“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”
― Edmund Burke
- Thaed, 14th Level Human Cleric
- Fo, 14th Level Human Monk
- Brûne, 14th Level Human Paladin
- Adabon, 14th Level Copper Elf Fighter
- Vrae’ree, 14th Level Drow Wizard
- Tharivol, 12th Level Moon Elf Fighter
- Abernacky, 10th Level Human Fighter
- Tom, 10th Level Halfling Wizard
- Deiter, 10th Level Human Fighter
- Alric, 11th Level Human Paladin
- Ki’rok, 11th Level Drow Ranger
The Cult of the Dragon has been active in Faerun for centuries. For most of that time, its focus has been on undead dragons, but now that’s changed. Now the cult seeks to act more directly and more boldly—by summoning Tiamat out of the Nine Hells and bringing her bodily into the world. So far, cultists and their leaders have gathered great stores of treasure, forged an alliance with Thay, and persuaded or cajoled many of the oldest and strongest evil dragons of Faerun into supporting them.
However, not everything has gone according to the Cult’s plans. The discovery of an alliance between the Cult of the Dragon and the Red Wizards of Thay has shaken the various factions aligned against both organizations. The Harpers view any such alliance as an abomination, as does the Order of the Gauntlet. Lords’ Alliance recognizes the obvious threat to the lands and rulers of the Sword Coast and the North, while the Emerald Enclave suspects that anything Thay promotes is likely against the natural order. Even the Zhentarim fear the union of two such powerful forces.
In response to the Cult’s activities throughout the Sword Coast, our heroes volunteered to go to the Well of Dragons to strike at the Cult and attempt to plunge them into chaos before the armies of the good factions march on the Mountain to clash with the Cult’s mustered forces. What they did not realize was that they would be forced with the situation to make a last stand against the servants of the Dragon Queen and their dark goddess. The Cult’s plans are progressing much more rapidly than thought, and time is fleeting. There was no time for hesitation.
The heroes chose to undertake a stealthy infiltration of the cult’s redoubt and the Temple of Tiamat. This decision was a dangerous one as it was one of the slowest and indirect route into the Temple. However, this route was also one of the less protected and safest routes that could be used. The humans decided to enter through the sewers while the Elves went through the Goblin Gate.
Their accomplishments up to this point have frustrated Severin and slowed his plans. They disrupted the transportation routes warehousing and delivering treasure to the Well of Dragons by raiding the Karst Caves. They robbed the Cult of resources when Skyreach Castle fell. They prevented Severin from gaining all of the Dragon Masks by giving one mask to be held safely in Waterdeep. And Severin was fairly certain that the Neverwinter Nine had a hand in fighting his Drow allies who were providing a supply of slaves to be sacrificed at the Well. Severin had only one remaining card to play, performing a ritual that would appease the King of Hell. Only then would Asmodeus agree to free Tiamat from her prison in the Nine Hells. But his spies told him that the Nine had been dispatched to the Mountain to stop him. His minions were on full alert, preparing to stop the fools before they could enter the Chamber of Ascension.
The weakness of the Well of Dragons is its age and vastness. Severin was unaware of the sewer tunnels that were largely abandoned nor did he know of the ancient temple containing the Pillar of Ras. No cultist has used this entrance since the tunnel collapsed at the three-way intersection sixty years ago, rendering the passageway useless. Recently, a hive of bulette burrowed by accident into these tunnels, reopening the passage in all three directions. As a result, this tunnel offers an unguarded entrance into the caldera and the warrens.
Once out heroes navigated the lava tubes and gained entrance to the Black Chapel, they negotiated with the Crossroads Demon to gain entrance into the Temple of Tiamat. They rode the Black Chapel’s elevator down over 300 feet into the volcano, arriving in the temple.
As they moved through the temple, our heroes could hear that some kind of ritual was underway. However, they chose to continue to move through the corridors and chambers at a slow pace, placing their safety above the urgency of whatever was going on within the temple. They could hear thousands of voices calling out to both Tiamat and Asmodeus during the ritual, accompanies by instruments of all kinds.
Our heroes had to fight their way into the Chamber of Ascension, finally arriving as Severin’s ritual was reaching its ending. Lucky for Severin, our heroes decided not to take any of the priests or wizards conducting the ritual for questioning. Who knows if they would be truthful, and time was running out! While the majority of the Neverwinter Nine gathered just outside the entrance to the Chamber, the monk ran inside towards a single female that was on the opposite end of the Chamber. She was standing alone and holding a crown in her hands.
As it turned out, the Cultists were devious in their defensive strategy. First of all, small groups of spellcasters were standing in key places throughout the Chamber, weaving protection in the form of multiple Globes of Invulnerability over the other Cultists in the Chamber. To effectively use their magic, our heroes would have to disrupt the spellcasters to end the Globes. This proved to be too difficult for them at the time, mainly because they were focused on stopping the Gateway to the Nine Hells from being opened. Failing that, they were unsure of what action to take. And when they saw the gate open, they lost hope. They believed that their mission had failed, and was at an end.
