The Shadow of Dragons
Forest Gnome Illusionist
“The Ephemeri were a group of warlocks who sought knowledge of that which exists beyond the stars. Over a century ago, their leader, Naerytar Skeldok, oversaw construction of a small fortress deep within the Mere of Dead Men. He and his group of astrologers built an observatory into the top level of the keep, and there installed a device called The Farseer. For years, they gazed into the skies, and Naerytar dutifully recorded their research and discoveries into a series of logbooks. No one knows what brought it about, but Naerytar slowly descended into madness and paranoia, becoming intensely fearful of the night sky. Eventually, all contact was lost with the Ephemeri, and conflicting local rumors persisted that Nearytar went mad and slew his people, or they were all devoured by swamp creatures, or that they ran afoul of a black dragon which killed them all. -Equithar, Tales from the Muck, Royal Library of Exridge, 1359 of the Fallen Age”
This was the cursed passage that got Venix into this mess. If only Agamemnus hadn’t been able to locate such an obscure passage. Instead, he did, and thus Venix’s inspired reply:
“Volume VIII shall center on things beyond our physical reach. This recent business with the black comet must be examined! Recorded! Given context! The stars, signs and portents of the sky, and that which lay beyond them. To that end, I must venture to this Castle Naerytar. Examine this Farseer, in every detail! Even more importantly, obtain Skeldok’s journals. The world must know what drove him to madness, and what dangers lie down this path of research.”
Never before had the wizard undertaken such a dangerous-sounding venture. Distant libraries, naturally. Strange old book collectors who lived deep within the Midwood, certainly. Even a week-long interview of a crazed hermit in a hovel at the snowy feet of the Graypeak Mountains, once. But a possibly haunted castle, in a deadly swamp, equidistantly removed from all signs of civilization? Was it just too much?
So far, yes, it was very much too much. To date, this project had been an unmitigated disaster. Which is why he currently found himself an involuntary “guest” of these insane cultists, locked within a tower, surrounded by, from the current looks of things, a tribe of enslaved lizardfolk who have finally decided enough is enough and had just begun the wholesale slaughter of their bullywug and Tiamat-obsessed oppressors.
Just a few weeks ago, he had set out from Torsuul. Torsuul, home to the Queen’s family, through which all trade from the west flowed into Turrion. Venix was born and raised in the small village of Windyside just southwest of the city. His parents and sister lived there still, but at a young age Venix was apprenticed to the Grand Master wizard Agamemnus in Torsuul. Venix spent his formative years there in the College of Magic, before joining Agamemnus at his estate on the lower east side. Nine years ago he completed that apprenticeship, and began his own great work, Idris’ Compendium of Complete Knowledge.
Venix was proud to say you could find the results of his efforts housed in seven volumes in all the great libraries of the land. This eighth volume, however, may just be cursed. He had hired a navigator named Adaros and traveled east to a construction waystation in a rebuilt roadhouse. There, they made their intentions to travel into the swamp in search of the castle known, which brought them to the attention of the supervisor there – an ornery half orc with the unfortunate name of “Bog Luck”.
Bog Luck insisted on providing an escort to the castle ruins, which sounded well and good enough – at least initially. After two days of grueling travel through the fetid swamp, they arrived at the castle. However, these were not castle ruins, but rather an armed encampment of dragon-worshipping cultists, their bullywug allies, and enslaved lizardfolk! Their “guide”, now revealed to be a cult member, promptly alerted his compatriots and apprehended the pair. Adaros was handed over to the head bullywug, a shaman disgustingly called Pharbex Spitgoo, and taken into the dungeons. Venix was taken to meet an elf called Dral Borngray, leader of these cultists.
Borngray, it turned out, was a fellow researcher and had amassed quite an impressive library in his chambers. However, any hope of finding common ground was dashed when it became clear that Dral was not only a fanatical worshipper of Tiamat, but also an elven supremacist and terribly racist towards any non-elves. Venix was taken away and imprisoned, and had been trying to figure a way out of this predicament for the last week.
Peering out his window, the view of the carnage unfolding below was spectacular. Venix began to wonder how precarious his situation was – end results seemed to include “mistaken for the enemy and eaten by rampaging lizardfolk” or “forgotten in tower and starved to death” – when he happened to glance into the next tower over, and noticed a handful of strangers apparently tossing Dral’s chambers for loot. Perhaps he could somehow catch their attention, before they destroyed any of those precious books?