Piety and Poison

The Shadow Rift Conflict
Wherein new allies join the battle, much blood is spilled and troubling secrets are revealed.

Sanctuary of the Dead

Deep below the Shadowfell Keep, the heroes struggle onwards towards the Shadow Rift. A small army of goblins and a host of even more unsavoury creatures fall before them as they advance.

Sanctuary, and a brief respite comes in an unlikely form. The ghostly remains of Sir Keegan, former protector of the Keep. After convincing him of their benign intentions, the party is offered refuge within Sir Keegan’s tomb while they rest and recover from their wounds.

While others shift uneasily in their sleep, Lamp questions Sir Keegan’s ghost, and he tells her many things that have come to pass since her hiatus from the waking world. She discovers that the civilization she once knew has crumbled and justice and peace have all but left these shattered lands. Disturbed, she settles into the same restless sleep as the others.

Before he sleeps, Aldris the Inquisitor questions his very purpose for being here. Offering a prayer to Bahamut, he meditates on the path chosen for him by his master Balthazar, and his misgivings about the Grand Inquisitor’s methods. He does not sleep well either.

Amelie contemplates the dragon-gem they unearthed, which she has now discovered can be fitted perfectly into a socket in her rapier. It all seems to have the terrible feeling of destiny about it, and it makes the jaded teenager uncomfortable. Hiding behind her cynicism and bravado, she has never had true responsibility in her life and now that fate is calling, she wonders if she really has the courage to answer. True rest does not come to Amelie.

The only one who sleeps soundly of the four is Keridyea. Despite the funereal surrounds and the malevolent presence of the Rift, she swiftly descends into a deep sleep. She dreams of a strange, immense city, filled with colossal statues, hanging gardens and majestic fountains; a city whose marble streets are flooded with impossible radiance. It is a city she has dreamed of since she was a child and it fills her with a comfort and peace she has never experienced in her waking life. Of course, when she wakes, the city is gone and only the dull, painful waking world remains – a fact that never fails to anger her.

And wake they do, to the sounds of battle. Arming themselves and moving north, they emerge in a previously unexplored part of the dungeon to find a prison break in progress…

Jehane

The first of the prisoners in question is Duskwalker Jehane Sunshadow, a fey ranger from the bizarre city of Precipice in the Feywild.

Violet fae eyes shine eerily as the gold-haired duskwalker works her longbow with deadly speed and accuracy. Two goblins fall to her bow, before a larger hobgoblin charges at her, hefting a war-axe. The duskwalker calmly steps backwards, shimmering and vanishing. The hobgoblin strikes at empty air, bewilderment his final expression before he is cut down by single arrow fired from precisely five yards behind him. The fae lowers her bow, her serene expression unreadable.

Jehane is one of the elite rangers of the Violet Enclave, sent to the “doldrums” to gather information and resources for her enigmatic masters. Her title, Duskwalker, refers to her ability to cross between the fae world and the mortal word during the hour of twilight. Captured by the goblins in a cowardly ambush, she was drawn to the Shadowfell Keep by little more than her natural curiosity.

Brun

The second of the prisoners… is Brun.

Snarling, the massively built, tattoed and dreadlocked barbarian whirls to keep all his attackers at bay with his flaming torch. The hobgoblins fan out to surround him with military discipline, confident in their strength of numbers.

“Arm yourself!” calls out an ethereal female voice as Jehane throws the Redstag warrior’s great-axe to him.

Brun drops the torch and catches the axe, his eyes dipping briefly to behold his beloved weapon. He looks up slowly at the hobgoblins, and a wide, predatory grin breaks across his face like the effortless fury of a breaking storm.

Like all healthy boys of the Redstag Tribe, Brun was born to fight. His tribe, the only humans known to live north of the Nentir Vale, have been locked in conflict with the Bloodspear Orcs for as long as anyone in the tribe can remember, and as long back as their stories tell tales.

