You had come to the burial site at the behest of Lord Padraig and Valthrun the Sage. When Valthrun had read the note you recovered from Irontooth at the Kobold Lair, the reference to something called “Shadraxil” was not lost on him. He couldn’t recall exactly where he’d heard that name, but he had suspicions it might have something to do with the old burial site. A could shiver went down his spine when he remembered he’d told Douven Stahl, a historian and artifact hunter from Highmoon, where the site was. At the time, Valthrun thought no harm would come of it. What he remembered (at the time) was just that it was the burial site for some dragon, slain many centuries ago, which Douven had obviously already known from his own research. What Douven didn’t know was the exact location. Valthrun gave it to him, likely encouraging a fellow man of learning in his endeavors. But when Valthrun learned of the connection between the Irontooth, the kobolds, the name Shadraxil, and his recollection of its connection to the burial site, he feared the worst. Lord Padraig petitioned you to go to the site immediately and check on Douven Stahl.
When we picked up last session, you began where you left off: cleaning up after the battle at the Burial Site, and interrogating the Gnome who was in charge of the human diggers. You also had some questions for the human man you found bound, gagged, and beaten at the site.
The gnome, whose name was Algrid, wasn’t exactly a shining example of courage. You concocted a scheme wherein you pretended that if Algrid didn’t answer your questions, you’d kill him. He folded like origami.
Algrid told you that he was hired by Ninaran shortly after he arrived in town a couple weeks back. You get the impression he was likely casing the village for a fleecing. Ninaran spotted him, and quickly recognized his “moral flexibility” and contracted with the gnome to supervise the dig site. The way the gnome tells it, she “made him do it”, but he also let slip a couple times that he was being paid, which seems a little contradictory.
The gnome was able to indentify the apparition the was watching over the dig: Kalarel. He claims to never have met Kalarel. The apparition frequently consulted with Ninaran, but apparently not with Algrid.
It turns out that Kalarel had sent Algrid and his men to ambush Douven Stahl, the historian that had come to the site a couple months back. Douven had spoken to a few people back in Winterhaven and told them why he was there, and why he was at the dig site. One of the people he told was Bairwin. You assume it was Bairwin who then got word to Kalarel.
Algrid said that soon after they’d finished excavating the site, they’d discovered that what was buried was not what it seemed. While there was a dragon buried there, it was clearly not a great wyrm. At best, it was a juvenile dragon. They also found an ancient silver mirror.
Kalarel’s reaction was strange. Apparently he was not displeased at what they found. At this point you weren’t even sure why Kalarel had Algrid capture Douven and take over the dig, though Kalarel was obviously very interested in it, as he had his apparition watching over the whole operation.
The gnome also revealed a key piece of information; the whereabouts of Kalarel himself! He told you of some ancient ruins to the north of Winterhaven which he called Keegan’s Keep. You’d never heard of it. None of the villagers mentioned it. Algrid claimed that he’d never actually been to the ruins, he’d just overheard Kalarel and Ninaran talking.
He also knew that Ninaran had a contact in Winterhaven. That this contact was the leader of the cult to Shar in Winterhaven. Be he didn’t know his name.
Algrid talked (quickly) about everything he knew. Nonetheless, Hova seemed unconvinced (or is a sociopath) and decided torture was also necessary, repeatedly slicing at the gnomes legs with his sword, which brought the already severely injured gnome to near death. While nobody else in the group was directly involved in these acts, you stood by and allowed it to happen. You can’t help but wonder if there will be consequences for these actions? Shifts in alignment might be forthcoming, particularly if you continue down this dark path. Presumably Lord Padraig won’t believe Algrid’s stories of torture, even if the gnome tells him, but then again he does bear the wounds on his legs as evidence. No doubt Lord Padraig won’t be able to distinguish the wounds from those caused by battle, but can you be sure? What of Valthrun the Sage, would he be able to tell? You have to wonder if your reputation with this honorable man and the people of Winterhaven would suffer if they discovered the truth of these acts? Or maybe, as befitting your alignment, you don’t care what they think?
When you returned to Winterhaven, the gnome criminal in tow, you turned him over to Lord Padraig, who had him incarcerated.
You told everything you’d learned to Lord Padraig and Valthrun. Your mistrust of one or both of them had apparently lessened. They were shocked to learn how deep the plot went, when all the pieces started falling together. You couldn’t help but notice Lord Padraig took it particularly hard. He couldn’t believe that any of the good people under his stewardship could be twisted worshipers of such evil, but Algrid’s confession, his link to Ninaran, his reports that there was still an unknown cult leader in the village itself, the cults connection to Kalarel, who was clearly behind the kobolds, it was all adding up. But what was the connection to the burial site? What did Kalarel hope to gain from that?
