Session 6: The Plot Thickens!
As the party looted the bodies and tied up Agrid, Tabris talked with Nathan. The turncoat merc showed them that Douven was alive, if a bit beaten up. With Douven awake and healed, he pulled out a large dragon shaped statue from one of the storage crates. Douven explained that Agrid was searching for this statue, an ancient gift of friendship from the Nerath Empire to the dragon that used to live in this region. Why the gnome wanted it, he didn’t have a clue. Eventually, the group decided to interrogate the gnome.
Agrid awoke in his undies and deep in a hole in the ground. He was bluffed into believing the party was going to bury him alive. As Kalidus kept pouring dirt into Agrid’s makeshift grave, Agrid looked to Nathan for support only for the merc to point out that the gnome didn’t have anything of value anymore. Agrid tried to be defiant but inadvertently blurted out that he and his crew worked for Kalerel. Norkul lunged forward and grasped the gnome by his neck. The avenger demanded a location. Tabris pretended to pull his friend off the gnome and conned Agrid into believing that Tabris was on his side. Eventually, Agrid admitted that Kalerel was hiding in Shadowfell Keep. Although trying to get any more info from Agrid was like pulling teeth, Nathan undermined the gnome’s lies. He told the group that Kalerel’s party consisted of goblins, hobgoblins, humans and several undead. While he didn’t have exact numbers, he guessed that there were about a hundred or so all total. Nathan asked if they had any more questions and when they said no, the halfling mercenary simply bowed and made his exit. He wasn’t stupid enough to stay around Winterhaven any more. The party escorted Douven back to Winterhaven and dragged Agrid along so that he could cool his heels in a guard cell.
When they arrived in Winterhaven, they were greeted by priestess Linora. She was a little stunned about the hogtied, almost nude gnome but composed herself. She had spoken to the captain of the guards, Rond Keflem, about the cult and the idea of a spy. They had focused their investigation on Nema, the tiefling merchant. According to Linora, the tiefling was carrying a large quantity of sending scrolls on her and frequently sneaking in and out of Winterhaven. When they pressed her information, she refused to give the name of her merchant master. The situation escalated until they decided to toss her in a cell. They also tried to search for the elven huntress, Ninaran, but she had apparently left town and they couldn’t find her. Linora wanted the party’s assistance in further questioning.
After tossing Agrid into a cell and warning the guards about the gnome’s invisibility tricks, the group proceeded to talk to Nema. She was indignant at first but agreed to speak only in front of Tabris and Harbek. Although everyone else left the cell area, Norkul placed his ear against the door and listened in. Nema explained that she had been using those scrolls to keep in contact with her employer, Estavan. By her description, Estavan was a giant ogre with a sharp mind and an eye for business. Nema usually acted as his face in villages, towns and cities where people would be unnerved to see an ogre regardless if they were just selling goods. She admitted to sneaking out and in from time to time but honestly told them that she wasn’t trying to harm Winterhaven at all. She personally blamed the demographic of the village, “Just because I have horns, red skin and a tail doesn’t mean I’m crazy enough to worship Orcus!” The two men agreed to do their best to convince the guards of her innocence. After having some words with Linora, the priestess soon found herself regretting how things had turned out. She was interested in justice and didn’t mind giving Nema a chance to prove her innocence. Rond was not so easily convinced and wanted Lord Padraig’s take on this before even considering letting her go.
With numerous things to discuss, the Heroes of Winterhaven, Linora and Douven met with Lord Padraig. Lord Padraig congratulated them on their success with the Kobolds and paid them for their services. During the meeting, Norkul stepped forward and brought up the cult business again. Before Padraig could dismiss such notions again, he showed the amulet of Orcus and the Letter to Irontooth to him. Linora proceeded to back up Norkul’s claim and highly advised him not to dismiss it again. Harbek also mentioned Agrid’s arrest as further proof. By now, the Lord of Winterhaven was sweating bullets. He immediately wanted to hire the group to deal with this threat and offered them 250 gold each. When one of the heroes requested a small portion of land as well, Padraig grudgingly accepted the deal. He suggested that they chat with Valthran, the local wizard and historian in town. Douven also offered his services as well in this endeavor. Before they departed, the group brought up Nema’s imprisonment. Linora admitted that she might have been too hasty in her search for a spy. Padraig agreed that he’d want her set free if she really was innocent. If they party could provide proof of that, she would be released. The plan was to contact Estavan and have him prove her credibility.
