qet, unshakable in his arrogance, chose to wage war with a growing clan of catastrophic dragons that dwelled in nearby lands. He lost.
Today, Maru-Qet is a vast desert, desolate except for sporadic oases and a few militant city-states that yet linger in the wastes. These communities, and a few nomadic tribes, are all that remain of the brown dragons’ kingdom— yet the Forsaken Pharaoh and his offspring, last of the great Qetian Dynasties, rule here still.
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