After setting Balgron free and taking an extended rest at a campsite nearby (those s’mores were mmm, mmm, good!), we headed back down into the dungeons below the ruins of Shadowfell Keep.
Crypt of Shadows
Opening the “BAD! DEAD!” door, we found discolored stairs leading down into cold darkness. An overpowering odor of damp rot filled the air.
Down the stairs, we found zombies and terror runes. Making use of foul powers from beyond the rift, Kalarel had animated a number of corpses to act as undead guards in this area of the dungeon. He’d also inscribed several magical runes into the floor at strategic points along the narrow hallways. Contact with a rune would release a ghostly scream that triggered a fear effect, striking terror into the heart of a PC and causing the character to freak out and run away.
It took us four rounds to dispatch all of the zombies in the crypt, and then we investigated the mysterious runes inscribed into the floors. Korlon realized that the runes were traps designed to go off upon contact. Korlon decided to teleport to the other side of the rune, while the rest of us would jump across it. Greth, Harold, and Tar succeeded in jumping over the rune in question, but Tosdar tripped and triggered the trap. Oops. A throat-tearing scream exploded from the floor. Everyone except Greth and Harold were affected by the trap’s fear effect. After running into another one of the runes while fleeing in terror, Korlon actually ended up 18 squares away!
After everyone calmed down and we regrouped, Tar told us that he’d ended up in a chamber to the north where some stairs led downward. He said he’d seen some flickering lights (perhaps torchlight?) at the bottom of the stairs. When we checked out the chamber that Tar had found, Greth noticed that some tracks on the dusty floor seemed to disappear right into a wall. Hmmm…
The secret door that Greth discovered led into a small chamber where we had to contend with an illusory wall, several undead guardians, and a mysterious riddle.
When we went through the secret door, all we found at first was a tiny, bare room. Then we heard faint moans coming from behind the eastern wall of the chamber. Someone got the idea that the wall might be an illusion and perhaps rolling a zombie head toward it would reveal the wall’s true nature. Sure enough, the rolling zombie head went right through the wall and disappeared from view! As Harold and Sulader carefully sidled up to the illusory wall, decaying hands burst through and lunged for them. Harold dodged the hands and then, greataxe at the ready, shifted through the false wall.
Once through the wall, Harold could see that it functioned like a one-way mirror. An observer standing on the side nearer the secret door saw a wall, but creatures standing on the other side noticed only the faint outline of a wall, allowing them to see through it. Harold also saw four rotting corpses standing in the chamber, their dead eyes fixed upon him. The zombies wore full suits of armor, with the silver dragon symbol of Bahamut inscribed on their breastplates. The minotaur shouted back to his companions, telling them what he had found and urging them to come ahead quickly.
The vicious, close quarters fight against the zombies lasted for three rounds. After defeating the undead creatures, the party saw that the area beyond the false wall appeared to be an armory. There were two weapons racks on the north and south walls, and on the east wall was a stand with a black suit of scale armor mounted on it. As we moved closer to inspect the armor, a deep, booming voice posed a riddle:
“A wondrous treasure, Valued by all, sought by many. Found in both victory and defeat, yet never at the bottom of the treasure chest. It marches before you like a herald, And lives long after you are gone. Of what do I speak?”
Sulader answered, “Knowledge.” The voice rumbled, “You try my patience. Offer the answer soon, or the treasure I guard shall forever be denied to you.”
Harold happened to have his handy Rules Compendium with him, so he quickly looked up what it says about Bahamut on page 48. Since the Platinum Dragon is the god of justice, protection, nobility, and honor, he guessed that the answer to the riddle was honor. For giving the correct answer, the minotaur got the +1 Blackiron Scale Armor. Sweeeet!
Deciding not to venture down the stairway that Tar discovered quite yet, we headed back south to the room where we had glimpsed some sarcophagi.
When we entered this chamber, we saw that ten massive stone sarcophagi, five on each wall, lined the crypt. The sarcophagi were granite and bore relief images of human warriors in plate armor. To the east, the crypt opened into a higher, wider area from which a starry glow emanated. Muffled clicks and scratching noises seemed to come from within a few of the sarcophagi.
