While the citizens of Winterhaven were throwing us a party, Valthruun took us aside and gave us the results of his research:
300 years ago, a powerful wizard named Karavakos opened up a rift onto the Shadowfell. This dark “parallel universe” is not wholly evil, but it apparently is home to an unholy sanctuary of Orcus, Demon Prince of the Undead.
When Karavakos created the rift, an army of undead poured out into our world and attacked the people of the old Empire of Nerath. After a great battle, Nerath’s legionnaires managed to crush the undead forces.
(NOTE: It seems likely that Douven Stahl’s archaeological dig uncovered some of the remains of this final battle.)
The Nerathians sealed the rift to the Shadowfell, then built a keep to watch over and contain it—a “Keep on the Shadowfell,” if you will. They thought that they had put an end to the threat … but they may have been wrong.
After reading a lyric written by Melgold, the Mad Poet of Almherst (the same poem that Wil has been researching), Valthruun was able to track down the true story that had inspired it.
About eighty years ago (two decades after the Empire of Nerath fell), the Keep’s garrison commander, Sir Jerold Keegan, went completely shithouse and butchered his wife and children, then started going after the rest of the Keep’s inhabitants. It took all of the garrison’s forces to defeat him, but they finally did, killing him in the Keep’s crypt (where they presumably left his remains).
Since there was no Imperial government left to re-organize the Keep’s defenses, it was abandoned and left to fall into disrepair. An earthquake some years later tumbled it into ruin, and so it was left, more or less forgotten.
Rumors persist of great treasures buried beneath the keep, yet few have dared to explore it. Sir Keegan’s ghost is said to roam the corridors beneath the ruins, wailing in grief over the tragedy of his life, and the fact that Shakespeare does not exist to turn it into a classic work of drama that high-school juniors will utterly fail to appreciate.
After Valthruun’s box-text download extravaganza, we basically had our marching orders. Armed with a map the sage gave us, we set out the next morning on a brisk several-mile hike up a forested hill to the Keep, with Merric bitching about his hangover the whole time.
It was late by the time we reached the ruins, and we were all exhausted, so we withdrew a few hundred yards into the creepily silent woods nearby to make camp. During the night we were all plagued by nightmares and got only fitful sleep, although we couldn’t remember in detail what the dreams were about when we awoke. Bleary-eyed and shaken, we nonetheless proceeded to investigate the ruins. Finding a set of stairs leading down, we sent Merric in to scout it out. He did an admirable job, returning with a rough sketch of the first few passages and chambers he observed, and the position of some goblin guards.
Armed with this information we devised a cunning plan wherein Venjin and Jett took cover behind some pillars and Merric stealthed around and doused torches in the main (and empty) chamber to draw the goblins out of the back room so we could get the jump on them. This worked perfectly in our favor. Unfortunately, it was the last element of the battle that did. A most inglorious battle followed, featuring Jett falling and being pushed into a pit of rats numerous times. Moirae was having a hard time focusing due to the Shadowfell energy present in the Keep. Her attacks were mostly misplaced and on the few occasions that she was able to hit someone, she did minimal damage. The rest of us didn’t fair much better. By the end of the night we managed to defeat the goblin crossbowmen, javelineers, and rats but it was rough going to say the least. The rats did, at least, meet a rather cinematic end. Moirae was able to pull it together just long enough to Eldrich Blast the crap out of them and in a moment of poetic justice, Jett teleported the few remaining rats over the pit and let them fall to their doom.