The answer came from Valthrun, and the research he’d done since you’d been gone. After poring through his extensive library on local lore, he’d managed to piece it together. More than 1,000 years ago, a Shadow Dragon named Shadraxil had been plaguing the Thunder Peaks, and eastern Cormyr. The then king of Cormyr had dispatched a famous dragon hunter named Sir Keegan to destroy the creature, which incredibly, he’d done. He’d tricked the great wyrm into a magical trap. A trap that had opened a rift to the Shadowfell, and cast the shadow dragon within, imprisoning it there forever. Fearing that the locals would be fearful of the dragons return (or worse) if they learned it had not been destroyed, but banished into the Realm of Shadow, Sir Keegan had his men slay one of Shadraxil’s offspring and bury it south of Winterhaven. They then told the villagers they’d slain Shadraxil, and offered the site as evidence. The villagers had no reason to doubt the knight and his men. But sadly, the tale didn’t end there. The dragon was trapped within a pocket dimension of the Shadowfell, but it was not without power. It corrupted and twisted Sir Keegan’s mind over the years, and until finally the great knight broke. Sir Keegan went mad, and slaughtered not only his wife and children, but many of his men. The rest of his men eventually rallied, and fought a long battle against Sir Keegan, eventually forcing the crazed knight into the crypts below the keep, where they finally killed him.
Lord Padraig and Valthrun asked you to root out the evil Kalarel and his apparent base of operations in the ruins of Shadowfell Keep. If he succeeds in opening the portal to the Shadowfell, and releasing the shadow dragon (and gods know what else), it would be the doom of Winterhaven.
Acting on a hunch, you took the silver mirror that Douven Stahl had found at the dig (which Algrid claimed he’d found) and brought it to Bairwin Wildarson, the merchant.
Zekknar made repeated references to “a ritual” and how the mirror could be used in said ritual. Bairwin claimed to know nothing about how to use the mirror in any ritual, and then excused himself from the room to fetch more “special stock” for the party. He must’ve had some insight into the party discovering his connection to the cult, because he fled through a secret door into a hidden temple below his shop.
The hidden temple devoted to Shar, finally revealed! And Bairwin its leader no less. After a hard-fought battle, your greatest challenge so far, you defeated Bairwin and his minions. In the temple you discovered another note from Kalarel, this one addressed to Bairwin. It revealed that Bairwin had been supplying Kalarel and his forces at the keep. Which explains Bairwin’s sudden increase in wealth and inventory. You’d assumed that Bairwin’s supply was coming from the kobolds robbing merchants on the East Way, but that piece doesn’t quite fit. The kobolds would’ve just brought the supplies directly to Kalarel, which they undoubtedly did. Bairwin must have been supplying the keep as well. With the money Kalarel was paying him, he must have indeed found new suppliers (instead of Thair Coalstriker the dwarf smith), but his would have been able to travel the road unmolested. But now you have to wonder the numbers at the keep to require that much resupply!?
Now it was starting to make sense:
- From the letters you’ve discovered, it’s clear that Kalarel come to Keegan’s Keep, called Shadowfell Keep by the villagers for centuries and believed cursed (if only they wondered at why it had become known as Shadowfell Keep, which undoubtedly was started by what remained of Keegan’s men), to open a rift to the Shadowfell and release Shadraxil. And he’s doing it in Shar’s name. So clearly he’s a fanatic, but you can only pray that the Mistress of Night herself hasn’t been taking more direct involvement.
- But apparently Kalarel’s information wasn’t as complete as he would’ve liked. Perhaps that’s why he had Algrid the gnome capture Douven Stahl, learn what he knew, and continue to dig: to confirm that Shadraxil was not dead, that the dragon was in fact locked behind the portal, which would explain why Kalarel wasn’t particularly upset by what his minions found at the site (exactly what he suspected; that Shadraxil was not buried there).
- Kalarel then set about spreading his influence on the surrounding countryside, using the hobgoblin Irontooth to lead the kobolds.
- It’s unclear wether Bairwin came here with Kalarel or was recruited, but Bairwin quickly set about establishing a cult devoted to Shar in Winterhaven, or maybe it was always there. While Irontooth controlled the countryside, Bairwin attempted to corrupt Winterhaven from within. Bairwin was also supplying Kalarel at the keep. A perfect arrangement for Kalarel. Ninaran must have been the liason between the two. Possibly also acting as Kalarel’s eyes and ears in Winterhaven.
You must get to Shadowfell Keep. Even now, Kalarel is conducting his ritual to open the rift!