The heroes break into the Still Hearts keep and fight the allied Children of Winter and shadar-kai to get to the Winter Queen. They also encounter the missing Blood of Vol monks, and free them from the fortress’ prison. The Winter Queen is found to be in possession of the gear, and she attempts to use it as a weapon against the party, but they qguickly subdue her and take the artifact. They find a secret passage leading out of her throne room that leads back to the Blood of Vol monastery in Eberron, ending at the bottom of a well.
When they climb up, they are greeted by Malavarn, who aggressively insists that the party give him the Chaos Gear. When they do, he attacks with a pack of feral vampires. More of Malavarn’s scouts approach the monastery, but they are eliminated by a stranger who reveals himself to be Talbot, the other of Artauche’s lead agents. He reveals that he is a double agent, and gives the details of Artauche’s betrayal and schemes to take over the city of Wroat using old Creation Forges. The party chooses to take a brief rest in the monastery before going to stop Artauche, as they will need all their strength for the coming battle.
Far, Sypheros 16, 998 YK (Day 90).
The melee in the Quiet Halls begins quickly. A shadar-kai witch stands on a balcony fifteen feet off the ground while the warriors, both of the Still Hearts and the Children of Winter, engage the party. They put up a good fight, but the party breaks them down before long – it takes longer than expected, however, due to their minds being clouded by magic used by the witch.
Once the warriors are mostly dealt with, the party climbs up the pillars supporting the balcony to fight the witch. Garmeth uses his flying leopard maneuver to soar up to the balcony, though the confusing tactics of the witch and her ability to wrap herself in shadow makes this a much more confusing endeavor than it usually is. Still, she eventually falls, and the party interrogates her. She seems somewhat confident in the Winter Queen’s abilities, and says that this is the one who currently has possession of the Chaos Gear. Evidently, she is the leader of the Still Hearts shadar-kai and the Children of Winter. Getting no more information from the witch, the party leaves through a door other than the one indicated by the witch to house the Winter Queen.
This door leads to a prison-like area, where the Collective runs across the missing Blood of Vol cultists that once occupied the monastery. Marlamin frees them and instructs them to follow the Eclipse Collective, but to wait outside the Winter Queen’s throne room until he signals that it is clear to rejoin them. The monks agree, knowing that in their current state they would be very little use in a fight. With this, they go into the throne room of the Winter Queen.
She wears the Chaos Gear on her head, wrapped in her hair. She claims she has unlocked its power in exchange for her soul, and that this makes her far greater than the party can handle. They believe she is bluffing, and try to get her to surrender the Gear without a fight. They learn in this conversation that she is half human, half shadar-kai, and intends to usher the latter back into Eberron with territory of their own, outside the ashen plains of Dolurrh. She would prefer not to have to deal with the party at all, and offers them a substantial monetary reward to leave her presence at once and never return to the Fortress of Still Hearts. They refuse, and ready their weapons.
The shadar-kai move to defend their queen, and the weaponmaster, one of the most talented warriors they keep, pulls weapons away using a unique chain-like shortsword, and uses the stolen weapons against the party. Some of the party stays back to fight the shadar-kai while the rest move up to engage the Winter Queen. All the while, the activated Chaos Gear is causing strange effects in the room; people change size, teleport around at random, the room physically shrinks, and more.
After eliminating her henchmen, the Collective closes in on the Winter Queen. Perhaps seeking revenge for the monks of the Towering Wood, Marlamin employs virtually all the power he can muster, channeling shadow energy and the corrupting force of the Touch of Corruption into one great, fierce blow, in which he adopts the appearance of an angel of death. The strike rends the Winter Queen in two, and the power of the Chaos Gear fades. The room returns to normal, and the party discovers a secret exit back to Eberron in the throne room, apparently for the Winter Queen to move in and out of discreetly. They quickly gather the Chaos Gear and the monks, and head through the passage, which leads back to the well of the Blood of Vol monastery. It is night time.
They climb out of the well, and at the top, are “greeted” by Malavarn, holding a torch. He brings the party inside, and convinces them to give the Chaos Gear to him. At this point, he uses some kind of alchemical medicine on his eyelids, and douses the torch. The room is plunged into darkness, and they begin hearing frenzied howls. Feral vampires under Malavarn’s command have arrived in the monastery, and join the fight to eliminate the party.
Most of the vampires are quickly eliminated. Malavarn fights fiercely, and even though his body is almost completely broken, he fights to his last breath. When he finally falls, the party retrieves the Chaos Gear, and goes outside, where they hear an approaching march. These are Malavarn’s scouts – a segment of his enforcers dedicated to arriving first before the others. Eventually, though, the footsteps give way to snapping and screaming, and a figure emerges from the Towering Wood. It is Talbot, the other of Mr. Artauche’s highest-ranking agents.
He explains that Remelius Artauche has betrayed them. Artauche was a Gold Concordian in the Aurum, a society of wealthy and powerful individuals who present themselves to the world as collectors of magical artifacts. They are, according to Talbot, actually a criminal syndicate who collect these items to advance their own power. The Aurum is divided into Concords: Copper, Silver, Gold, and Platinum, where Platinum is the highest. A recent opening in the Platinum Concord led Artauche to bid for a position, but he was denied. Seeing no further use for them, he silently turned against the Aurum for his own diabolical machinations. Talbot, as a double agent working for an organization he will not reveal to the party, believes it important to stop him, but cannot interfere directly without destroying his cover.
Artauche has recently found the Chains of Balance and intends to complete the set, and kill off the party to prevent interference with his plan: he is going to take over Wroat, the capital of Breland, and then move on to conquer the rest of Khorvaire. Beginning immediately after the party gave the Rod of Order to him, Artauche moved back to his family’s old estate of Glyphstone Keep, which once housed an illegal Creation Forge (factory to produce warforged). The Artauche family once had three such forges, and were expelled from their lofty positions in House Cannith when it was discovered they were producing illicit warforged and selling them to the highest bidder for their own profit. The Creation Forges were dismantled at the end of the Last War, but Artauche has used the Rod of Order to transiently reactivate the one hidden under Glyphstone Keep and has assembled a massive army of defective warforged powered by proximity to the Rod of Order. He has used these, alongside his personal agents, hired mercenaries and inflamed dissidents to launch a sudden and brutal attack on Wroat, and has been doing very well, based on the element of surprise and sheer numbers. Talbot believes that the Eclipse Collective may be the only ones that can stop him now.
Malavarn carried with him two pieces of paper. On one, a letter, indicating he had achieved support from the Blood of Vol due to “mutual goals”, and they had sent vampires to aid Malavarn. The other was a ritual scroll, which Talbot indicates is a teleportation ritual designed specifically to return him to Glyphstone Keep after he took back the Chaos Gear. Talbot offers to initiate the ritual and establish the portal while the party gets some rest; they are battered from the Keep of Still Hearts and can afford as much as six hours of rest before attacking the Keep. Past this point, the assault will have proceeded to far to be interrupted. The Collective takes this opportunity and goes to rest in the monks’ barracks while Talbot and the monks themselves keep watch.