THE SHADOW RIFT
They descended into a nightmare.
Crimson streams spilled from above and formed a shallow pool of blood in the center of the chamber, where they stood. A yawning, black portal dominated the northern wall, and something strained against the darkness within, as if it were a thin film keeping back a vicious clawed beast. Vigo knew what it was. “The portal leads to Shadowfell… a place of unspeakable evil” he muttered to his companions “Any living creature that passes through it will die, instantly”. Stairing at the portal with fear, Bree took a step closer to Redgar, seeking his protection.
Opposite the portal stood a massive statue of Orcus, pointing toward the darkness with a skull-capped wand. To the east, steps rose to a platform where a pit was flanked by two smaller statues of Orcus. Beiro’s sharp eyes noticed a gaunt figure crouching near them, with its long, black claw-tipped fingers twitching. A circle of blazing runes had been inscribed on the floor before the portal.
To the west, another set of steps ascended to a high ledge supporting an altar of bone and wide pillars. Two skeletal warriors guarded the stairs; tendons and sinew bound their bones strongly together, and their longsword gleamed in the dim light of the chamber.
Wearing a horned helm and carrying a skull-capped rod, Kalarel stood behind the altar. His eyes were closed, and a book rested open before him. He was chanting a low, droning prayer when the heroes came down the chains from the floor above.
“Welcome, guests. I waited long for your arrival” Kalarel shouted in his crazed, barritone voice. As Kalarel spoke, the undead crept towards the heroes. Redgar gripped his shield handle tight, cold sweat streaming down his cheeks. “The opening of the Shadow Rift is nigh,” Kalarel continued, “Will you join me and witness this great moment of our Lord Orcus?”
The undead attacked.
Redgar and Bree engaged the skeletons.
Soveliss locked with the wight in a magical contest.
Vigo called upon Bahamut’s strength and courage.
Beiro prepared to engage Kalarel.
Kalarel vanished, then reappeared inside the circle of blazing rune in front of the portal, shooting his Decaying Ray at Redgar. Redgar grunted, immediately feeling weak, necrotic energy weighing heavily on his entire body. He almost fell to his knees, but his Blackiron armour gleamed darkly, absorbing some of the Ray’s effects, giving him just enough strength to deflect the skeletal warrior’s fast longsword thrusts with his shield. Before Kalarel could shoot more of the Decaying Ray, Beiro pounced, his twin blades dancing in the air, forcing Kalarel to fight him in melee instead.
The air between Soveliss and the deathlock wight sparked with frosty shards and necrotic energy as the two locked in a battle of magic. The wight was gaining ground, its power enhanced by the dark energy of the small statues of Orcus which stood behind it, until one of its bolt hit Soveliss’ legs; necrotic energy jolted through Soveliss’ nerves, immobilising him as he double over in agony. Vigo, continuing desperately to call upon Bahumut’s help, stepped in front of his wizard companion to defend him.
Bree ducked and rolled skilfully from her skeletal foe’s speedy cuts. But Bree wasn’t merely dodging the attacks; she was circling, each swift step putting her where she wanted to be, behind the skeletal warrior that was pressing down on Redgar.
Redgar’s muscles felt like lead, the Decaying Ray’s effect now coursing through his entire body, until finally, he could no longer lift his shield. The skeletal warrior raised its longsword for a final backhand swipe, and Redgar clenched his jaws. Blade crunched and sliced through muscle and bone… but it wasn’t Redgar, it was the skeleton’s neck and Bree’s shortsword! The skeletal head flew across the chamber and through the shadow portal and beyond, while the rest of the body crumbled to the floor in a heap of useless metal and bone. “Bree… I owe you another one…” muttered Redgar, but Bree was already on the move, tumbling away from the second skeleton’s downward cut.
