The Order of the White Raven

The Fall of Kalarel

Darkness and dripping blood surrounded the heroes, Kali, Inna, Elif, and Liam, as they climbed down the slippery chains into the demon pit in the Keep on the Shadowfell as Bardun stayed behind to clense the dark Cathedral above, lay the sacrifices to rest, and fight of the returning vampire flesh rippers. It had been nearly two months since they set forth fighting the Bloodreaver hobgoblins, Irontooth and Balgron the Fat, Ninaran the traitor, and various threats to aid the town of Winterhaven. Crimson streams of blood spilled over them as they descended into a twisting nightmare and pooled into the center of the chamber. They landed in its middle, ankle deep in coagulated blood, surrounded by the smell of copper and decay.

Echoing whispers of a hundred grim voices filled the chamber, beckoning them into the yawning black portal dominating the northern wall of the chamber. Straining from within the darkness, wisps of shadows forming hands and faces reached outwards from the portal, trying to force their ways into the land of the living. It was here, a human clad in heavy armor and carrying a skull-capped rod, Kalarel, stood chanting,

“O Prince of the Undead, Master of Decay, Bane of Life, we thrive in your shadow. Deliver unto us eternal life, and fill the world with blood and shadows, O thou Lord of Misery!”

The heroes fought with all their might, taking blow after blow from Kalarels necrotic magic. His skeleton guardians surged forward attacking each of the heroes, knocking Kali unconscious. Elif dove from the chains pile driving a skeleton to the ground. A shriek filled the chasm as a wight raised the skeleton back to life. The battle raged on, and it was Liam who charged and killed the wight, ending the resurrection of the skeletal guardians. Liam held off Kalarel as Kali, who regained her consciousness, fought her way to the dark alter to reverse the ritual. She fell once more to be saved by Elif, who took on Kalarel before the cult leader warped to the blazing runes in front of the evil portal where Inna had been lured by the whispers from beyond. It was then that he grasped the small gnomish wizard, laughing hysterically, and tossed her through the veil of the portal. She hadn’t even had time to scream as her small frame was engulfed by the dark tendrils and faces to be seen no more. Kali continued reversing the ritual despite Inna being trapped inside and succeeded in overcoming the dark magic.

The remaining heroes cornered Kalarel where he stood, still praising the Demon Lord Orcus and fighting alone in his name. Beaten and bloodied he fought until the rift was about to blink out for the last time when a large claw burst through the shadows seizing him. His cries of delight and terror filled the room as he was pulled into the portal he created and the rift had been sealed once more.

When all seemed calm and safe a surge of power emanating from Kalarel’s skull-capped wand threw the heroes across the chasm. With the dark power of Kalarel lost the statue of Orcus crumbled, and the chamber began to collapse. Standing in the center of the blast appeared a dark hooded figure grasping the skulled wand… As the dust settle from the blast Bardun slid down the blood drenched chains. There they gathered in front of the hooded figure and his skull capped scepter with little time to spare in the collapsing void around them.

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The Shadow Dreams

As the heroes attempt to rest between battles, the touch of the rift floods their dreams with progressively worse nightmares, weakening them day by day in the dark corridors of the Keep on the Shadowfell, pushing the boundaries of their sanity.

First extended rest


You wake up in a scream of terror, drenched in sweat. You have had dreams, bad dreams, nightmares of shadows and blood. You were walking in endless dark corridors,surrounded by whispering voices from the shadows beckoning you onwards.

Second


Lost in darkness you finally came to an end of the labyrinth, a large empty room with a huge door at the other end. You could hear voices from the other side of the door. Some sounded familiar, beckoning you to open the door.

Third


You walked into the room. It was raining, droplets falling from the shadows above, tears gathering on the dusty floor, forming pools of water pouring towards the door. Feeding it.

Fouth


You looked at your hands and saw that they were covered in blood. It was blood dripping from the shadows. Blood soaking the slippery floor beneath your shoes, trailing towards the door. And the door answered. t


Fifth

The door opened in silence. It opened into the shadows, like a pool of darkness staring at you. The voices grew louder in your head. “Feed us, feed us. Only your blood will quench our thirst”, they said, and you screamed in terror.


Sixth – Liam, Elif, Inna

Shadowy arms were reaching out toward you from the portal. You saw faces in the rift, faces of dead friends begging you to release them. Begging you to make the final sacrifice.


Seventh – Nari-Kai

You took your knofe and exposed your wrist to the door of shadows. " I do this for you", you cried but no tears came. The knife opened your wrist, blood trailing a river over the floor and into the shadows.

