Through the dark portal, the party found themselves in a massive and ancient ruins of a temple once dedicated to Orcus, entirely carved from polished black stone and cluttered with ornately terrifying sculptures and statues all seeming to move in the dim shadows of Istarya's magical light. An encompassing feeling of melancholy fell upon the party, as the atmosphere of the Shadowfell flowed through them, they noticed that even the brightest torches and lights only dimly illuminated the world around them. Several sets of humanoid tracks going in and out of the temple cluttered around Modra's small pair leading from the portal through the doors of the temple, and a large set of dragon tracks that stopped shortly through the portal as if the beast took flight. Outside, a grey dirt road wound through a grim countryside beneath a roiling sky of dark clouds shrouding the sun beyond.
Bare trees grasped towards the dim sky, and only a few stray crows flew about on a cool, distant breeze. Far off in the distance ahead, a large settlement could be seen with a large tower on one side and a collection of mountains spewing lava on the other. Beneath the tower a large foundry could be seen spanning the river of lava, covered in chimneys billowing smoke into the sky.
As the party neared the shanty-like settlement beneath the tower, a pair of dark one scouts called out to them from the cover of the grass. Believing the party to be mercenaries, they chided them for being so far outside of the camps, but were surprised to find the party were not mercenaries at all. Warning them to not go any closer to the settlement, called Umbraforge, they threatened the party would be killed if they were seen again. Waiting for the scouts to continue on, the party ventured discreetly into the sprawling huts and make-shift buildings finding several merchant squares, mercenary training grounds, and a fenced off slave prison.
The party split up, several members searching for equipment amongst the merchants while Teodora took the the closest tavern to get a drink. Istarya found himself talking to the troll merchant, Ninyo, a noble purveyor of frost weapons. Teodora became fast friends with the minotaur Minos, sharing their joy for beer and a few laughs. Gwrtheyrn decided to visit one of the mercenary training grounds, and strong-armed a puny human into giving up some information that a dragon had been seen (possibly with a rider on its back) flying towards the volcanic mountains, called the Shadow Rift. The party quickly learned that Umbraforge and the tower were the domain of the shadar-kai arms dealer named Sarshan, and that he was not currently in Umbraforge due to a large force moving out several days ago.
Deciding to follow Klar and the dragon, the party began the long climb up the mountains towards the Shadow Rift itself, climbing around a large fissure in the path, and sneaking passed a pair of sleeping shadar-kai guards. The mountains were shaken regularly by tremors from the Shadow Rift, a seemingly unstable connection to the Elemental Chaos that was threatening to destroy the mountains and all of Umbraforge. At the top they found a cave lit by lava, with a shadar-kai portal along one wall and a precipice on the far end on top of which sat a very large, cracked egg with a familiar looking sword sticking out of it. The sword appeared to be a twin sword of the Sword of Julunggul, and the egg was clearly that of a dragon and pulsing with energy.
Below the precipice, on a ledge just above the flowing lava, lay the body of Kalseru the blue dragon seemingly dead. As the party debated a course of action, and a few failed attempts at pulling the sword out of the egg, the portal activated and to their surprise Klar and Modra came running through. Looking quite shocked, Klar claimed he was coming there to remove the sword from the egg, an action which Lel took on himself to complete. As the fiery sword was removed from the egg, its shell crumbled apart and a large red dragon flopped to the ground, its eyes slowly opening.
As it climbed to its feet and stretched, it claimed to be quite tired and ready to get some exercise, deciding to kill everyone in the room seemingly for fun. As Julunggul attacked, Klar promised he would help fight the dragon and then surrender to the party if they stopped attacking him, while Modra attempted to flee but was stopped by collapsing rocks as the cave entrance was closed by a tremor from the rift. Modra fled back through the portal, while the party and Klar fought bitterly against Julunggul while the cavern around them crumbled and slowly filled with lava.
After killing the dragon and Lel taking a claw from it as a trophy, the party fled through the only exit available, the shadar-kai portal. Finding themselves in a lush garden within the crumbling tower of Umbraforge, the party discovered several dead orc bodies with their faces painted black. Istarya identified them as members of the Black Mask Orc tribe, a once grand tribe from the north-east near Ithacarus, and discovered a letter on one of the bodies detailing plans to exchange training and orc troops for shadar-kai weapons. Around the garden were four portals, one to the Rift which the party had entered through, one overgrown and seemingly out of use, one leading to what appeared to be a small and dark room, and the other to an unrecognized but familiar location.
Branching out from the central part of the tower were several abandoned libraries and laboratories, filled with notes on biological and magical experiments being performed in the foundry using slaves and mercenaries. Exploring one of the labs, Lel found an unconcious human who had crawled up from the lower levels of the tower, who Carric and Teodora quickly recognized as the missing priest from Portalis named Piotr. Fearing orcs, shadow-goblins, and shadar-kai still running around the lower levels of the tower, the party took Piotr and fled through the familiar portal in the garden. Each member of the party found themselves floating alone in a starry expanse, a dim horizon visible in the distance and absolute silence all around.
A feeling washed over them as if moving incredibly fast but still standing still, as if their body and soul were being pulled in opposite directions. Suddenly aware of an imposing presence from behind, they could feel a large mass close but infinitely far away, and looking over their shoulder they were stunned to see a gigantic amorphous sphere of reflective black liquid emitting a faint humming sound. Slowly their minds filled with strange and maddening whispers, a cacophony of screams and insanity, as a black streak cleaved through the center of the spherical mass.
Slowly spreading apart, like a pair of dark liquid eyelids, they revealed a something like a gigantic alien eye peering downward at them, still floating alone in the starry expanse. As the eye affixed on them, visions congealed in their minds. They saw Royal Lesandrian troops marching into the town of Portalis. They saw ships with dark sails, hulls and prows carved in ornate patterns, cutting through vicious waves on the open sea. Istarya witnessed the very passage of time coming to an aburpt end, cut short by an unseen force. The sound of a cackling man could be heard in the distance. Carric witnessed his home town, Andonental, occupied by Serathis' army as he left it but expanding in all directions turning forests into city squares and the entire bay belonging to the empire. Teodora witnessed her god Pelor's body slumped lifeless upon a rock, pinned by a spear held by the cloaked and helmed form of the god Bane, standing triumphantly atop the dead god.
Lel witnessed his mentor Merzim, hurt and curled up on a stone prison floor, and then being consumed by Vlaakith a second time. Gwrtheyrn witnessed the temple of Bahamut where he was found, including all of the priests who raised him, wreathed in flames and then the temple collapsing into a pile of rubble. Nox witnessed the largest hobgoblin tribe ever assembled as slaves to orc masters, all bowing to a large orc chieftain wearing a black suit of armor covered in spikes. McGwyver witnessed his sister Mercedes imprisoned, then on trial in a Tarturian court being sentenced and put to death.
As the visions faded, the party found themselves all together again standing just outside of Portalis, with no portal visible anywhere around them. As their eyes adjusted to the morning light, a loud thunder sounded overhead and a shadow swept over the land, created by a large Tarturian airship flying towards the center of town escorted by several smaller airborne vessels. From the opposite direction, formations of gryphons flying Sartean banners could be seen flying into Portalis. The diplomats had arrived.
1,150xp – Teodora, Istarya, Carric, Lel, and Gwrtheyrn
214xp Quest – Nox Arg'Belkord and McGwyver