Age of Worms: The Return
Thousands of years ago, when the world was a more primitive place, a morbid mystic named Kyuss gathered a vast assembly of social outcasts for a pilgrimage across the great southern seas to the harsh jungles of another continent. On distant tropical shores they founded a great city of monoliths and vine-snared idols to alien gods. Kyuss preached of mysterious visions, of massive metal plates foretelling the collapse of civilization. In response, his beguiled followers scoured the darkened jungle until they produced such plates, and confirmed Kyuss’ apocalyptic premonition.
The metal plates contained a fragment of the apocalypse myth of a long-dead culture—the decadent six-armed spell weavers, whose civilization crumbled before the jungle took form. The plates spoke of an era of doom and decay, a time of chaos and melancholy known as the Age of Worms. It was but a sliver of a much grander extinct liturgy, but to Kyuss, it was enough. In his sweltering jungle paradise, the charismatic madman vowed to bring about this bold new era. As hundreds of his followers sacrificed themselves for the glory of his vision, the twisted prophet declared himself the Harbinger of the Age of Worms.
To amass greater and greater power, Kyuss bound himself to a basalt monolith dredged up from a spell weaver ruin and housed in a looming edifice known as the Spire of Long Shadows. The massive stone thrummed with the life energy, and poisoned whispers from its inner void beckoned Kyuss to join them in oblivion, revealing hidden pathways and temptations within the placid surface of the monolith. With his kingdom dead at his feet, Kyuss entered the immense block of otherworldly stone. In so doing, he became more than human, but his essence remained forever trapped in a horrific demiplane slaved to the monolith. In the centuries that followed the jungle swallowed Kyuss’ once-majestic home, leaving only the forlorn Spire of Long Shadows to peek above the lush tropical canopy.
Hundreds of years later, a powerful red dragon named Dragotha roosted upon the Spire’s lofty pinnacle, surveying the crumbling ruins of Kyuss’ dream. He had learned of the potent necromantic monolith from his consort, Tiamat, the supreme Chromatic Dragon who guarded the Gates of Avernus, first layer of Hell. Tiamat had turned against Dragotha, as she eventually turns on all of her lovers, and the brilliant dragon sought a means by which to protect himself against her treachery forever. To this end, Dragotha pried the basalt monolith from its moorings and carried it far to the north, to his lair in the Rift Canyon. Kyuss, trapped within some planar nether-realm connected to the monolith, whispered words of confidence to Dragotha. “Release me,” he claimed, “and you shall live forever.” Dragotha conquered the required rituals, and Kyuss returned to the world.
Shortly thereafer, Tiamat caught up with Dragotha and murdered him for some half-remembered transgression. True to his word, Kyuss restored Dragotha to life as a powerful dracolich, fusing a part of his own essence into the bones of his rescuer. Kyuss had followed the letter of their agreement (if not the spirit), and the process virtually enslaved Dragotha to his will. The great undead dragon stood at the vanguard of an army of spawn of Kyuss, which savaged the native cliffdwelling folk of the Rift Canyon and began the first steps toward a new empire of evil. Scholars everywhere began whispering about an ancient myth regarding an “Age of Worms,” though few knew of Kyuss’ history in the southern jungles.
Not all of the locals fell under Kyuss’ heel. A cadre of druids, inheritors of their own ancient legacy, conceived a brilliant plan to weaken the undead army. They managed somehow to steal Dragotha’s phylactery, spiriting it far from the Wormcrawl Fissure and hiding it in an unknown location. Dragotha’s sense of self-preservation at last overwhelmed his compulsion to serve Kyuss, and the dracolich quit the field of battle. Bolstered by their victory, the druids pushed Kyuss back to the Wormcrawl Fissure and bound him once more into the monolith—this time, they hoped, forever.
But the cliff dwellers’ victory would soon prove phyrric. Too few of their numbers survived Kyuss’ onslaught to sustain their culture, and within a few hundred years, they had faded entirely from history. Dragotha never found his phylactery, retreating to a life of seclusion in the bitter north. But the dragon did not remain idle. With his life essence forever bound to that of the trapped Kyuss, Dragotha could not abide his master’s imprisonment. Over the course of centuries the dracolich stitched together a vast network of agents poised to release Kyuss once again into the world. As a group of unlikely heroes gathers in the mining town of Diamond Lake, Dragotha’s plan is reaching its final stages.
The Age of Worms is at hand.