The Stauls managed to track down the elf huntress, Ninaran. After questioning her, she revealed that she had only met Douven once several years ago and had no idea who had sold Douven’s amulet. When pressed for an explanation as to why many had pointed at her as a likely candidate, she pointed out they were probably just sore over getting trounced in back alley brawls when they got touchy-feely.
Having few leads, the group decided to check out the Dragon Burial ground.
One month earlier:
Tharien was at a secluded temple of Ioun in the north, where he served as a paladin; a defender of the temple and a guardian of their scholars when they traveled abroad. The temple received a letter from Douven, who was an old acquaintance of theirs, indicating that he needed help with an excavation south of Winterhaven, and to keep it to themselves.
After a long trek they arrived at the site, and Douven was there waiting. Over the next week they worked, digging various spots within a small area but finding nothing, until finally someone struck bone.
Soon after, Douven began acting strangely. He would sleepwalk in the night, wandering around the camp and whispering to himself in an unfamiliar tongue. When he was awake, he couldn’t remember sleepwalking, but seemed to have terrible dreams. When asked, he refused to speak of them.
Finally one night when Tharien’s watch came up, he looked around for Douven and couldn’t find him. After an hour of Douven being missing, they began to organize a search party. Just at that instant, droves of goblins attacked from the dark, led by a halfling and a gnome. Those in the group who weren’t slain were taken captive and eaten over the next several weeks.
During Tharien’s captivity, he was kept gagged and blindfolded, forced to listen to the screams of his comrades as they were gutted and cooked. During this time he overheard a few snippets of conversation between the gnome, named Agrid, and a woman with an ice cold voice. They would occasionally mention someone named Kalarel, though he wasn’t sure who that was. He did, however, recognize the name Orcus.
The Stauls arrived at the excavation site at night. Taking stock of the scene, they saw several goblin workers, a halfling, and a gnome. In the pit, half unearthed and roped off, was the skeletal remains of a dragon, one rather larger than Szartharrax. One goblin was watching over a bundle, in which something moved periodically.
Unsure of whether or not these people were friends or foes, the group remained hidden while Sid went down to introduce herself. The gnome, introducing himself as Agrid, seemed amicable enough. When asked what was under the blanket in the corner, kicking, Agrid explained it was one of their own that had tried to steal some of the finds from the site for himself. When asked about Douven, he claimed to have heard of him, but never met him. At the mention of his name, the form under the blanket kicked.
Sid asked for permission to ask their prisoner a few questions of her own, and Agrid agreed, subtly motioning for the goblins to arm themselves as he led her over to the prisoner. Before they got there, Nil shot Agrid with a magic missile, and Agrid vanished. The fight was joined in earnest, though the Stauls were able to free the prisoner, Tharien, and won with ease.
Tharien, remarkably restrained for having just been freed from his ordeal, demanded answers from Agrid, who gave them freely. He really had never met Douven, but had been hired to come here and take over the site by Kalarel, a man who had a hideout in Shadowfell Keep When they arrived, Douven was gone. All he knew was that Kalarel wanted the mirror buried next to the dragon.
The group checked out the mirror, and found that it was large and circular, framed in a strange black metal and adorned with runes in Abyssal. Sid was able to decipher that the mirror’s function was that of a key of some kind, but to what she wasn’t sure. On the other side of the mirror, the glass is a distorted, smoky black, and it gives a headache to anyone looking at it. It almost seems as if there’s something within the glass, brushing against it.
While they were occupied, Agrid escaped and vanished. After exchanging information about Douven, Tharien and the Stauls decided to take the mirror back to Winterhaven and try to figure out what to do with it from there.
Once back in Winterhaven, they spoke to Valthrun the Prescient, who was taken quite aback to see this mirror and learn that there was indeed a dragon buried at that site after all. He was bothered even more to hear about Orcus and Kalarel hiding out in Shadowfell Keep. He finally told them everything that he knew about the Keep’s history.
At one time, a cult of Orcus had a lair at that site. They were subsequently purged by an order of paladins of Bahumut, with the blessing of the Nerath Empire. Upon the site they built a keep in order to maintain watch over the portal and ensure that nobody ever reopened it. However, shortly after the Nerath Empire fell, the garrison commander, Sir Keegan, went insane and slaughtered his family and most of the commanding officers before being driven deep into the tunnels beneath. The reason he lost his mind was because there were things on the other side of the portal that were still able to exert influence over mortal minds.
The Stauls, concerned that a similar fate may have befallen Douven, made arrangements to have the guard ramped up at Valthrun’s tower while they went to Shadowfell Keep to assess the threat and deal with it, if indeed a cult of Orcus had taken up residence once again. And with any luck, they would find Kalarel and get him to tell them where in the hell their father was.
“If you see someone in need, help them out. It’s good karma.”—Douven Staul, raising his kids right.
“The great thing about karma is that it takes many forms; food, drink, money…and favors. Of every sort.”—Douven Staul, getting fresh with the local ladies after halting an inter-dimensional invasion.