The battle continues where it left off previously, with the party fighting the gravehounds and the hag Ninaran. They quickly pull through and finish off their enemies, and find instructions on Ninaran’s body written by Kalarel (the same name they saw on an earlier letter) with a code phrase for entering the lower floor of the Shadowfell Keep. They then return to Winterhaven to meet Valthrun, who has finished studying the rib and explains its purpose as a ritual component to open the portal to Mabar in the keep. He wishes to come with them on their return to the keep to stop the ritual from taking place.
They are suspicious, but accept, and they go back to the keep, with the exception of Tam’elanath who stays behind to guard the village. They start heading further in to the only wing they have not yet explored, and find themselves in a crypt full of the dead. These zombies, however, are quite fragile, and they quickly clear the maze-like area.
Sul, Lharvion 22, 998 YK (Day 8).
The party is beset by the gravehounds still standing after they have cleared the skeletons.
Tam’elanath maintains a safe distance, assisting the group by firing arrows at the undead dogs beside Lythanis, who in a similar tactic, offers telekinetic support. Meanwhile, Zil’dejin and Mikhal work to hold them off, absorbing their attacks and dealing out direct damage while Morgue struggles for his life, no longer threatened by the gravehounds who have had to turn their attention elsewhere.
However, among the frenzy of the hounds, the party has forgotten about the hag, who becomes significant again in the battle by taking down Mikhal. The gravehounds leap at the opportunity to devour the fallen paladin, but they are too weakened and now, too diverted; the party is able to at last finish them off, and turn their attentions at long last to the hag.
Lythanis ignites the air around Ninaran with telekinetic force, severely burning her as Zil’dejin moves in to strike her down once and for all. Ninaran hits the ground, and the party searches her, finding little of significance except for a small sheet of vellum, with a rather sinister message:
|I received your report on the adventurers. Next time you see them, put an end to their interference. Mix the blood of ten individuals with the elixir my messenger will bring you. Then, trace the following pattern on the ground, and pour the liquid into the lines. This will supply you with a force to help thwart them. I’m very close to completion; I leave it to you to see that I am not interrupted. As you already know, if you do come to the second level of the keep, the pass phrase is, “From the ground, some magic was found.”
With this, the party returns to Winterhaven, where the townspeople are still lined atop the walls. Zil’dejin informs the townspeople of the situation, and they are let back within the town’s walls. Morgue attempts to ask Lord Padraig for a reward of some sort, but is offered none. Padraig also mentions that Valthrun has been seeking the group, and so they head for the aged wizard’s tower.
Valthrun tells them that, at last, he has determined the significance of the Third Sinister Rib. He informs the party that this item is integral to a ritual designed to break the seal on Orcus in Khyber when they are at their weakest – during the Winterhaunt. He says that the ritual can proceed without it, but that the rib could be equally useful (if not more so) in stopping the ritual. He pleads with the group to escort him to the second basement level of the Shadowfell Keep so he can stop the horrors before they truly begin.
The party, however, is still generally suspicious of Valthrun and his motives. Lythanis and Morgue are very much opposed to his joining, while Zil’dejin and Mikhal are essentially in favor of his coming with them. Ultimately, it is agreed they will escort him. Zil’dejin, Morgue, Mikhal and Lythanis set out for the keep once more, while Tam’elanath stays behind to protect Winterhaven should another incident occur like the one that was just avoided.
The party arrives at the keep to find Typhus standing outside, Splug still faithfully at his side. When questioned about his whereabouts for the past two days, Typhus is surreptitiously evasive, and eventually just insists they proceed. The group, knowing better than to question his bizarre motives further, proceed back into the keep.
They enter into a dark, maze-like room. As soon as they get fully inside, they are attacked by hordes of zombies. Valthrun and Splug are instructed to stay on the outside of the room while the party tries to fend them off.
The undead, however, are shown to be quite fragile, and the group has little difficulty keeping them at bay. They run into a brief snag with some faintly growing runes etched into the ground, which when stepped upon unleash a horrible noise that magically instills panic in those who hear it, causing them to flee and alerting more zombies. Despite these pitfalls, however, the party is ultimately triumphant without too much difficulty, and is able to proceed further.