Stepping through the door, the enormous darkened chamber had walls and ceiling of white marble. The northwest corner of the room had collapsed, a fall of stone spreading out across the floor. To the south, a stone arch similar to that seen in the chamber to the east stood against the wall. Another archway stood in the center of the chamber. However, the interior of this arch was obscured by a wall of black mist that roiled and twisted as if blown by a fierce wind.
Another dark creeper stood before the arch, his hands pressed to it as he muttered an incantation. Suddenly aware of the party, he spun around, then vanished. The words of an incantation in Common rang out through the chamber: “Protect this place with shadow’s claws!” Suddenly, the dark mist obscuring the archway was torn through by a flash of white light. Six spectral shapes emerged from the archway, racing toward the party.
In the course of the fight, the party repelled the specters and opened the gate. Modra fled through the gate and the party quickly followed, after a short rest.
XP = 5th level (Ding!)
The party felt a wrenching sensation as bitter darkness swallowed them. Then the light returned, dimmed somehow. As eyes grew accustomed to the gloom, they found themselves in a chamber that appeared to be a strange inversion of the one they just left. The walls, floor, and ceiling were jet black, and the orientation of the room was reversed so that the door was now to the west and the second stone arch was on the north wall. What was a rubble fall to the northeast was now a rift where the floor had collapsed in the southwest. Along the walls, globes of gray glass gave off a dim light.
After a few minutes of conversation, the group exited the chamber, emerging from a rocky hillside. There, an incredible vista opened up. The land is like nothing the party has ever seen before. A wide plain of gray-green grass and stunted black trees
spread beneath a sky scoured by fast-moving clouds. The sun was bright above but somehow didn’t cut the darkness that draped every rock and every blade of grass in gray gloom. This was the Shadowfell.
From the mouth of the cavern, a wide and well-traveled road ran in a curving line to the north. There, perhaps a quarter-mile away, a military camp sprawled. Buildings were scattered here and there, with tents and pavilions spreading between them. Torches and fires burned brightly against the ever-present shadow, and lone trees and tall stands of gray-green grass were whipped by a hissing wind.
Looming above it all, a rise of black rock to the west was rent by a seething volcanic rift. Black-streaked lava coursed from it to descend into a narrow channel, and a permanent pall of glowing red-black smoke rose above it. Over this molten flow, a great stone bridge was arched. This wide east-west road met the road north from the cavern. North of the bridge, a tall tower stood and a lower building spread in its shadow.
Ali and Bree scouted ahead but were quickly met as a voice rang out, and two dark creeper sentries suddenly appeared where the shadows of the tall grass had hidden
them. “All mercenaries stay within the borders of the camps!” one shouts angrily. “Next time you go wandering, you get shot, sellswords!”
Now sticking to the roads, the party approached the frontier of the mercenary camps
unchallenged, and a virtual city spread out before them. Beneath patched canvas tents stood open-air taverns, market stalls, apothecaries and herbalists, weaponsmiths
and armorers, butchers and greengrocers—all doing roaring trade.
Training grounds opened up between the various camps, and soldiers of different races clashed against each other with sword and shield. In the quieter corners, combat
casters trained—the flare of arcane fire dancing between them. But as the party approached, they noticed with surprise that these are not Shadowfell mercenaries for the most part. Though shadar-kai and dark ones were well represented, the fields and camps were packed with orcs and hobgoblins, ogres and trolls, lizardfolk and kobolds and a dozen other monstrous races of the world.
Making their way through the market, the team was able to hear a number of interesting rumors.
- This is Umbraforge, dominion of Sarshan, a trader of great reputation and even greater wealth. The tower, foundry, and forges are his. The camps are those of the mercenaries and slaves whose services he sells across the Shadowfell and the world.
- “Sarshan is shadar-kai, an outcast who made a name for himself as the leader of a legendary mercenary band known as the Black Ar- row. At their height, the Arrow put so much fear in generals and kings alike that Sarshan would take payment to fight for one group, then take a bigger payment from their foe to stand down.
- Modra is known well in Umbraforge, but for all the wrong reasons now. He was one of Sarshan’s trusted lieutenants before he tried to a broker a weapons deal that Sarshan had already turned down.
- The job that Sarshan refused was some orc king’s raid on a dwarven citadel. Sarshan never makes a sale if it has a chance of coming back to him, and for good reason. This job went bad, they say, and people know that Modra sold the orc his weapons.
- Modra is long gone from Umbraforge and the Shadowfell, believe me. Sarshan’s got a long arm and a longer memory. The creeper would have to be crazy to come back here.
- The foundry is the new jewel of Sarshan’s operations. Its power comes from the fire and shadow driving its furnaces. Sarshan’s sages create beasts of battle there, born killers with magic in their blood.
- It used to be that Sarshan brokered mercenaries mostly within the Shadowfell, but that’s changing. Dark ones and shadar-kai are still his elite troops, but more and more, he brings creatures from the world to Umbraforge for training, then marches them off to places unknown.
- The Shadowfell is only a stopping-off place for Sarshan’s mercenaries. A force of archons from the Elemental Chaos was here not six months ago. I saw githzerai from the Astral Sea in Umbraforge once. I don’t know what job they took for Sarshan, but woe be to whoever got in their way.
- Sarshan’s slave bazaar is about more than just servants and soldiers. His experiments in the foundry only begin with dumb beasts. He’s building new soldier races there, born from the slaves he traffics.
- Sarshan’s mercenary operations have tripled in size in months past, but it’s not the Shadowfell they’re fighting in. When his forces are bought and sent on the march, they’re bound for portals to the world. Shadar-kai, dark ones, undead, giants, ogres, trolls, gnolls, orcs— Sarshan has the armies of two planes on the march. War is brewing in the world, but the forces that will fight it are moving into position in the Shadowfell, unseen.
Rummy was able to acquire a slave to carry things for him.
A couple of toughs tried to increase their rep by taking out the team but it only helped the PC’s. The mud near the slave pins was a little slick to fight in but not a significant challenge.
After the fight, a shadar-kai witch approached the team. She wore a black cloak edged with adamantine beads, and she kept her long hair plaited to hang down her back. Gold piercings lined her ears and lower lip, and a black starburst tattoo enclosed her right eye. She introduced herself as Leena and eventually got down to business.
“Modra and I worked together for a time, but when he elected to go behind Sarshan’s back, I told him we were done. I heard word of him in the camps even before you started asking around. He has a plan to disrupt Sarshan’s operations by destroying the foundry, then the tower. Sarshan has a private tunnel connecting the two, and Modra is planning on venting the foundry’s destructive energy there. A mass of mercenaries is moving out tonight. He’ll be using that as cover when he goes inside.”
“Modra’s made his bargain with fate, and honor decrees that he die for his betrayal. He won’t get tears from me. But if Sarshan captures him, he will die slowly. I’ll hope you make it quick.”
After Leena departed, the team entered into an intense discussion about goals and motives. Some suggested they stop Modra to get in good with Sarshan. Others suggested defeating Modra & Sarshan to stop war from spilling into the common world. Regardless of outcome, both groups agreed to stop Modra.