I had not been back in Waterdeep from Rundreth Manor for more than three days when my companions and I were summoned to a war council. The most important representatives of the Lords’ Alliance were all in attendance, and their purpose was to discuss the threat posed by the Cult of the Dragon. It seems that despite the blow we struck against them their forces are mobilizing, and from their strongholds at the Well of Dragons and Darkhold they have captured the city Iriabor and now look west towards Elturgard and Baldur’s Gate.
There were a variety of opinions on how best to address the threat. Onthar Frume of Elturgard wished to raise an army and march against the Cult. Most of the others thought that a more cautious approach was necessary. When the council asked for our advice on the matter I stepped up to speak on behalf of ROAM. I couldn’t really rely on Belamir for such a task, as he would probably tell everyone that we should confer with Waterdeep’s squirrel population. Soveliss would likely start rambling off on a tangent about the history of some distant land, and I think Varis would be happy to see the cities of Sword Coast come tumbling down, so long as the Cult dies with them. Pug’s advice would likely have been entertaining but he was probably passed out drunk in some alley in Mistshore. My advice to the council was pretty straight forward. I told them that amassing an army to confront the cult would be disastrous, as the cult’s dragons would decimate the troops from the sky. If we could rally the metallic dragons to our side then we might stand a chance at confronting them head on, but until then we would have to be more subtle. I suggested that we focus our efforts on breaking them from within by turning the various factions of the cult against one another.
There is also the matter of the dragon masks. We are told that the black dragon mask is but one in a set, and each mask is a powerful artifact. I have a feeling that these masks may be instrumental in the cult’s plans to bring Tiamat into our lands. If we can destroy the masks or otherwise get them out of the cult’s possession it could be key to defeating them. The lords were certainly interested in gaining possession the black dragon mask that Pug now possesses.
Unsurprisingly, the council wanted more than just our advice. They had another mission in mind. Lord Neverember and High Harper Haventree have asked us to travel to the Serpent Hills to the Tomb of Diderius, where they wish us to seek out some sort of magical divination pool that has the powers to grant great insights into the future. They have reason to believe that the cult is also sending a war band there. Another Wyrmspeaker might be leading the cult forces, and we are to make sure that they don’t have the opportunity to use the pool. There may also be a chance for us to capture another one of the dragon masks.
We have agreed to take on this mission. I must admit that though my hatred for the cult has grown strong, the greater good is not my sole motivation for helping the Lords’ Alliance. When I first left the Black Talons and started working for myself I loved the freedom of being my own master. I thought that I would be content to spend the remainder of my days travelling the Sword Coast earning coin with my blade, but since being made a lord and since I have been given a taste of power, I find myself craving more. Perhaps it is also the influence of Hazirawn or being in the presence of powerful lords like Dagult Neverember. Whatever the reason may be, my ambitions have grown. Rundreth Manor is the beginning, but one day I too will be a great lord and the founder of a powerful new dynasty that will live on far into the future. I will carve a kingdom for myself.
I had hoped that there would be time for Soveliss to spend researching our destination, but alas the cult is moving and we need to act on the intelligence we have been given before it is too late. We made ready for our journey and a day later we set out for the Serpent Hills.
We travelled at a brisk pace and made good time. We travelled some distance on the long road. Along the way we saw the devastation wrought by cult raids in the form of ravaged homesteads and the burned bones of caravans. Eventually, we left the road and cut across the High Moor. I was afraid we would become lost or fall prey to orcs or trolls, but we were fortunate and made the crossing safely. We did have one encounter, and that was with a pair of druids and a ranger who claimed to be in the service of the Emerald Enclave. We did not give any details of our mission, but they warned us of manticores and chimeras.
Finally we descended from the High Moor into the Serpent Hills. These lands were nothing like those of the moor. Strong magic lurks here, for it is a hot and steamy place with trees and vines unlike any I have ever seen. Colourful birds and swarms of biting insects all share this sweltering forest. I have caught glimpses of strange animals that I do not recognize. It feels like this land was transplanted here from somewhere far away. It reminds of the stories I have heard of the distant land of Chult. The vegetation was often so dense that we were forced to walk our horses.
The heat was dreadful in my plate armour, but I have always been a hearty bastard, and for the most part I ignored the discomfort. We travelled for hours. I was sure we were lost, but we had been lucky not face any great horrors. Then our luck turned. A trio of manticores can flying at us, weaving among the tree trunks, ready to kill. I dismounted and drew my flail and shield for battle. I could hear Hazirawn cursing at me for leaving him sheathed, but I wanted the extra protection of the acorn shield. Then Belamir used his magic to dampen our sound and scent and conceal us in dark shadows. The manticores lost sight of us. They circled around above where we hid for some time, but they could not find us, and soon enough their patience waned and they moved on.
