Considering their numbers, one might have thought that some sneaky plan of approach would be broached around the campfire as the three prepared for their assault, but no, the cleric of Ziggurd was not interested in such fare. He swigged his barley wine and insisted on kicking down the door. Suntop and Kara did not seem to mind. And so the foolhardy heroes burst into Moradin’s Nexus with swords bared.They were met by two large greenskin drummers perched on a high platform who beat one final beat of warning that echoed to the vaulted ceiling, then picked up their drums and threw them! The iron barrels crashed past the trio harmlessly. Orc warriors began pouring in form various side passages. Magnus rushed up the stairs, seeking to scale the twisting ramparts of the Plug. Suntop followed closely, covering the dwarf. Orcs raged upon them, shattering their clubs upon the dwarf’s shield and getting sent sailing off the ledge by the elf’s well placed arrows.
Meanwhile, Kara the Gladiatorran for cover and pulled a sturdy rope and grapple from his pack. This he tossed above where it hooked securely into the metal infrastucture of the dwarven scaffolding. Quickly he climbed the rope and came face to face with the orcish brutes who had taken up massive bolt throwers mounted on their plate sized belt buckles and proceeded to aim their black javelins at him while he was accosted by attacks of rampaging drudges.Magnus and Suntop struggled toward the rope from the second level, hoping to follow Kara to the third level, but the dwarf was unable to heave his armor clad bulk up the thin cord.
From a passage emerged a massive, dread warrior garbed in armor made of the bones of tormented soldiers, flanked by a tall figure in a shadowy robe. The dread warrior wore a forbidding horned helm that masked his features and carried a darkly gleaming sword. He made haste to the melee. His companion hurled a black bolt of pure shadow that wrapped Kara’s head in darkness before hastening to follow the horned one. The gladiator could not see beyond his reach, but then, he had foes enough for his sword to taste without moving a step.
“Oh, man,” said the Horned One, with the a voice obscured by his helm but still accented with what could only be described as delicate, cultured tones. “With this obsidian blade, called Graefling, I will speed your embrace of darkness. Fie on on those who would resist and thus instigate the savage urges of Beast.”The battle raged hither and yon, with Magnus trapped below, sputtering with rage, and Suntop pinned between an iron pillar and a deadly plummet, unable to avoid the blows of these dark invaders. Soon enough, both elf and man lay stricken on the ground, and the deathdealers turned their attentions to Magnus below them. But Magnus had only begun to fight! He called upon Ziggurd Moradinsonand bathed in that consecrating light, the two companions leaped to their feat, eager to join the fight once more, even as the wielder of the Graefling descended to strike the dwarf a savage blow.
But the kind favor of the dwarven pantheon had turned the tide of battle now, and the shadow-witch cried out as her leige was smote to the ground, his sword falling from limp wrist, and helm tumbling from sweaty brow. The bones of his infernal armor crumbled, and there lay a slender man, his pale grey angular face framed with white hair, his pointed ears revealing some distant heritage to Suntop’s people. In his eyes were burned the emotions of anguish and shame. “Forgive me… I never meant to go so far astray. Tunguska… that cruel horn… my love D’nae… FLEE!” With that he died, and his lover fled the scene dodging arrows sent by the merciless ranger, who took up the chase and likewise disappeared into darkness, but not before fiddling some knobs and causing the chamber to begin filling with scalding water.
Kara and Magnus caught their breath, but realized they had to make a decision quickly. And they did. Taking up the obsidian sword Graefling and liberating a necklace of onyx skulls, the pair rushed up the ramps and followed the elf, even as the room filled with steam.
A dim rush into who knew what followed. The passage seemed to wend ever on, up and around, over and down, now smooth, now rough, but always in dim shadows, following a sourceless light that was ever around the bend and just enough to see the next step ahead. And so following their headstrong noses, the adventurers tumbled out onto an entirely unexpected sight. They looked out from a cave in the side of a mountain.
The land before them was like nothing they had 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 pale and somehow failed to cut the darkness that draped every rock and every blade of grass in gray gloom. This was the Shadowfell of legend and myth, that dark dimension of nightmare where children are taken by the night and by the changlings of the forest, where the dead ruled over the living, where the legions of Danzig never ceased their pitiless tread across the dusty remnants of civilization.
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 spread. 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, a gorge of slow-moving flame passing through, and a permanent pall of glowing red-black smoke rose above it. Over this molten flow, a great stone bridge arched. North of the bridge, at the edge of town, a tall castle heaved into the sky so that the entire encampment lurked in its shadow.
Magnus Magnusson brought his mug to his lips and realized it was dry. No beer. His god had never felt so far away. Perhaps this had been a rash decision…