Once the meeting ended, Tabris suggested that Douven contact his wife before he got knee deep in research. Norkul also wanted to send an update of the situation to Marla back in Fallcrest. With a little help from Markus, both messages were ready to be sent. Harbek used the down time to collect his staff from the dwarven smithy and turn in the autheticity parchment to Barwin’s Grand Shoppe. Morgran spent his time shopping and preparing for the journey tomorrow.
After the message was sent, Tabris and Douven headed to Valthran’s tower. After digging through the books, The trio learned that the history of Shadowfell Keep. Hundreds of years ago during the time of the great empires, a temple to orcus stood upon this land. The human empire of Nerath fought a bloody war with the cultists and their army of undead. They even called for aid from other empires and a silver dragon. Eventually, the temple was burned to the ground and the cult defeated. The alliance discovered a rift gate in the lowest portion of the temple ruins that led to another plane under Orcus’ control. Naturally, destroying a rift gate was a suicidal idea on principle. The arcane energies released from an active gate’s destruction would scorch the land for several miles. Thus, the alliance decided to seal the gate instead. The statue was critical for a ritual regarding a rift gate. With the statue, one could seal the gate or hold it open indefinitely. Thus the statue was entrusted to the silver dragon to protect. The Nerath Empire also built a fortress on top of the temple remains. Unfortunately, the fortress is now a ruin and Kalerel’s forces have apparently moved in. A skilled caster wouldn’t need the statue to actually open the gate, but they would be unable to leave the gate’s location. It was decided that the group had to enter the belly of the beast and reseal the gate.
Before they left, Valthran cast a ritual to shrink the statue to make it easier to carry. He gave Tabris a reversal ritual scroll to increase it back to its normal size. When Tabris inquired about what they needed to do, Valthran said that there should be an altar nearby with inscriptions. He stated there was a chance the inscriptions were Draconic. Douven offered to do any necessary translation work but Tabris was concerned about putting him into more danager. It was then that he came up with a brilliant idea. The group could use Nema’s collection of sending ritual scrolls to contact Douven and get a translation without having to risk his life. However this required that they get her out of her cell first.
Tabris caught up with the rest of the group and they headed for the jail cells. With Rond’s permission, they proceeded to interrogate Agrid further at the guard house. Tabris worked together with the guards to make it seem like everyone was clamoring for Agrid’s death and Tabris was the only voice of reason. Unfortunately, the gnome saw through the ploy and refused to talk. Tabris continued to goad him into speaking until he accidentally let slip that an ‘elven wench’ was the spy. When the bard identified her as Ninanran, Agrid’s face turned pale. With no deal on the table, the gnome tried to plead for his release with an artifact he hid at the burial site. Unfortunately, no one was buying his deal. Tabris offered to plead for leniency if the gnome drew a map of the lower levels of the keep. Once again, Agrid pushed his luck and drew up a fake map. If tabris hadn’t known the layout of the first level of the keep from Valthran’s books, he might have been fooled by the map. The party washed their hands of the gnome and let the guards knock him out when he started acting up again. The confession from Agrid was enough that Rond grudgingly let Nema go but he warned her to stay within village limits until this cult business is over. Grateful to be out, Nema agreed to help the party. She gave them four sending ritual scrolls.
As evening set in, Tabris caught everyone to speed regarding the history of the Shadowfell Keep. Nema and Douven got a chance to chat among themselves and she learned how to properly pronounce draconic words. The group decided to rest for the night and head to the ruins first thing in the morning. Late that night, Norkul, Harbek and Nema were shocked out of their sleep with a cold chill running down their spines. As quickly as the feeling came, it ended moments later. While nothing looked out of the ordinary, Harbek was able to sense that the chilling wave had come from the North, specifically in the direction of Shadowfell Keep. He had a brief chat with Nema the next morning about it and Nema also offered to join the group whenever she could get the ‘stubborn tin-heads’ to ease off the leash. She hoped it would be before this cultist business was resolved but she doubted it. Together, they learned that this night chill wasn’t an isolated incident. Salvana overheard them and commented that a few other patrons had complained to her about a draft. Although they couldn’t tell what it meant, they all felt it was a bad sign…