As Sulader moved toward the higher, wider area to the east of the entry hall, concussive bangs sounded throughout the crypt as each sarcophagi lid slammed open. Clattering, clicking bones groped outward from each open tomb. The sarcophagi disgorged eight decrepit skeletons and two skeleton warriors, and then each lid slammed shut again. Once that occurred, the action unrolled in a fast and furious fashion.
Over the next four rounds, the sarcophagi kept making whirling and clicking noises, and then they’d disgorge yet more skeletons into the crypt. We figured out early on that the key to stopping the never-ending flow of skeletons had something to do with the two altars down in the higher, wider area from which the starry glow emanated. A dome above that area depicted a fantastic, regal dragon with silvery scales in flight across an endless sky. An altar stood on either side of the area, each inscribed with elaborate, draconic script. Relief images of soldiers in plate armor on their knees in prayer appeared on the walls behind each altar.
Tar was the only member of the party who knew draconic, but he just couldn’t manage to fight his way through the skeletons in the crypt and get to the altars. Finally, after four interminable rounds of sarcophigi spitting out skeleton after skeleton, Sulader decided he’d just go ahead and kneel down in front of an altar and pray. But since he’s a paladin of the Raven Queen, the goliath refused to offer obeisance to Bahamut and instead prayed to his god of death. As you’d expect, this only caused yet more whirling and clicking noises to come from within the sarcophagi. Acting quickly, Tosdar knelt before the other altar and offered a brief prayer to the Silver Dragon. At the dwarf’s heartfelt words, the light in the domed area became bright, bathing the entire crypt in pure, white light. The skeletons stopped attacking and returned to their sarcophagi.
After the last of the skeletal legion had retreated back into their tombs, we searched the altars and discovered a secret compartment in one that held a number of small dragon statues of silver and platinum.
Sir Keegan’s Tomb
Sturdy double doors set into the eastern wall of the domed area bore the name of Sir Keegan, Shadowfell Keep’s last commander. Pushing through the unlocked doors, we found an old crypt with a raised dais across the way. A heavy stone coffin rested upon the dais. Carved on the lid of the coffin was a warrior in plate armor with a sword laid across his chest, the point toward his feet. Sulader tapped on the lid of the coffin, but nothing happened. As the goliath tried to pry open the lid of the coffin, Greth noticed a shimmering, blue-ish light floating through the air and coming slowly towards us through the room with the sarcophagi. As it drew closer, the light resolved itself into a humanoid skeleton in plate armor. The skeleton drew a longsword and croaked, “The rift must never be reopened! I am Sir Keegan. State your business, or prepare to die!”
Despite the fact that Sir Keegan’s words revealed him to be a potential ally in our quest, Sulader threatened the ghostly figure and moved to stop it from entering the tomb. Luckily, Sir Keegan took no notice of the goliath’s rash actions and instead started to question us in an attempt to discern our motives for being in the dungeon. Harold was actually the only PC to come up with a failure during this skill challenge. Oops.
As the last commander of the keep’s garrison, Sir Keegan held the responsibility of protecting the rift, lest Orcus’ unholy powers once again seep into the world. In that duty, he failed and, to this day, his spirit still despairs over that failure. Long years ago, Orcus’ vile taint soaked through the rift and into Keegan’s dreams. A madness overcame him and he went postal, killing many of his soldiers before the survivors managed to seal him in the passages below the keep.
After ascertaining that we were worthy to carry on with his work and purge Shadowfell Keep of those seeking to open the rift, Sir Keegan gifted Sulader with Aecris, his +1 magic longsword. Keegan also told us to be sure and take the dragon amulets we had found in the altars outside his tomb.
Sir Keegan regretted the injuries we sustained during the battle with his skeletal legion, but told us the area in the vicinity of his tomb was now a safe zone where we could take an extended rest and recuperate, if we so wished. So that’s what we did.