While the story's details vary from region to region, particular similarites persist: Mainly that the traveler is more generally introverted or reserved than his like; though he displays an outward interest in local lore, he preferrs mainly to hear the stories of others rather than to relate them himself. He's also depicted -- more often than not -- as dressing in exceptionally fine garments of muted, dark tones; which lends credence to his gloomy title. The palms of his hands are also said to be horribly scarred, as if they had been forced into hot coals. Occasionally, he's said to show up in settlements carrying items of great value, which he exchanges for whatever lodging and supplies can be afforded.
Depending on the region, the number and type of dragons that turn up are known to alter considerably, though most stories do agree that the dragon (or dragons) typically appear within 4-7 days of his arrival at a particular location, where they wreak death and destruction. In some incarnations, this manifests as the eradication entire farming communities; in others, the townspeople manage to gain an upper hand and defeat the rampaging threat. In any event, the traveler is seldom seen again.
I write this entry with reusability in mind; in my various campaigns (that often share players), I like to have occasional recurring characters whose personal details and motivations differ slightly from setting to setting. Jaroth may take the form of a rogue military general drawing artillery power from a new-found source, or a master thief who's grown weary of picking through the belongings of wealthy humans. He may, in fact, be an avatar or high-ranking cleric of some dragon god, exacting vengeance for some misdeed; or a tormented land baron, cursed to be hunted mercilessly for all time (alternatively, the dragon could be the one who's cursed, forever bound to frustratedly hunt Jaroth, a construct specifically designed to perpetually evade pursuit).
In any event, Jaroth is generally considered a forebear of cataclysm, and his sudden appearance in the same town as your PCs (possibly even at coinciding times) could lead to some interesting conclusions!
Additional Ideas (1)
Jaroth, The Spawnslayer
“It all seemed so typical – finally, a passing adventurer answering to the call of a plagued town – so it stands to reason that none of us could have foreseen the events that later unfolded.
“Barrow's Edge had been repelling almost-nightly goblin raids since just before winterfall; raids which fell upon us relentlessly through even the bitterest nights of the season, and continued well into spring. We lost twenty-five from the food shortage alone, but with the advent of warmer weather, so came more frequent travelers along the Trade Roads. They, too, reported being ambushed during travels after dusk, and it seems that news of these events must have generated enough attention to make it back to one of the Pendrall guilds, because they sent us the ranger Jaroth. He arrived after sundown, and left before it rose again.
“The next night there was an unseasonably strong thunderstorm, but through the sleet and the lightning, Jaroth emerged; his heavy, ornate robes pockmarked with holes, his arms and much of his torso bandaged and bloodstained. A few of the men rushed him to the temple to see Listra the cleric, who worked tirelessly through the night to heal our town's hero; even then, Jaroth's hands were left covered with twisted scars. Despite his injuries, Jaroth freely spent the small fortune he had claimed on his quest throughout the town over the following days. When the week's end arrived, there was a celebration in his honour, and there were countless retellings of how he so valiantly dispatched the monsters who caused us so much suffering.
“The following day an overcast sky remained, hanging low over the countryside. Jaroth was preparing to leave, and a sending-off ceremony was being prepared. In the dead mid-day air, a sour-smelling breeze picked up; and the temple's alarm bell sounded off against a cacophonous shriek from above. What followed next was absolute devestation -- Three onyx dragons descended from the clouds above the town, raining flesh-liquefying acid down on anyone unfortunate enough to be caught unprotected. When they landed, they furiously demanded that we produce the villager responsible for slaying their only surviving daughter. They then continued their destructive rampage, toppling buildings and utterly dissolving anything found inside; we searched frantically, but Jaroth was nowhere to be found.
“Those of us who were blessed enough to escape with our lives couldn't help but watch as the entire town was reduced to corroded rubble. We later heard news that two other nearby towns had suffered the same fate before the dragons gave up their violent search, but to our knowledge, there are no other survivors. No one knows how or if Jaroth slipped away unnoticed, but the Pendrall guilds insist that they've received no communication from him since prior the incident. Some of the survivors and their families believe that Jaroth was lost to the dragons during their initial attack, and I hope – for his own sake – that it's true. I lost my father to those filthy goblins, and now my mother and countless others to the dragons' assault; we were displaced from our peaceful homes and thrust into the slums of Corsair. If I see Jaroth again, his life is mine.”
Wizard, and Manager of Corsair's South Bowry Guildhall