Brun has only recently seen his seventeenth spring, and is yet to prove his worth as a true warrior. Sent on a vision quest by the wise women of his village, Brun has been wandering the wilds alone for a month. He was discovered by the goblins, lying unconscious at the bottom of a cliff beside the shattered remains of an ogre.

The Warband Assembled

Seeing the worth of further allies, Aldris wastes no time in recruiting the escaped prisoners to aid in their efforts to defeat Kalarel and close the Rift.

Delving deeper beneath the keep, the six defeat the main force of Kalarel’s hobgoblins in a vicious and bloody battle. The captured Warchief of the hobgoblins, Horka, agrees to trade information for his life. After revealing all he knows of Kalarel, he proceeds to volunteer further information about his rivals, the Bloodreaver Orcs. At Brun’s prompting, Horka is quick to volunteer the rumour that the base of the Bloodreaver’s slave-trading operation is somewhere in Thunderspire Mountain.

However, it is the warchief’s talk of Kalarel’s efforts to permanently open the shadow rift that holds Lamp’s attention. While there is still a chance to stop Kalarel and seal the Rift, she has a chance to redeem herself. At the mention of Kalarel’s live human sacrifices, Lamp’s eyes and sword catch ablaze with hellfire. Suffused with resolve and infernal energies, Lamp proceeds directly towards the confrontation with Kalarel, leaving scorched hoofprints in her wake.

Confrontation

Through undead and cultists alike, the party hews their way to the Shadow Rift chamber. Along the way, they discover some of Kalarel’s notes, which reveal a little more of his grand plan. He speaks of his former master Balthazar betraying him, and he betraying Balthazar in turn. He also speaks of a woman named Felicia and her influence on his decision to leave the Covenant of Erathis to find his own path.

It would seem that his path had led him to Orcus, demon lord of the undead.

Confronting Kalarel at the very threshold of the Shadow Rift, the party uses everything at their disposal to defeat the mastermind and his followers. Mocking them, Kalarel describes them as “Balthazar’s lackeys” and muses aloud as to how long it would be before they too were betrayed by their master.

Despite Kalarel’s arrogance and confidence in the arrival of his undead legion, and the aid of his undead and disfigured lover, he is slain inside his own ritual circle. His remains are gathered by Aldris for consecration and burial.

Approaching the Shadow Rift, and with the timely intervention of her allies, Lamp conducts the ritual she had been taught over two centuries earlier. Though shaken by a voice she hears from beyond the portal, that of Lord Dust, she swiftly activates the glyph of binding. And just as the Rift’s power waxes ascendant, it is forcefully shut down. Lamp, last of the Sisters of the Veil, fuses into place the glyph that closes the Shadow Rift permanently.

At last, the evil at the heart of the Keep is laid to rest.

Return to Winterhaven

Upon their return to Winterhaven, the party finds a town under siege. Undead are attacking and the townsfolk fear for their lives. After receiving counsel from Valthrun, the party readies itself once more and sets off to tackle the undead threat at its source: the local graveyard.

There, they battle skeletons, gravehounds and stirges while being sniped at by Ninaran, Kalarel’s spy who had raised the undead. In desperation, Ninaran calls her secret ally, her werewolf sister Hesteran. But even the intervention of the hulking and swift beast cannot save Ninaran from Brun’s axe-blade. Soon, the werewolf also falls to the group’s blades, ending the sisters’ tragic story.

Arriving back in town, the group is welcomed as saviours of Winterhaven. One of the first to greet them is the newly-arrived Lady Dahlia Kamroth, introduced to them as the lawfully-sanctioned acting Lord of Winterhaven in the absence of Padraig.

Amidst reservations over the town’s new leadership, the party gathers to discuss their next move…

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A Chronicle of Events
Wherein all evidence leads to the same impossible conclusion.

