Realms, both wondrous and dire, border the world. One such realm is the Shadowfell. Although not inherently evil, the Shadowfell is fraught with dangers, and the barrier between worlds can be thin. Sometimes the darkness breaks into the light. Nearly two hundred years ago, a cult of the demon prince Orcus purposely created such a gap, connecting one of Orcus’s unholy Shadowfell sites to the world. Skeletons, zombies, and fouler creatures flooded through the rift into the light of day. The empire of Nerath dispatched legionnaires to eliminate the threat. The empire’s soldiers destroyed the undead, sealed the opening, and built a keep to watch over the location and contain the threat. This is the site known as the Keep on the Shadowfell. Decades of peace followed, and the village of Winterhaven arose within sight of the keep. Eventually, the great fort fell into ruins and its grand purpose forgotten. Today,it is seen as a harmless tumble of stone and wood. If only that were true.
Our story begins with Onder Sherpzinnig, a student of magic in Fallcrest. His mentor and teacher Douven Gately left unexpectedly for Winterhaven to go exploring and after a few weeks seemed to disappear. Onder recruited Thoradin, a Dwarf cleric of Bahamut, Wyger a sneaky type halfling he met at the dice table and the Dragonborn warrior, Shorndorr to help accompany him to Winterhaven to check on his teacher
The company was first tested when they were ambushed on the way to Winterhaven by raiding kobolds out to capture travelers for slaves. After arriving in town, the company met Ernest Padraig, Governor of the area around Winterhaven. Padraig employed the party to check out the Keep on the Shadowfell and then later to try to put and end to the Bloodreaver slaver activity around Winterhaven. Speaking with Valthrun and Sister Linora they learned something about the history of the Keep and set out to investigate the burial site where Douven had last been seen. Arriving there they found and defeated a group of slavers who had kidnapped Douven and taken the Samizdat Mirror for delivery to Kalarel.
The party took Douven back to Winterhaven and found a small army of zombies walking toward the town from the local graveyard. Several more zombie attacks had Padraig urging them to investigate the graveyard.
At the graveyard they found Ninarin who had been tasked with stopping the party from disturbing Kalarel’s work. She had been given a power symbol to raise the dead from the cemetery to attack the town and distract the adventurers. Fighting the undead was very tough and even with Thoradin’s abilities against zombies, the team was hurting badly. Eventually Onder made a run through the zombies and graveyard hounds to disrupt the power symbol shutting down the powering animating the undead and allowing Shorndorr to trap the elf in one of the crypts, forcing her to surrender. She was delivered to Padraig and eventually gave up the location and time she was to have met with Irontooth the hobgoblin leading the nearby band of Bloodreavers. She also carried a note from Kalarel that he only needed a few days more to complete his work.
Padraig begged the party to deal with the Bloodreavers first, believing the greater threat was posed by the slavers than from the Keep. The party found Irontooth’s hideout and battled through the lookouts before awesomely/dramatically/cinematically busting through the waterfall entrance to the cave and wiping out Irontooth and his lackeys. Onder used the battle to first demonstrate a particular spell the team referred to as the fiery ball of awesomeness to wipe out many of the low level minions and press Irontooth and his lieutenants toward Shorndorr and Thoradin. There were no captives present and the team returned to Winterhaven to rest.