Beiro’s swords clashed with Kalarel’s Rod of Ruin. Clad in scale armour, Kalarel made a formidable figure. Despite his pale flesh and gaunt cheeks, he moved with strength and vitality, his eyes glazed with fanaticism. Beiro struggled to pass Kalarel’s defences even with two swords, and Kalarel was beginning to gain ground. Immediately assessing the situation, Beiro suddenly withdrew, sheathing his swords and drawing his longbow and arrows to engage Kalarel from a distance. Grinning, Kalarel prepared to fire his Decaying Ray.
With his shield held up, Vigo slowly advanced towards the wight, as the wight continued to fire its necrotic bolts from its finger tips at the Dragonborn. Soon Vigo came to striking distance of his mace, but just as he was about to swing, he looked upon the horrific visage of the wight; its leathery skin stretched taut over its bones, nose sunken and lips pulled back in a death grimace. Unnatural fear gripped him, and he fell backwards. The wight shot necrotic bolts into Vigo, its death grimace unchanging as Vigo writhed and screamed in pain on the bloodied floor.
Soveliss was still unable to move, but seeing Vigo fall, cast his Scorching Burst spell around the wight. The wight was engulfed in flames. It did not feel pain nor fear from the flames, but it knew that the flames were burning its body as the skin burned and melted away. Whilst the flames lasted only but a moment, it was enough to stop it from killing Vigo. The wight hissed at Soveliss. Soveliss hissed back.
Redgar regained his strength as the effects of the Ray wore off. He turned towards Kalarel, who was readying another Decaying Ray, this time at Beiro. Shield in front, Redgar charged, knocking Kalarel side-on. Kalarel staggered but did not fall, immediately swinging his heavy rod toward Redgar. Redgar ducked. The two were now locked in a fierce battle of strength against strength.
Beiro lowered his bow. He was unable to shoot Kalarel now that Redgar was fighting him. He assessed the situation; Bree was fighting the skeleton. Redgar battled Kalarel. Vigo and Soveliss was engaged with the wight. “Everyone’s busy”, he muttered, but just then, noticed a small, gargoyle-like creature swooping down towards Bree from the ceiling; it was the Clay Scout which they let escape from the upper floor, now trying to attack them.
Two arrows flew; one just in front of the clay scout, stopping its’ descent towards Bree. Another struck off one of its clay arms. Screeching, the clay scout tried to flee up the hole in the ceiling. Two more arrows flew, this time through its head and heart, and the thing fell lifeless to the floor. Beiro assessed the situation. He ran toward Bree and the skeleton.
Bree continued her duel with the skeletal warrior. On her own she struggled to make any decisive strike against the heavily armoured undead. Beiro then joined her, striking from behind the skeleton. It turned to face Beiro, and that’s all Bree needed; the skeleton crumbled to the floor as Bree placed several swift strikes to its vital joints.
Grunting in pain, Vigo regained his feet and charged at the wight. “Bahamut!” he cried, bringing his mace down. The wight managed to deflect the mace, but then was struck by Soveliss’ Ray of Frost, ice taking hold of its movements. Seizing his chance, Vigo swung his mace again, this timing striking the wight square on its hideous face. Radiant energy flowed through his mace into the wight, destroying it instantly.
Kalarel pushed Redgar back. Gesturing towards the fallen skeletons, he shouted “rise!” Answering to the priest’s command, the bones shook, reassembled into skeletal form, and slowly began to re-animate. Bree rolled her eyes, but didn’t waste any time and hacked one skeleton back to the ground, while the other skeleton, with its missing head, rose, shook again, then crumbled back to the ground. “And stay down!” said Bree with glee.
Kalarel was now alone. The Thing in the portal writhed, as if trying to grab any living being and drag it into the darkness of the Shadow. Redgar rushed him with his shield again, pushing him further away from the portal. Bree slipped past behind him, short sword stabbing. Beiro attacked with his twin blades. Vigo came as well, mace swinging. Soveliss shot his ray of frost…
Kalarel fell, although he didn’t hit the floor. Instead the Thing in the portal reached out with a shrieking scream, grabbing hold of Kalarel, pulling him up in the air and into the Shadow Rift. As he plunged to his death, Kalarel sung his praise to Orcus, his fanatical eyes full of fervent joy…