The Story So Far…

“I thought I’d managed to start a new life, wipe the slate clean. But when Amelie walked through the gate of Winterhaven, her light step trampled my foolish notions and her sweet, sad smile sent a chill down my spine. There is no escaping a past like mine.” – From the diary of Sedgeley Bleake

The year is 11 AE, the dawn of a new empire under a new god. The grand city of Bastion stands at the center of a proud new regime, promising hope and prosperity to the surrounding lands which have wallowed too long in the mire of a Dark Age. The Sanctified Council has swept away the last remnants of the stagnant and corrupt Nerathian Empire, and bring hope in the form of the Covenant of Erathis.

On the northern fringes of this new empire, in the small town of Winterhaven, a young woman is accused of a crime she did not commit. The town’s leader, Lord Padraig, is to have her hanged. But at the last moment, the town’s resident wizard, Valthrun, advocates the release of the accused. Amelie has her death sentence suspended, and is sent to deliver a message to Bastion.

The message, addressed to the Erathian Church authorities, speaks of a mysterious cult and other evils brewing in the region. Unexpectedly, the message is answered by none other than High Inquisitor Balthazar himself. He sends his promising new initiate Aldris Mortlock to investigate. Accompanying the young inquisitor is a small contingent of temple guard, a rowdy and reckless young paladin named Keridyea and Amelie who is to return with them to Winterhaven as their guide.

Dethroned

“My rescue was a hazy affair, and the fact that I’d been stuffed inside a hessian sack did not help my clarity on the matter. I do know the fight was over swiftly. There was some clash of steel and the shriek of drakes, but what ended the fight was the chilling voice of Inquisitor Mortlock, instructing Agrid to lay down arms. The gnome knew what was good for him – he obeyed.” – From the diary of Sedgeley Bleake

Upon return to the Nentir Vale, they find that the area is under increased threat from kobolds, goblins and other undesireables. Inquisitor Mortlock immediately sets out to uncover the corruption and evil that plague the lands around Winterhaven.

Amelie discovers that her mentor, Douven Staul, has gone missing under mysterious circumstances. With Mortlock’s help, she is able to rescue him from Agrid, a petty gnomish criminal. It is here that Amelie discovers one of the Gems of Accord, excavated from the grave of a long-dead dragon.

With the help of Douven Staul, the captured Agrid and the wizard Valthrun, the Inquisitor and his entourage track down one of the main sources of the town’s ills. This source is Irontooth, a hobgoblin, who they defeat in a horrifyingly close battle.

Within the lair, they discover a statue which turns out to be a petrified tiefling named Lamp. Lamp is a member of the Sisterhood of the Silent Veil, an organization which vanished over 2 centuries ago. Thanks to Staul’s magics, they restore her to life. Despite being overwhelmed by the enormity of time that has passed, she agrees to accompany them in the hope that she might still complete the mission she was assigned 216 years ago.

Barely have they left the lair of the hobgoblin when they are confronted by Lord Padraig and 20 of his men. They are told to lay down arms and surrender, though Padraig has no intention of leaving any of them alive. Seeing through this, Inquisitor Mortlock leads his allies into battle against Padraig, and they prevail against the corrupt Lord. Before he dies, Padraig reveals to them that he is a member of the Viridian League, and promises that his murderers will be hunted down and eliminated.

Into the Waiting Maw

“I could not accompany them into the keep, but when they did not return after the first night, the next thing I expected to see coming over that hill was legions of the hungering dead.” – From the diary of Sedgeley Bleake

Returning to town, the party learns more of the evil cult and their plan to re-open a rift into the Shadowfell, bringing legions of undead into the world of the living. Furthermore, confirmation is found that the leader of the cult is in fact Kalarel, a former Inquisitor, who had undergone exactly the same training as Mortlock. Without further delay, the party presses on towards the ruined keep to the north, hoping to foil the cult’s plan and avert catastrophe.

Venturing deep below the ruins, Amelie, Lamp, Keridyea and the Inquisitor find that their arrival has been anticipated…

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