Chapter 1
Waking the Serpent

AT 1082 (AZ 1454) - Late Winter
Mons Umbrarum, The Darklands

Ophis Python never did lead his tribe from the mountain. Before, he had a choice, but now he and his tribe were bound there. When the Monarch Lich subdued him, he ordered Python's tribe to remain on the mountain on pain of death.
In truth, death would be a mercy and it was a wonder Python never claimed it. As punishment for opposing the Lich, his bloodline was wiped out. He was the last of his kind. None would carry on the proud Python name after him. Perhaps that was why he kept on living. So long as he remained, so too did his name. That alone sustained him.
Spring would be upon them soon and his tribe would stir from their holes to seek out what meager prey the mountain provided for them. Even in hibernation, though, Python always remained half awake. Because of this, he sensed the approach of an interloper.
Python flicked out his tongue. It was the scent of death, one of the Lich's deadman thralls.
"Who disturbs my sleep?" he hissed.
"I come in the name of His Majesty the King the Monarch Lich," the walking corpse rasped in reply. "When spring comes, you and all your tribe will descend from the mountain and got south and west to the ruined port of Mare. You will receive your instruction there and learn of your reward."
"Reward?" Python asked.
"Serve His Majesty well and you will be given all your heart desires. When spring comes, tarry not."
The emissary withdrew, leaving Python to ponder his words. All his heart desired? What would a creature like the Lich know of his heart's desire? However, opposing the Lich meant certain death. Like it or not, he was no less a thrall to the Lich's will than that filthy corpse.
There was only one answer. When spring came, he would lead his tribe down. Perhaps the Lich's idea of a reward would surprise him.