Chapter 3

Kalarel, Scion of Orcus

The heroes wake with stiff backs and the stale air of the keep’s crypt. They pack their bedrolls and head to the only unexplored area: a long stairway some sixty steps down.

Saum checks the door while everyone listens. A lone voice echoes beyond the door, mumbling in Common to himself…

... and the people of Winterhaven are weak and foolish! Parrag can do nothing to save them. Valthrun will fail them… Death will come to all, and only the power of Orcus can save us. My ritual is almost complete. Now will be my hour of triumph!

Saum sneaks in to see Kalarel slip through a large glowing portal. The room is lit not only by the portal but by two racks of gleaming red crystals – the same that bind the souls of many of Winterhaven. One asks, “Maybe we can shut the portal down?” but Sweetlick sees a sliver of energy flowing from the portals to the crystals. Closing the portal may doom the souls trapped there. The adventurers come to grips with their fate which now lies through that portal.

They step through.

First is the sensation of being pulled in six directions at once; only Borodin seems unphased. They see a long stone bridge floating high above the Astral Sea. Around them in every direction are ten thousand stars; below the bridge is nothingness as far as the mind fails to imagine.

Across the ten-foot-wide bridge is a military brigade of twisted monsters. More of Kalarel’s demon help. Four small winged demons lick their jagged longswords. Two upright horned demons grip flails that drip with blood. Flanking them are two incectoid demons whose entrails slime the ground and mouths spill with bile. Their leader is an eight-foot juggernaut with a war spear, presently barking orders as his “men” fall into marching order. Towards the heroes.

Sweetlick is unphased by their march and lets loose a ferocious battle cry. The soldiers are shaken and lose step. (critical intimidate! the players were granted combat advantage on round 1)

Donaar and Antek take up the front, their heavy armor almost impervious to the oncoming attacks. Borodin helps guide their blades from the rear while Selenus fires arrows at the opposing artillery. Antek’s amulet of health glows as a bileshot splashes on him. The opposing front line disintegrates to Donaar’s dragon breath. Saum sees an opportunity and places a positioning strike that pushes their Warchief over the edge – he grabs the ledge at the last moment, but Antek’s maul crushes his fingers and the enemy falls into the nothing.

After their leader falls, the other demons stand no chance. Our adventurers catch their breaths and step through the portal to the Shadowfell.

The portal deposits them on the roof of “The Keep on the Material Plane” in the twisted parallel of Nentir Vale. Here the keep is a vile, spired, in-tact structure. The horizon is dark; night in the Shadowfell is unnerving but the heroes center themselves.

Attached to statues and spires are the chained souls of the innocent people near Winterhaven – tortured and forlorn looks in all their eyes. In the center of the roof is a platform surrounded by a fire moat – on the platform is a writhing mass of demon and undead discards, coming to life by the power drawn from these souls. Before the construct is a short chain bridge on which stands Kalarel, Scion of Orcus.

Kalarel turns and sets his eyes on his foes. By his count, they would provide more than enough souls to finish his ritual. He dons his horned helmet and skull rod and taunts the heroes.

Donaar launches himself at Kalarel, who deftly dodges the attack. Kalarel answers with a swing of his rod and a curse that freezes Donaar’s feet in place. A glowing rune appears under the Dragonborn. With no where to go, Donaar clenches his jaw as a column of fire erupts from the rune.

Shadowy tendrils whip at the heroes, trying to grip them and sap their lives. The heroes focus fire to quickly destroy them and the writhing construct seems to be hurt by the tendrils’ deaths.

Saum moves in for a sneak attack and Kalarel doesn’t like it. Kalarel moves to attack Saum but Antek catches the opportunity with his maul! Kalarel stops in his tracks and retaliates against Antek instead. (Antek crits his OA on Kalarel, and because of Combat Challenge Kalarel ends his move)

Sweetlick sees the souls of the peasants being drained by the constructs. He rushes to the beam and protects them, though the beam drains him of life. He maintains the beam as long as he can, until he rushes back to the group and delivers a Beacon of Hope to restore his comrades. The souls, vulnerable again, crumble; the beam focuses on another set of souls and this time Saum jumps in the way.

Kalarel, far outnumbered, is beat the hell down by the heroes. Saum delivers the final blow, shattering Kalarel’s lower spine. Kalarel drops his rod, which bounces on the stonework. He dies along with his twisted plan of “saving” Winterhaven. The party turn their focus onto the writhing construct, and a rain of arrows and blades destroy it. The gibbering mound slides into the fiery pit and psychic screams echo across the wasteland.

The ethereal chains fall away from the bound souls, who stand and walk forward to greet their rescuers. Their faces turn bright before the souls fade away—they have been restored to their bodies in the Material Plane.

The portal behind them flickers. They waste no time rushing back through the portal. The bridge on the Astral Sea is deteriorating, but does not collapse before they are back in Winterhaven Keep. The racks of red crystals no longer glow, and are translucent white. A small cluster are shattered remnants of the souls that did not survive. Nevertheless the keep feels at peace once again… for now.

Back above the keep, the heroes breathe deeply the sweet night air in the Vale. Below them, a fire seems to burn inside Winterhaven’s walls. Their concern fades as they approach and see a roaring bonfire. A celebration, started the moment some sixty-three souls were rescued.

The heroes are greeted with great joy by the townspeople and its leaders. Salvana brings out her most-aged wines. A look of tremendous relief has given color back to Lord Parrag’s face. Thair Coalstriker puts on his best dance moves for the farm girls. Valthrun shares approving looks with the victors. Zuruta takes careful notes of your tall tale.

The heroes wake the next day at dawn, the bonfire now only embers and empty bottles littering the square. Six farmers – owners of the largest nearby estates – approach the heroes riding fine horses. They dismount and hand the reins to the sleepy heroes. These are thanks from the villagers. Now whenever trouble hits, they can ride swiftly to the rescue again.

Parrag hands them a sack of gold coins and displays a scroll of proclamation commemorating their great deed. The gathered townspeople applaud.

The elf traitor Ninaran chokes down her words when she hears of her masters’s death. The guards of Winterhaven unlock her jail cell and the heroes escort her to their horses. She follows, sullen and reluctant.

Back at Fallcrest she is given a short trial and hanged. In this early hour, no one but the heroes are there to witness.

Lord Warden is away on business but his chancellor takes care of your reward. Lord Warden should return in a few days, and is no doubt eager to hear of your adventure…

Borodin’s related writings: Chapter 2

Chapter 4

Chapter 3

Under The Sun pfunked