After a brief overnight stay, the party headed for the Keep and began working their way through the first level of the ruined keep. Shorndorr fell into a pit of rats in the first room but cleared it quickly after that. Next they found a secret passage leading to the captain of the goblins living on this level and rather than killing him outright captured him and got what turned out to be a false password to the lower levels. The ruckus brought guards to investigate and a fight broke out that eventually caused 2 rooms to catch completely on fire. The southeast section was an a series of unfinished tunnels where the party fought more rats, kruthicks and finally encountered a particularly powerful blue slime in an underground cistern. The slime had been part of a failed attempt to kill Kalarel by the Bloodreavers who were not happy with their ongoing business agreements regarding slaves. They next explored the southwest area and encountered a series of floor runes that acted like alarms for the zombie rotters congregating nearby. Failing to hurdle the runes a few times caused panic and mayhem but the area was eventually cleared of undead. Continuing down they encountered a chapel guarded by crypts full of skeletons that continuously disgorged new enemies until the party had moved through the area completely. The chapel was dedicated to Bahamut and Thoradin and Shorndorr were singled out for special favors and a secret door was opened revealing Bahamut icon necklaces. Just beyond the crypt was the tomb of Sir Keegan, the last paladin responsible for guarding the Shadowfell Rift who had been driven insane by the proximity to the rift and eventually destroyed most of the people and the Keep itself in a fit of rage. His cursed spirit was finally put to rest when he found someone willing to atone for his actions and fight the evil he had fallen to. He gave Shorndorr a magical Greatsword of Light and reminded Thoradin to call on Bahamut for protection when they were near the rift. Continuing through the first level they encountered Rolf, an elf being held by a group of goblins. The elf quickly joined the party in attacking his captors. He eventually admitted he was a mercenary working with Ninarin but that he would help the party if they would give him weapons. After lengthy debate in the party they armed him and he helped in a few battles before betraying the team and escaping during a large fight that did not look promising.
Before proceeding to the lower level the team returned to Winterhaven to rest and inform Padraig about what was happening. Bairwin who had been harassing them throughout their stay became increasingly belligerent as the party described all they had been through. Wyger decided to follow him home to see what he could learn and snuck in the back of the house while Thoradin and Shorndorr tried to distract him at the front door. Though nimble and sly, Wyger loudly tripped on a chair alerting Bairwin. Bairwin immediately fled to a secret door behind his fireplace revealing a hidden temple of Orcus in the basement. After defeating the cultists, the party reported to Padraig and Linora all that had happened and everyone agreed the group should return to the keep as soon as possible.
The team initially found the entrance to the lower level guarded and in fact they arrived just as the full garrison of hobgoblins were fighting their pet deathjump spider against one of the slaves they had captured who had become sick and would not be sold. Retreating the group found a secret room with a magic puzzle and solved it to receive ancient magic armor. The lower level was full of much tougher guards and they also had to defeat a gelatinous cube that filled an entire hallway and threatened to devour Wyger in acid. Approaching the doors to the rift they had to fight through a room of traps including dragon statues that shot fireballs at anyone approaching as well as a 30’ tall statue that swung a huge sword severely damaging Shorndorr as he tried to disable it, Thoradin meanwhile just ducked. Onder was trapped in a magic square that began to fill with water as he frantically blasted the posts holding it up. Eventually they stumbled into a room full of zombified versions of creatures they had battled on the upper floor the day before and had to wade through them all again. There were 2 final rooms, 1 with priest of orcus being attended by a swarm of vampire and a berserk cult warrior. Climbing down bload soaked chains to the rift chamber itself they found Kalareal and his personal guard of undead. Thoradin and Shorndorr wiped out the underlings with area attacks and Wyger (bravely or insanely?) went right after Kalarel. As he began to weaken, Kalarel teleported to the power circle directly in front of the rift where one of the Shadowfell demons was already beginning to push through the portal. The longer Kalarel stayed in the circle the stronger he became and the party had a tough time pushing him off without getting too close themselves. Shorndorr was knocked down several times and Wyger was very nearly pulled into the portal. At several key moments the Bahamut amulets the party all wore gave them extra power and in the end Shorndorr was able to use Sir Keegan’s sword to knock Kalarel into the portal itself where he is presumed to have died. The group then attempted to use the ritural book Kalarel had been using to close instead of opening the rift. They very nearly failed but in the end got the formula right and the rift was finally sealed for good. Among the treasure was Orcus’ Rod of Ruin which the Kalarel had used to create the power circle for opening the rift. As the party returned to Winterhaven the Rod seemed to be tormenting them constantly and the party planned to give it to sister Lenora and her order to guard again or destroy.
While the team was fighting the final battles in the Keep, the remaining Bloodreaver hobgoblins and kobolds attacked Winterhaven taking 15 prisoners as slaves including Padraig himself. Sister Lenora was killed and the group decided they should take the Orcus rod to the main Bahamut chapel in Fallcrest for safe keeping and then pursue the Bloodreavers to their base in the Thunderspire Mountains. Valthrun also asked them to take a box containing something valuable to Thunderspire to give to Gendar in payment of a gambling debt.