Mordecai drew his robes tighter about himself as he strode up the darkened corridor. Glancing at the rounded features of the tunnel, oddly, they were near perfect. This was certainly no ancient lava tube of the caldera. It didn’t seem as though he should’ve expected the way into the Well of Dragons to be effortless, still, when their spies had located the hereto unknown ‘secret’ entrance he had hoped. If they had any luck they wouldn’t encounter the tunnel’s architect.
He took out his timepiece and glanced at it, the numbers of the watch floated in the air, glowing faintly. They still had some hours before the main host of the allied armies of the Sword Coast clashed with those of the Cult of the Dragon at the foot of the caldera. Time enough with good fortune to enter the temple in the heart of the caldera where the cult was readying the ritual to free Tiamat from hell and return her to this world. Mordecai could see the outline of Astrid in front of him several paces, and he could hear the sounds of the two knights sent to accompany them by Orun Thrum, leader of the Order of the Gauntlet, several behind. He could not see Harndur who was several paces more forward of Astrid in the gloom of the tunnel.
Astrid raised her hand for them to stop, so clearly she saw Harndur, or something else. Mordecai halted as did the knights. The two knights were sent, as the Lords Council in its wisdom and boundless courage had chosen to bestow the honor of leading the combined mortal armies in battle to Mordecai and his companions in the Stoneguard. They had naively assumed the people who give the orders would be there to swing the sword and join the battle. Since not, it had required them to split their company, Kori, Vilero, Anvilfist, and Shi Jin were needed to command forces on the field of battle. It had fallen Astrid, Harndur, and Mordecai to infiltrate the Temple of Tiamat, and gods willing, end the ceremony before it began.
Harndur came jogging back to them and Astrid came back to Mordecai with him.
“I scouted ahead, a number of branching corridors, one that led to what is a recently emptied cell. There is one way left to use and it appears to traverse a high ranking mage’s quarters, perhaps even Severin himself. It was empty as far as I could discern” He whispered.
Mordecai knew Severin, the cult’s leader, wouldn’t be in chambers, he would be on the temple floor by this point if the prisoners were being herded for sacrifice.
“We press forward then quickly, it’s begun if they’re moving prisoners” Mordecai replied. “Agreed” Harndur responded. Mordecai looked at the wood elf, Harndur was the last original surviving member of the Stoneguard, he had seen all the battles over the last 2 years of this war of the cult, and now here at the end, the look on his face matched Mordecai’s feeling. A feeling of being at the end, perhaps the end of times, perhaps the end of the war, and even the end of they themselves, but the end regardless.
The group moved with haste down the hall with Harndur leading, the knights with weapons ready. They sprang into the mage’s quarters. Large, opulent, and decorated in shades of purple and red, very befitting a former Red Wizard of Thay and current leader of Tiamat’s cult. A quick check of the room revealed there was nothing of note.
Astrid sat on the floor when they were sure it was clear and began to chant a prayer. She murmured for no more than a minute, at the end of which a swirling sentient cloud of dust and
debris formed in front of her. The two had a conversation in a tongue unfamiliar to Mordecai, and shortly she stood and looked to them. “A servant and gift from my lord, he will fight on our behalf”
The group then left the quarters up a hall opposite where they entered. They covered ground quickly and came to another opening into what looked to be a larger chamber. Harndur again scouted and returned. “Staging room, about 50 prisoners and half a dozen guards” He stated. “I say we attack quickly and press on.” Astrid offered, to which they all agreed. In one mad dash, the three of them and the knights sprang into the room. In a span of five heartbeats, flashes of power, bolts of ice, steel in flesh, and the guards were dispatched.
The prisoners were frightened, confused, relieved, and wonderstruck near at once. Harndur had been planning an idea since before they entered the caldera and he spoke quickly and eloquently to the gathered slaves. We couldn’t escort them out as we had to deal with the ceremony, but we could increase their chances of escape and survival with a fighting chance to exact some revenge. He detailed he could transform them into beasts to both speed their escape and make short work of any troops they discovered. A few at a time stepped forward and Harndur speaking in druidic non stop, invoking a transformation of all of them. There were no more prisoners, but a room full of scorpions the size of mules. He pointed to the quickest exit and the mass of giant arachnids surged down the hall. It was not long before screams were heard.
The 5 of them continued down another hall from the staging room towards the center of the caldera and the temple’s location. They went up a long ramp and shortly entered an open area. They were in the caldera. The temple had no roof, but was the floor of the caldera open to the black skies above. It was laid out with a central theater area, radiating off of that central area were five large bays. They had emerged in one of the bays. Mordecai could see in front and above them, there was one robed figure floating in the air about 50 feet from the ground and another on the ground. Both were facing the center theater and chanting. There were glowing multi colored ribbons of arcane power flowing from them towards and swirling glowing mass in the center of the theater suspended in the air, and above that was another figure floating in the air, wearing a crown, a crown of dragon masks, Severin.
Mordecai looked to the knights, pointed to the wizard on the ground with his back to them, and then drew his thumb across his throat. The knights nodded and charged taking the wizard by surprise and with blur of sword thrusts and slashes he dropped, blood and entrails spurting. The one in the air above stopped his chanting and a ball of fire streaked down exploding, engulfing them all. The knights screamed and dropped, but still lived. Astrid shouted and moved to the left across the bay, smoke rising from her armor and clothing. Mordecai’s demonic heritage kept him from suffering much and he threw a handful of ball bearings into the air that began to orbit around him rapidly. He pointed to the floating wizard and they streaked in rapid succession striking the mage in his chest and ripping multiple holes through him the process. He dropped silently from the air and landed on the floor.
