midst of the Serpent Hills, astride the upper reaches of a small river
that feeds the Serpent's Tail Stream, the petrified body of a gigantic
serpent lies mostly buried in the ground. One coil of the creature's immense
corpse forms an arch over the stream, while its head and tail protrude
from the rocky ground some 500 feet apart.
leads to the mouth of the petrified serpent, which yawns about 50 feet
above the ground. The natural inclination of most travelers through the
portal is to get out of the mouth as quickly as possible; in fact,
the yuan-ti have placed a coil of rope in the mouth, firmly attached to
one of the serpent's petrified teeth, to encourage unwanted visitors to
follow that instinct. When the yuan-ti use this portal, however,
they use a secret door they've built in the back of the mouth that leads
into the narrow passages inside the serpent. The secret door is fairly
well hidden, requiring a Search check (DC 25) to find it. Because the
door is stone, a dwarf's stonecunning bonus applies to this Search check.
of the petrified serpent are located in the Map-a-Week
archive. Download a low-resolution
JPEG or a high-resolution
the head of the petrified serpent, but some 50 feet underground, some
enterprising gnomes (perhaps the same ones who dug the famous Dungeon
of Swords) long ago established a small mine complex. Now long abandoned
by its original owners, this mine serves as a way station for the yuan-ti
who use these portals. These yuan-ti have extended the mines to
connect to their extensive network of tunnels crisscrossing the Serpent
Hills and the surrounding area.
yuan-ti of the Serpent Hills rule a loose kingdom of reptilian creatures,
in a tenuous alliance with a number of spirit nagas and dark nagas. The
bulk of this kingdom's population are ophidians,
a lesser race of serpent people. Shortly after the fall of ancient Netheril,
this Kingdom of the Snakes became a mighty force in the Heartlands, with
its capital temple-city in the western end of the Forest of Wyrms. Founded
on ancient Netherese ruins, the rulers of this temple-city (called the
Shrine of Cowled Serpents) used Netherese artifacts to help them dominate
the region for over a century, until a coalition of human wizards from
nearby kingdoms banded together to put down the threat they represented.
Their capital was destroyed and the yuan-ti forced to flee the Forest
of Wyrms, most of them taking up residence in the Serpent Hills.
called Serpent's Cowl (population 795) now stands on the ruins of this
ancient yuan-ti capital, much to the chagrin of the yuan-ti. They would
like nothing better than to slaughter the villagers and reclaim the ruins,
reestablishing the ancient capital of their degenerate kingdom and the
Netherese artifacts that still lie within the ruins. Some older residents
of Serpent's Cowl believe they have a sacred duty to watch the area lest
the yuan-ti return. They grow nervous about the increasing presence of
ophidians dealing with the merchants at Boareskyr Bridge, apparently hoping
to purchase any Netherese artifacts unearthed from nearby ruins. They
also fear the rising numbers of snakes and snakelike creatures within
the Forest of Wyrms.
the brave defenders of Serpent's Cowl remain completely unaware of the
true threat to their city, which has little to do with ophidian traders
or mutant serpents. The yuan-ti of the Serpent Hills have recently developed
a technique for infecting humans with a tiny portion of their corrupted
essence, creating a new type of servitor -- the tainted one (see pages
94-96 in Monster Compendium: Monsters of Faerûn.
While pureblood yuan-ti look mostly human, tainted ones are indistinguishable
from humans and serve as incredibly effective spies among the population
of Serpent's Cowl -- as well as Boareskyr Bridge, Soubar, Thiel, Scornubel,
and Baldur's Gate.
yuan-ti also use another highly effective tool in their plots against
the humans of the Western Heartlands: an additional portal located
in the tail end of the petrified serpent, in the observatory atop the
Sorcerer's Tower. The portal, shaped like a skull and occupying
most of the southwest wall, stands about 9 feet tall. This variable portal
functions differently depending on which of two keys is held by the creature
activating it. If the creature carries a disembodied skull (as the form
of the portal would seem to suggest to the unknowing), the portal
connects to a remote region of the Barrens of Doom and Despair, an Outer
Plane that is home to some of Faerûn's most evil deities (including Bane,
Beshaba, Hoar, Loviatar, and Talona). Should the activating creature carry
a live snake (or a snake and a skull), the portal functions
as the yuan-ti intend, opening into the bowels of Zstulkk Ssarmn's private
residence in Skullport.
to Main Article