Fo turned out to be the one who opened the Gate to the Hells. He ran forward, dodging and jumping through the mass of cultists until he reached the other side of the Chamber. Severin watched in horror, his eyes widening as he continued to chant. But then the unexpected happened, and Severin smiled widely. The monk completed the ritual prematurely, sacrificing the Bride of Hell with a single death-dealing blow to the nose. As the woman’s nose pierced her brain, the Cultists all stopped chanting their summoning spell and cheered.
As the woman fell to the floor and the crown rolled to land at Fo’s feet, he saw that the Gate to The Nine Hells slowly formed and started to gape open, revealing a man with red skin dressed all in black. And behind him stood Tiamat in all her glory.
Finally, the way from the Nine Hells was open. Severin gnashed his teeth, feeling confident that the Neverwinter Nine has once again ruined his plans. The horde of treasure had been collected and offered to Asmodeus as a bribe to release Tiamat from her prison and to satisfy the terms of her contract to remain within the confines of Hell. Severin had also offered the souls of a hundred and one innocents to Asmodeus to gain his favor. But now the offering of the Bride was disrupted. He watched as the monk keeled down, providing the fallen Bride will healing energy to bring her back from the dead. Severin smiled.
Severin could not help himself. He laughed out loud, the maniacal sound of a man seeing all of his efforts come to fruition. The monk had already murdered the Bride as required by the ritual, but the timing was off. His priests had planned out the timing so that they could cast a spell to bring the Bride back to life after she was struck down by his knife. And now, the monk was bringing the girl back to life before his eyes, completing the second part of the three-part ritual. All that remained was for the crown to be given to Asmodeus.
Severin stepped forward, wanting to shout for his minions to seize the crown. He could not touch it himself, he knew, as they powerful charms placed on the crown would possess and consume him. He tried to shout but his voice failed him. He pointed helplessly at the crown and watched as the monk moved to towards it. Severin knew that the monk would destroy it, or kick it away, or use some kind of psionic mind-magic energy to remove the crown from the ritual. But Severin watched with inner glee as the monk instead touched the crown, picking it up.
Severin watched, amazed, as the monk performed the third part of the ritual. Fo fell under the magic of the crown, transfixed by magics weaved by Lolth herself. The magic of the Mother Of All Magic consumed Fo, and he stepped forward, handing the Crown of Neverwinter to Asmodeus, Warden of Hell.
Asmodeus took the crown and stepped away from the gate. Despite the best efforts of the spellcasters within the Neverwinter Nine, the gateway could not be closed. Asmodeus was willing the gateway open from his plane of rulership. The gate now opened, could only be closed by the will of Asmodeus.
Our heroes watched as Fo threw himself into the portal, entering into combat with Tiamat while she still remained within the Nine Hells. The monk would have stood little chance of doing battle with the goddess on the mortal plane, but within the Nine Hells, she was even more powerful.
Fo fought the hopeless battle with a fierce spirit, unyielding in the face of inevitable defeat. As his friends watched, the monk was killed time and again, his magical items and mind-magic bringing him back from death to continue his battle. But finally, in the end, the resources available to the monk were depleted. He was fighting a battle of attrition and he stood no chance alone. If only his companions had stepped up to assist him. Maybe with their combined might, he would have stood a fighting chance. But none came to his aid. They simply watched as he fought and died, his smoking corpse laying within the craggy landscape of Hell.
Tiamat took a step forward, still remaining within Hell, and breathed a gout of fire into the Chamber. The fire consumed most of the cultists, including Severin. None of the Dragon Queen’s mortal agents would receive the rewards they expected. All they were given by their goddess was dragonfire and death. A suitable reward from the Nemesis of the Gods.
Vrae’ree, at heart, was a pessimist. When the portal opened and Tiamat killed all of her minions, Vrae decided to quit the field and return home. He was casting the spell that would take him and his nearby friends back to one of the teleportation circles. He rested his hand on the medallion given to him by Neverember. Better to live to fight another day than give his life in a hopeless battle against a dragon god.
And so it ended. The remaining members of the Neverwinter Nine teleported away from the Chamber of Ascension, never actually witnessing Tiamat emerging from the portal. Faerûn’s mightiest heroes had abandoned their quest while the fate of the world hung on this final battle. The consequences of that choice would be felt across Faerun.
The factions are unsuccessful in their siege of the Well of Dragons as Tiamat emerged into the battlefield, wiping most of them out. The Red Wizards who helped to free her are devoured or driven away, hunted by the forces of Szass Tam. The cultists who orchestrated Tiamat’s return fare little better, with the Dragon Queen not caring which mortals her draconic subjects hunt, consume, and enslave. The glorious reign of dragons that Severin hoped to usher in and rule becomes a reality within Eastern Faerûn over the next two years. And Faerûn became an even more brutal world where the darkness continues to overwhelm light.
Our heroes could only find a bit of soothing solitude by affirming within their minds that they were sent on a hopeless mission against Tiamat’s cult. They affirm daily that they made the only logical choice in running away from the Well of Dragons. They live each day for the foreseeable future trying to convince themselves that their actions would not have made any difference and that at least now they live to fight another day.