The runes were clear, the age of the serpent men would end in two generations, approximately 3,000 years. Sss'ru'tek the Diviner had performed the scrying incantation perfectly, hissing strange tones with his forked tongue and weaving glowing sigils with his scaled hands that would baffle all but the most erudite of his fellow sorcerers. This cantrip combined with fumes of smoldering Black Lotus and the consumption of a hominid pituitary gland had opened his reptilian brain to the deepest extrasensory perceptions and so there could be no doubt of his revelation. But still it had been a shock to know that the glorious empire would end, seeking further insight Sss'ru'tek contemplated the long history of his people; the age of the serpent men had begun millions of years when the emanations of an outer intelligence had entered the bodies of snakes, reshaping those bodies to walk upright and giving them the power to reason. Where there had been naught but fetid swamps for eons those first serpent men had seemingly overnight built towers of green stone where the highest levels of magic and science were practiced as complimentary arts. Magnificent temples dedicated to the serpent gods Set and Yig had also been built. In the Temple of Set dwelt mighty Satha, a serpent measuring a hundred feet in length and housing the earthly essence of the outer god. On the sacred nights the serpent men sacrificed dozens of hominids to Satha, dropping their squirming forms into the cavernous maw of the great snake. Once his hunger was satisfied Satha would hiss strange prophecies and though none fully understood their meanings each word was written on scrolls of yakith skin for future study. In the temple of Yig dwelt his avatar Na'aga-Ka whose form was much like the serpent folk except instead of legs his lower body consisted of a great serpent tail. Na'aga-Ka rarely spoke directly to his worshipers, preferring the company of the many snakes who slithered about the jeweled temple with him. The serpent men had not been the only power in those early days, the Old Ones and their Shoggoths still held portions of the southern continent and the Mi-Go operated mining outposts in various locations. The serpent men had fought these beings with strange weapons that shook the entire planet and secured the lands they sought to possess. There had been other wars over the eons, many times the Spawn of Dagon had attacked the coastal cities of the serpent men but the batrachian creatures had little in the way of weapons and instead sought to overwhelm with sheer numbers. The sorcery of the serpent men had obliterated their armies but always the survivors went back to the ocean depths to breed new hordes. Within the lifetime of Sss'ru'tek there had been conflict with the hated Yogah of Yag, the serpent men had sent a force to the eastern jungles to capture hominids as replacements for those lost in sacrifice and this had angered the Yaggite who apparently saw the hominids as his pets. Yogah had fought his way into the heart of the Serpent lands slaying many noted sorcerers and warriors, into the very Temple of Set he came wielding a sword flaming with strange energies and threatening to take the head of great Satha. His pets were returned to him and a truce was made but incantations were set in stone so that someday Yogah of Yag would be humbled by one of the creatures he sought to protect. Sss'ru'tek ceased his ruminations on the history of his race and snapped his scaly fingers. His hypnotically trained hominids rose from their kneeling positions to begin clearing the laboratory of the mess the wizard had made when he opened the skull of the hominid to obtain the gland at the base of its brain. It pleased Sss'ru'tek to watch them work silent and efficiently as he pondered the fate of his race; in two generations the intellect of the serpent men would deteriorate rapidly to a near animal state on a level with the apish hominids they used as servants and as a food source. Sss'ru'tek surmised that a few rare individuals might be spared this fate but that handful could not maintain their empire and the magnificent cities that had stood for eons would crumble to ruins in a few thousand years. By comparison his scrying revealed that the hominids would begin to advance in intelligence and the sorcerer estimated that in time they would become the dominant race on the planet as the Old Ones died out and the Mi-Go had returned to their homeworld. The hominids had completed their task and Sss'ru'tek was quite pleased with their work, he gave them leave to go to their warrens below his tower for the remainder of the night by hissing a few simple phrases they could understand. The hominids gibbered with glee, Sss'ru'tek knew this was not because of pride in their well done work but instead the joy came from the anticipation of cannibalisticly devouring the remains of the hominid Sss'ru'tek had sacrificed to obtain the gland. Such simple creatures, easily manipulated and energetic when given the promise of reward. It was hard for Sss'ru'tek to conceive of a world where they were supreme, but perhaps they would still be useful even after their reptilian masters were dust. After pondering the upcoming apocalypse a blasphemous solution came to Sss'ru'tek but it was the only solution he could devise; if the fate of the serpentoid race was to devolve into mental extinction then it must be mingled with another species destined to continue the slow climb up the evolutionary scale. Sss'ru'tek prepared himself by imbibing strange potions that would alter his genetic code to be compatible with mammalian species and selected a hominid female of exceptional intelligence and a slightly less repulsively hairy appearance than the others. When the potions had taken effect the hominid female was brought to the laboratory. Some instinctive fear activated in the female and she sought to flee in wild eyed panic but two male hominids restrained her upon a jade altar. Sss'ru'tek's ophidian eyes gazed deeply into the female's and she ceased her struggles, she no longer saw a snakelike nightmare but a strong hominid male who would take her to live in freedom like their wild kin. Sss'ru'tek ordered the males to release her and they stepped a few paces away and sank into their customary kneeling positions, one of them could not resist his baser instincts and cast a lustful glance hoping to witness the act his master was to perform. Disgusted by the mammal's transgression Sss'ru'tek struck the bracelets he wore on each wrist together and a blue flash came from them that melted the hominid's eyes from his skull. The sorcerer instructed the other male to drag the shrieking hominid down to the warrens and allow his brethren to feast on it as they wished. At last the laboratory was quiet and Sss'ru'tek set about his great experiment. In nine months the female hominid gave birth, not to a leathery egg but to a screaming infant. It was a magnificent creature with a body very similar to a hominid but the head of a serpent, Sss'ru'tek was greatly pleased with both the newborn and his own magickal genius. However the female was repulsed by her offspring and refused to allow it to suckle. Displaying astonishing magical ability and intelligence the infant projected a hypnotic glamour that made it appear as a comely hominid child. The female was beguiled and gathered the creature to her breast to lovingly nourish it. The serpent spawn grew strong and matured rapidly, Sss'ru'tek taught it as much magical lore as it could absorb but he could see it would never have the sorcerous ability of the original species. This creature would be destined to hide among the hominids, using cunning and manipulation to advance the children of the serpent as the hidden masters of the coming race of mankind, until a time perhaps eons hence when the stars would come right and that emanation of outer intelligence would again enter the serpent to restore their full power and glory. Well pleased with the path he had set for his people, Sss'ru'tek rested. His rest led to a deep restorative sleep and for days his mind drifted along paths of dream fantasy until a strange nightmare disturbed his torpor. The nightmare had been disturbing; in his dream a huge hominid had made himself a king among the inferior creatures and this savage put to the sword all of his serpentine grandchildren. Sss'ru'tek was briefly agitated by the nightmare and for few moments hissed in mindless anger like the true serpents dwelling forever in muck and slime. Then he realized it was but a dream and composed himself. Quieting his mind with the reasoning that even for a seer such as himself not all dreams are prophecies, Sss'ru'tek drank a potent elixir of Black Lotus that would send him to a deeper and dreamless sleep.
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