599 SF, 1 Rotting Kol showed his companions a charcoal sketch he claimed to have found on one of the Shadar-Kai. The sketch, done by an expert hand, showed a fanged drow seated in a throne adorned with a large ram skull. In his right hand was a vicious-looking bastard sword also engraved with skulls. In his left was a large, multi-faceted gem, which Kol claimed was the god-killing shard he had been searching for.
Kol also revealed that the proprietor of the Five-League House, a well-known inn along the King’s Road, had been a willing partner in the Raven’s Roost banditry. Dressing in the exotic clothing of the Shadar-Kai, the group decided to pay the innkeeper a visit. Once they had landed, Kol was spotted by a textile merchant who was greatly intrigued by the Shadowfell-made clothing the halfling wore. Morel, a trader from Summerdale, agreed to meet back with Kol at the Five-League House in a month’s time to solidify a trade contract.
Barton, the innkeeper, clearly recognized the unusual clothing and guessed the peril he was in. The group intimidated their way into Barton’s small office where he quickly spilled his guts. Between sobs and protests of being threatened into complicity, the man confessed to providing the Shadar-Kai with information on the goods and defenses of merchants travelling west to Fallcrest. The group demanded the remainder of Barton’s ill-gotten gains and also the guard contract for the inn (now that he would be unable to pay the mercenaries himself). The Captain also detected a slight but distinct magical aura from Barton’s hand, and the group demanded this item as well. Amazingly, it was an Iron Ring of the Dwarvish Lords, a powerful artifact which Barton claimed had been stolen from a Hammerfast trader named Kardov.
Having seized de-facto ownership of the inn, the group felt content to leave Barton and his family (who were unaware of his deeds). The group decided to search the woods near Fastormel for any signs of enemy activity. Along the shores of Lake Nen, the group spied a small fire and a hairy figure in a canoe. The small man attempted to escape but proved no match for the his flying pursuers. Kol interrogated the man, a disheveled and malnourished halfling pirate named Brimble. Brimble told a tale of flight from Fallcrest after his unit was routed by the noble cavalry. Although the pirate was clearly contemptuous of the Dragonslayers’ heroic reputation, he did seem to grudgingly respect Kol’s ruthlessness. In an uncharacteristic show of mercy, the group allowed the pirate to go his way, and Kol even offered the man a place in his company.
The group then traveled to Thunderspire seeking information about the current location of the Chaos Shard. Kol once again suspiciously provided a tip that the Shard had been auctioned off in Thunderspire to a drow named Matron Lareen. His contacts in the Halfmoon Inn greeted the group heartily and assisted them in their inquiries. The Captain scheduled an appointment for the following day with an official of the Mages of Saruun, and Kol planned to visit Gendar, a drow merchant in the Seven-Pillared Hall.
599 SF, 2 Rotting The Captain’s appointment turned out to be with Hasifir, one of the founders of the Mages of Saruun. Hasifir greeted him as a respected colleague and acknowledged the debts each had paid to the other. The magus spoke at length of the auction in question which had been run by Niame, another founding Mage. Matron Lareen was from the drow outpost of Phaervorul, a fastness deep in the Underdark. Hasifir provided the Captain with two items: the first was an iron pendant shaped like a spider which would serve as a diplomatic pass, and the second was a map to the Miser’s Pit, a shaft high in the Cairngorn Peaks which began the shortest path to Phaervorul.
Meanwhile, Kol met with Gendar in his curio shop. The drow spoke of Lareen and Phaervorul with obvious distaste, claiming that he had long ago rejected Lolth and her thralls forever. However, the merchant did offer to sell two maps of the Underdark to Kol. The first was a confusing but large and highly detailed depiction of the Underdark below the Nentir Vale. Gendar’s asking price for this map was 1000 gold pieces. Kol attempted to haggle in a very unorthodox way; he offered 500 gold pieces and the rest of the gold if he had not killed Lolth in a month’s time. This made Gendar laugh riotously and eventually accede. The second map was actually a series of sketches made by one Goldrun Coinkeeper, a mad dwarf known to have traded with the drow and hidden several different caches of treasure in the Underdark before he died. The sketches showed the Miser’s Pit and one of Coinkeeper’s trade routes to Phaervorul. This map Kol opted not to purchase.
The group then wrapped up their business in Thunderspire and flew home to Fallcrest. There the Captain found a letter from Valthrun the Sage waiting for him. The letter spoke of dire omens in the sky and requested the Dragonslayers to return to Winterhaven. When the group arrived, the town had arranged a feast in their honor. The town had been hard hit by the Bloodspears, but was grateful for everything the heroes had done. After the meal, Valthrun revealed that the omens portended the rise of a new exarch of Orcus somewhere beneath the Cairngorm Peaks. He also mentioned reports from woodsmen of undead that were spotted making their way to the Keep on the Shadowfell. This distressed the adventurers greatly, and the immediately made their way to the Keep.
Inside, they found the zombified corpse of Splug, a goblin they had left inside a prison cell in the Keep during their last visit. Harbek mercifully destroyed the pitiful creature. The group made their way down to the ruined altar at the bottom of the Keep and discovered that the portal to the Shadowfell which they had forced closed was now open once more. Through the portal they saw a bleak desert of yellow-white ash and bleached bones. Harbek tied a rope around himself and stepped through. Unfortunately, the other side of the portal was warded by the divine seals of both Pelor and the Raven Queen, and he was unable to return. With no other option, the Captain and Kol passed through as well.
Making their way through the sea of bone dust, the group felt their life energy being drained by the searing heat and foul energy of the plane. They could see an immense plateau topped by a city of some kind in the distance, and they headed in that direction. Skeletons of massive beasts hundreds of feet long were buried in the sand, and it was near one of these immense bones that the group was ambushed by three demonic ghouls who had lain in wait beneath the sand. Though few in number, the foul undead struck with amazing ferocity and nearly killed both the Captain and Colonel Lobos.
Beseeching the Mystic Sages for aid, a large black bird appeared from nowhere. The bird instructed the Captain to seek the help of a being named The Keeper, a servant of Orcus who had grown to hate his lord. Encouraged by this knowledge, the group went on to endure a cloud of blood-sucking flies, evaded a throng of undead clambering their way up the plateau, and miraculously hid from a spectral dragon flying overhead. Atop the plateau, the group discovered that the city was surrounded by a huge trench filled with innumerable undead; zombies, skeletons, ghouls, and many more. The Dragonslayers noticed a set of stones buried in a ash drift. When the stones were uncovered, they each held the name, birthdate, and deathdate of the heroes. The deathdate was 599 SF, 2 Rotting.
A bridge of linked bones was the only means of crossing to the city, so the group began to cross. A group of ghouls and two large skeletal creatures with long arms stood guard on the opposite side of the bridge. The ghouls tossed a severed drow head back and forth between them while their leader approached to question the newcomers. Harbek requested to see The Keeper, but the ghouls merely laughed and said that Zirithian was the ruler of Deadhold. Harbek seemed to have misspoke, as the undead moved to attack…