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Truth of the Keep

“My books and scrolls tell me that the ruined keep was
built by the old empire, Nerath, as I suspected. The Nerath
Empire was attacked by hordes of undead and demons at
the time, over three hundred years ago, released onto the
earth by the mighty wizard Karavakos from a rift to the
Shadowfell. Finally, in a great battle, the empire of
Nerath’s legionnaires managed to eliminate the threat of
the rift to the Shadowfell. The empire’s soldiers destroyed
the remaining 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.”
“The Shadowfell is a place of darkness and shadows,
but not all of it is evil, but this rift apparently connects to an
unholy sanctuary of Orcus, the demon lord of the undead.
Skeletons, ghouls, and stranger, fouler creatures once
crawled through the opening into the light of day. By
destroying the undead and sealing the rift, the Nerath
Empire thought that was the end of the story. Now, I’m not
so sure.”
“Take a look at this poem I found in the ‘Collection of
Lyrics from Melgold – The Mad Poet of Almhurst’


In shadowed keep of tumbled stone,
A peril lurks, for years unknown,
The Kinslayer’s spirit guards it yet,
’Gainst a newfound vile threat.
The Kinslayer once was proud and strong,
Until the Blood Lord came along.
The thing of evil sent dark dreams,
Nightmares wrought of tortured screams,
The vowed defender’s mind did bend,
And with his blade he did rend.
Awakened to the awful truth,
Shattered bones of men and youth,
His wife and children, pride and joy,
Mistaken for demons he was forced to destroy.
The Kinslayer fled to meet death alone,
For wicked deeds he must now atone,
And so the fallen paladin must wait,
For heroes to arrive and reverse his fate.
But twisted whispers echo through the halls,
And ghostly blood runs ’long the walls,
None can face those cursed remains,
Fear like water in their veins.
A Blood Lord follower from a cursed line,
Now threatens to awake the unholy shrine,
Dark power craves as men do thirst,
Confining spells to be reversed.
Storm clouds gather with the demon’s approach,
And the living dead will soon encroach,
The forces of good will never survive,
For the Prince of the Undeath will soon arrive.



This poem sent me digging deeper into the fall of this
Kinslayer and this is what I found: Within two short
decades after the collapse of the Nareth Empire, Shadowfell
Keep was abandoned and left to fall apart and decay. It
was on a grisly night about eighty years ago that the lord
and commander of the keep garrison, Sir Jerold Keegan,
put into motion the events that led to the keep’s downfall.”
“Perhaps the Shadow Rift’s malign influence is too
strong to resist. Maybe Sir Keegan was a crazed lunatic
driven by demons we may never understand. Whatever the
case, at the stroke of midnight on that fateful day, Sir
Keegan began to systematically slaughter every resident of
the keep, forever cursing the place. The author of the
historical treatises speculates that he suffered paranoiddelusions,
for Keegan went on a rampage through the keep.
His own wife and children were first to fall to his blade,
then his trusted advisors, and finally many of the soldiers
under his command. Sir Keegan was too skilled for any one
soldier to defeat, yet eventually the garrison managed to
respond with an organized defense. Although many brave
soldiers died, they managed to inflict him a grievous wound
that drove the mad knight to flee into the keep’s crypts were
they finally managed to dispatch him.”
“The keep became notorious for a time, as one of the
last bastions of the fallen empire. There was no one to order
it back into service. So it was abandoned, feared for a time,
and eventually, more or less forgotten. An earthquake a
few years later collapsed the upper towers and walls, and
turned the place into a ruin of tumbled stone.”
“Rumors persist of great treasures buried beneath the
keep, yet few have dared explore the passages over the year.
Sir Keegan’s ghost is said to roam the corridors beneath the
ruins, wailing in grief over the tragedy of his life. The
people of Winterhaven avoid the place, and the mere
mention of Shadowfell Keep is considered bad luck by
many of the farmers and villagers.”
“Whatever activity is occurring at the keep, it can only
mean ill for Winterhaven and those of nearby lands.
Please, will you do what you can to help?”

- Valthrun the Prescient

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Prologue - Keep on the Shadowfell

The Blood Lord sat on his throne of bones and blood-oozing
skulls, engulfed in darkness and the putrid stench of death and
misery. Cries of pain and anguish played in the background of
Orcus’ residence of Undeath. Nothing of this reached the dark lord.
His blood-hazed eyes were lost into the distance, his mind
stretching out to listen to the calls and prayers of his dark clergy
and followers. Like buzzing flies, their requests and calls for favors
left no impression on the Demon Price of Undeath – his schemes of
power were on a level incomprehensible for his mortal followers.
But suddenly his eye twitched, a prayer – no not a prayer – a
whispered word that brought back memories of lost causes and
unpaid depts. Orcus focused his divine attention towards the
source, spanning his godlike awareness cross planes and
dimensions.
“…Master of Undeath, Tear in the shroud of Death, listen to
the words of your humble servant, a maggot in your godlike corpse.
I have found out where the followers of Bahamut have hidden the
Rod of Ruin! The paladin of Bahamut I defiled and brought back
in your name knows of its hiding place, great Master.”
The Rod of Ruin – Found! The Blood Lord clenched his fist
around the Wand of Orcus, blood dripping between his fingers.
This opened up new possibilities, the chessboard had suddenly
shifted, and things were tilting in his favor again. As Lord of the
Undead, Orcus had the everlasting patience of the dead, a trait
seldom seen among his demonic cohorts and enemies. But Orcus
knew that if he waited long enough in the darkness, secrets held in
life would resurface in the afterlife. It was just a matter of time,
and that time was now. With the Rod of Ruin resurfacing he could
send his pawns to collect it and complete the task once started but
never finished – turning the living world into a realm of undeath
and eternal darkness. His divine mind immediately identified the
hundreds of actions needed for setting the plan in motion, but first
– he poured a fraction of his essence into the world of the living. His
aspect materialized in the crypt of his maggot, pulling darkness
and the chill of the grave with it. The priest screamed in terror as
his eyes started to bleed at the sight of his true Lord. There were still
questions that needed answers and a dept of a soul to be paid…

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