Prologue
Vengeance Delivered

AT 803 (AZ 1175) - Autumn
Mons Umbrarum, The Darklands

Ophis Python sulked in his den within the Mons Umbrarum, as he was wont to do. The coming of the winter chill was not far off and most of the weaker members of his tribe had already been in hibernation for weeks.
After the invasion of the spiders into the Stone Forest, his tribe's traditional prey of Kobaloi were wiped out and the mountain alone would not be able to sustain them for long. He would no doubt be forced to lead them southward once the spring came.
Before that would happen, he considered launching an assault on the spiders to avenge the ruination of his territory. An involuntary flick of his tongue revealed a new scent: warm blood... human blood. How many years had it been? How many centuries?
There was another scent. Spiders. They were quick. He had barely begun to stir when a cocoon was dropped down in front of him. A large spider stood in front of him, the mistress of the woods judging by her size.
"How dare you defile my lair," he hissed.
The spider made a bow of questionable sincerity. Her unnatural voice reverberated all throughout his chamber.
"My daughters have caused your people some problems, Master Python. I had ignored it for far too long. I am too indulgent a parent, it would seem.
"It is not good for our two tribes to be at war with each other. Allow me to make amends for my children's misbehavior. I present to you this peace offering."
With a swipe of a claw, she tore away part of the cocoon to expose the head of a blond-haired man.
"Do you know who this is?" the spider asked. "He is Apollo who was called Pythios after slaying your ancestor, Delphos Python. He stole the object of my revenge and this is the best punishment I could devise. He is fighting my poison quite valiantly, so I advise you to act quickly."
The hated Pythios was a legend in his tribe, the thrice-damned slayer of their most honored ancestor, the great Delphos Python. Was it possible that the mistress of the woods had really captured a creature of such infamy?
"How do I know this is truly the Devil of Delos?" Python demanded.
His doubts did not seem to bother the spider. She swayed to the sound of her own voice, as if to entrance him, saying, "Take and eat. See and believe. You will know as you begin to digest him. You will feel a great surge of power. His power will become your power. Then you will know that your clan is avenged and there will be peace between us."
He had nothing to lose. The poison of a spider would cause him no harm and the taste of human flesh was beyond his memory. Besides, if what the mistress of the woods said was true, the opportunity to kill the ancient enemy of his tribe was more than a little appealing.
Unhinging his jaw, he swallowed the man in a single, swift motion, cocoon and all. It would take some time to fully digest the human, but he could instantly feel his whole body brim with energy. His body uncoiled and stiffened as if frozen, yet the energy filled him with warmth. Was this truly the Devil of Delos?
"I will try to rein in my hungry daughters," the mistress of the woods said as she turned to walk away, "but I can make no guarantee. Whenever you become wroth with them, remember this gift and be at peace. If you would wish leave this mountain, I will clear a path through the forest so no web will ensnare your little ones. Fare ye well, Lord of Serpents..."
The mistress of the woods left and Ophis Python's body remained immobile as stone. Days passed before the tension in his muscles loosened and he could move once more. He was still taking in the power of the Devil of Delos, but he could feel the great change that had come over him. In time, he would claim the full measure of his enemy's power and then none could stand against him.
He toyed with the idea of leading an attack on the spiders when that time came, but he thought better of it. For this kingly gift, the mistress of the woods had earned herself and her children a longer lease on life. For the time being, at least.