Harndur moved forward and spoke a druidic word at which point Mordecai saw the two severely wounded knights transform into a pair of eagles big enough for a man to use as a mount. Given it was a summoning to free Tiamat from hell, technically hell was already breaking loose as they entered, it only got worse however. A pair of flying mages appeared from the bay to their left. The transformed knights charged at them flying, and attacked as both launched more balls of fire. The two knights managed to claw and peck at one mage before both were scorched and dropped to the floor dead, having returned to human form.
Harndur backed down the ramp they came up in an effort to escape further attack. Astrid pulled out a scroll and began to read from it, shortly thereafter the whole temple began shaking and bits of the walls were falling onto the temple floor.
Mordecai pointed again at one mage and ball bearings flew into him piercing his chest and causing gouts of blood to erupt from the impacts. Mordecai’s power, now fully awakened, he motioned with his free hand at the same mage and a shard of razor sharp ice flew into him just behind the enchanted projectiles and he fell to the floor dead. Astrid pointed with her own hands at the second mage, and a bolt of radiant light leapt from her hands and crashed into the second mage staggering him.
Mordecai stepped forward to gain a better view of the remaining mage and when he did Harndur came running past him and quickly snapped as he passed “There’s a problem!”
Mordecai looked and his caduceus was glowing blue and he rolled his head to the side thinking to himself ‘evil wizards and dragons from hell aren’t enough, we need the undead as well’. He looked over his shoulder down the ramp and could see an armored mummified figure striding forward and a long black sword in its hand.
Mordecai spoke a command word and it was if a breeze began to billow around his robe and he rose into the air. Astrid glanced up at him annoyed and Mordecai looked down and spoke “What? It’s a an armored undead wight. You’re the priest, deal with it.” before turning towards the bay on their right. Astrid snorted in disgust, turned sword and shield in hand and charged the undead warrior.
Mordecai saw Harndur leap into the air and yell as he did so. Harndur’s body began to twist and change, and continued up into the air, growing in size as he did. The yell he was uttering changed into a deeper and deeper roaring until a pair of gold hued wings unfurled. Where there had been Harndur, now there was an enormous golden dragon beating its wings and flying towards Severin.
Mordecai turned his attention to the mages in the bay and dispatched them with a flurry of enchanted missiles and shards of razor sharp ice. When he turned back he saw Harndur the dragon, wrapped in glowing fiery chains, and the wight was now flying. Quickly Mordecai flew towards the scene. He let out a blast of radiant light that caught the wight and spun him in mid air, searing his deadened flesh and taking his sight to which he screamed. Astird launched a bolt of light as well striking the wight. Harndur had shaken off his chains and was attacking Severin who was fighting back. All save for Astrid were flying back and forth across the temple, bolts of ice, fire, and ghostly necrotic energy lancing back and forth.
Harndur managed to get the upper hand on Severin and with a lightning lunge he clamped down on the wizard leader and bit him nearly in two. Harndur scooped the body before it fell and took the crown from its head.
The wight had flown down to the temple floor and engaged Astrid, a battle she lost and fell. Harndur surged forward though and ended the wight with another monstrous clamp of his jaws, before flying across the chamber to engage a final trio of mages. Mordecai got to Astrid and was able to administer one of the healing elixirs she had prepared for them. She sat up shaking her head and thanked Mordecai.
Harndur flew back to the center and there appeared to be a single mage left, but their efforts failed apparently as the swirling mass of energy in the room began to spread out in a ring and through the ring the white head of a dragon emerged. The head turned towards the surviving cultist and breathed a cloud of freezing white mist killing him where he stood before turning towards them and spewing the same freezing mist over them as well.
Head after head emerged from the portal, and in successions of frost, acid and lightning they were beaten back away from the portal. Astrid fell again under the repeated attacks. Mordecai launched enchanted missiles and blasts of necrotic energy again and again at Tiamat. They clearly were having an effect, as were Harndur’s attacks in dragon form, but finally a belch of acid from the beasts black head and Mordecai dropped and as his vision went back he saw Harndur drop from Dragon form.
Mordecai sat up with a start. He was dizzy, unsure for a moment where he was, and fighting desperately to avoid vomiting. He looked around and saw the heads of Tiamat in the portal. He saw Astrid’s motionless form lying about hundred feet to his left. Harndur was in elf form and severely wounded, facing the enormous form of Tiamat. Mordecai struggled to his feet and threw a last handful of ball bearings into the air just as the beast turned towards him. Pointing he launched them towards her and in a flurry of impacts they tore holes in her green head. The huge eyes rolled in the green head and it collapsed downwards, as did the others.
There was a deafening noise, something like a hurricane and a firestorm, and then with a clap like thunder, the portal collapsed and was replaced with unnerving silence. Mordecai steadied himself on the wall. He could see Harndur stumble towards Astrid and kneel over her administering some sort of healing spell upon which she sat up.
Mordecai reached his two friends and sat down. They all were on the floor not speaking for a time when Astrid broke the silence. “We did it.” she said simply. Harndur smiled and nodded.