Hours later we wandered into a great canyon. Here we found the entrance to the Tomb of Diderius carved into the cliffside. A wide set of stone stairs led up to the entrance,which was flanked by a pair of gigantic statues of robed men. A section of the stair was missing. We noted that someone had recently set up a rope to cross the gap, suggesting that our enemies had already entered the tomb.
We spent several minutes milling about, and we located the fresh remains of a camp that likely belonged to our enemies. Finally, we gathered up the gumption to ascend the stairs, cross the gap and enter the tomb. Just as we were about to proceed the enormous statues turned in to look down on us. In booming voices they asked if we had come for wisdom or knowledge. I said I had come for a bit of both, but to be honest I don’t think I had come for either. I had come to kill my enemies and take their riches.
We entered the tomb. The room before us was cloaked with illusion, making it appear ornate and beautiful- like it might have in ancient times. It held six stone statues depicting robed men. We started to cross, but then statues that we walked between animated. When I gazed upon them I saw only a great void where their heads should have been. I found myself entranced, and I lost all sense of the world around me. There was only the void. It was like I had fallen into the dark tapestry of night and was tumbling through the black emptiness between the stars. I sensed the vastness of the multiverse, and my ambitions suddenly seemed petty and insignificant. I caught a glimpse of infinity, and I realized in that moment that I was but a tiny speck of dust floating in the great emptiness. Waterdeep, the Lords’ Alliance, the Cult of the Dragon, Hazirawn, my companions, the Gods themselves, all of it- all nothing compared to the infinite void.
When I came to my senses. I was disorientated. I struggled to my feet and saw that my companions were in battle with a monster- a chimera. Perhaps it was not truly a chimera, for the creature appeared to made from tiles. It was like a walking mosaic depicting the mythical creature. I could hear Hazirawn calling for me. Somehow the blade was on the far side of the room. The immediate needs of the situation gave me a moment of purpose. I rushed for him, running past the monster. It lashed out at me with a biting lion’s head. Its attack scraped across my plate armour, but I reached Hazirawn unscathed. I planned to sheath the weapon, thinking that the beast we were facing was a construct that had no life force to consume. However, Hazirawn was thirsty and demanded I water him.
With Hazirawn in hand, I charged the monster’s rear flank. The hungry sword cut deep, sending tiles flying through the air. I don’t know what sustenance it got from hacking our strange foe, but the thrill of battle and the power of the sword gave me respite from the emptiness I felt. I was like a man possessed, mindlessly hacking and hewing, hoping that somehow the violence would drive the void from my head. At some point the chimera turned on me, and its dragon head dowsed me with flame. I barely noticed.
I lost all sense of time. I recall the tiles of the chimera falling to the ground and Varis healing my wounds, burning wounds I could barely feel. Then we pressed on, and the dread returned. I scanned my surroundings. Everywhere I saw illusions. Even my companions were illusions. They walked with righteous purpose and self-importance, but in reality they were just specks of dust floating through the darkness like everything else. I felt dead inside. I think Hazirawn knew it, but I’m confident he didn’t care; he needed my body not my soul. I wanted nothing more than to sit down and draw my knife across my throat, but he wouldn’t let me.
We continued on and came into another room. Perhaps long ago it had been a library of some kind, but now there were only empty stone shelves. So much emptiness everywhere I looked…
The ghost of a long dead keeper of the place remained. She stood between us and the doors we needed to enter to progress. I felt no fear when I looked on her. Like everything else, she too was insignificant, just fragments of her former speck of a self. I don’t think my companions realized what she was. She accused us of stealing her books and demanded we return them. Soveliss tried to appease her by grudgingly turning over a book from his personal collection. She was not satisfied and came at us. Varis stood tall and called upon his divine powers to drive her back. She recoiled and withdrew, which allowed us a clear path to the doors we sought to enter.
I go forth now to continue with the pointless mission, Hazirawn won’t let me die just yet. We will see what the future holds. I have looked into the depths of the void, and I now understand things that mankind was never meant to know. I cannot forget the vastness of infinity. I cannot return to the ignorance that shields us from the dreadful truth. I am nothing more than a walking husk, waiting for the winds to blow me to dust. The gods cannot help. For as powerful as they are, they too are just specks of dust compared to the infinite, timeless void. Hazirawn won’t let me die just yet, so I shall serve the blade for now. I will kill as he wishes, and if I am lucky I will die in battle, and perhaps my shade will be able to forget what I am certain my mind cannot.