Kharrune hesitated for only a moment, deeply breathing the warm summer air, before beginning his climb. Leaving his clothing at the bottom of the hill, he began chanting as he ascended. He held no fear of a fall, even on this moonless night. His father had always told him that when destiny presented itself, you must confront it boldly. He knew would never be the swordsman and commander his father is and had been, but even Kharrune knew the lure of destiny.
It was well his father’s command for the past six years was far from Djared Thymar, as Kharrune’s career in the Lance Defenders would likely have been an embarrassment to his father’s legacy. Though no dragonborn of Tymather is weak, Kharrune’s true strength did not lie in his arms. Besides, other paths led to destiny’s door than those carved with sword and shield.
In one black-scaled hand, he held the ritual scrolls. Even without any light, the words danced before his eyes as he intoned each distinctly, imploringly. His other hand held a short, twisted metal rod, which pointed straight ahead toward a purple star on the northeastern horizon. Kharrune had learned its name through his countless hours of preparation for this moment. Caiphon: a guide star, but a betrayer to those who followed it blindly.
Though the scrolls themselves did not name the star, the pull of the strange rod toward it assuaged any doubts he may have held. He and his foster-sister, Vatra, found the scrolls in a ruined town on the shores of the Sea of Fallen Stars, near their home. It must have been a small port in the old human nation of Unther. The scrolls themselves could not be more than fifty years old, but the words … the words were beyond time itself.
He crested the hill, and stepped into the circle of stones and silver-dust he had prepared before sunset. Kharrune laid the scrolls out in what he had determined to be the proper order, carefully placing small stones on the corner of each page to hold them in their appointed place.
If he were honest with himself, he had to admit it was more his own curiosity than Vatra’s incessant goading which led him to teach himself Deep Speech, the language the scrolls were written in. His parents were so busy with their respective duties that it was easy to hide his studies, though until this moment he hadn’t realized he had been doing just that.
His chanting reached a crescendo as he drove the base of the rod into the dirt in the center of the four scroll pages. The metal of the twisted implement was strange to the touch. Though it appeared to be sleek, dark metal, it felt as though thousands of tiny bumps covered its surface, each a facet of an infinitesimal, endlessly precious gem. Finding a rod of this Fell Iron, as the alchemist in the city had called it, was impossible in his homeland. When his father told him that he’d be coming along to Westgate this year, Kharrune’s preparations had begun in earnest, for they said anything was to be had in Westgate, for the right price. They were right, and once the rod was his, he had the last component he needed.
The purple star now appeared to pulse as with each word of the ritual. With each syllable, he opened the door in his mind to the entity beyond the horizon. His words welcomed it to tap into his consciousness, but only in exchange for its secrets. He would be a conduit to this world, in exchange for power to guide and control the world. A touch upon his mind, feather-light and staggeringly strong at once, caused his body to tense, and his back to arch. Kharrune felt nothing of what became of his flesh, as a seemingly slumbering consciousness awoke in his mind, and its secrets began to spill out. Overwhelmed, he fell backwards in the circle, as the four scrolls began to burn with a soft purple radiance.
Kharrune dreamt of impossible bridges spanning time and horrors unnamable. From a pitch black perch he somehow looked down upon the world in its entirety, when he suddenly hurtled earthward. He saw his parents as they were last night, at dinner in a dingy tavern that his father wouldn’t normally be caught dead in. His father’s human friends seemed just as comfortable eating and drinking in such squalor, though their children appeared equally surprised as Kharrune and Vatra at the apparent location of all these meetings which his father embarked on every Shieldmeet. As he tried to stand, the other patrons of the bar and the old bartender all seemed to melt in before his eyes and he watched with horror as twisted shapes arose from their bodies. The others at his table ate and drank without noticing. The faceless, shambling things seemed to solidify as he watched, taking on metal bodies that he knew in an instant were made of the Fell Iron and with a single, glowing purple eye above a mouth of razors bordering mind-shattering blackness within. As they closed around him, his family and their friends, he felt himself unable to move, to act, to say a word.
Kharrune awoke, sweating in the night beneath a crescent moon on the hill outside Westgate. The scrolls were gone, and the ground was charred where they had lain. His mind was afire with the secrets of his new benefactor. He bent to retrieve the rod from the ground and turned to the northeast to glimpse Caiphon. The star seemed to wink briefly, and then was gone. In that moment, he knew the first betrayal of Caiphon – he still looked to where it had sat on the horizon, but knew whatever secrets he had obtained in following purple star’s light, he knew in his bones that they were not those of Caiphon. He shivered as he stared around the vastness of the Faerunan sky… what had he let into his mind?