Our intrepid heroes head to the basement of the Kiris mansion. There, they see the following:
The room is shrouded in shadows. The only light emanates from four blue-green crystal columns, sculpted into screaming skulls and bones piled into pillars. A dais along the eastern wall holds a large altar bin filled with blood and floating corpses. Three naked hobgoblin bodies hang upside-down from the roof, their wrists and throats slit. You can still hear their moaning, even though they ought to be dead. Some unholy power seems to keep them alive, allowing their blood to continue to drip into the altar bin below. A leering statue of a ram faced demon stands behind the altar holding a skull capped wand.
Crimson streams of dark coagulated blood trail across the floor from the altar bin and terminate at a grate covering a hole in the middle of the floor of this shadowy cathedral. A mosaic of a grotesque demon head surrounds the grate. A human in dark robes stands in front of the altar, knife raised high, slicing at the bodies, singing a low, guttural prayer. A tattoo of a ram’s skull covers the man’s face. “O Great Master, Lord of Blood, we promise our souls to You Great Lord, we eat of your flesh and drink of your blood, and through You we will gain life everlasting. Receive this offering of blood and shadow, and bless us with your darkness!”
Sora, always the dramatic sort, manages to fool the cultist into believing he’d been captured, allowing the party to get close enough to attack before anyone in the room knew what was going on. With that head start, it wasn’t long before the party of four found themselves rifling through the clothing of their defeated foes, where they found a sheaf of papers. One has writting scrawled in the margins:
Seals on the prison can only be removed by one of the anointed guardians in a three stage ritual, allowing the opening of the prison.
Another mentions something called Winterhaunt. Of course, Idria recalls (perhaps from some long ago, past lifetime) that:
Once every 20 years, on the nights before the new moon that precedes the spring equinox, the Shadowfell draws near to Toril and its presence is felt more strongly: shadows grow colder, undead and creatures of shadow emerge to stalk the night, and the wards guarding rifts between the world and the Shadowfell weaken. These dark nights are commonly known as the Winterhaunt.
The third is a darkly foreboding poem:
It’s not long before the party meanders over to the grated hole in the center of the floor where the blood is running down, debating amongst themselves whether they should climb down the chains. Of course, in the end, who could resist seeing what’s behind door number two?
Kaltharin, Sora, and Ellariel nimbly make their way down the blood soaked chains… Idria not so lucky. Losing her grip half way down, she plummeted the rest of the way, luckily falling on Kaltharin’s soft head.
Darkness and dripping blood surround you as you climb down the slippery chains of the demon pit. You descend into a twisted nightmare. Crimson streams of blood spill from above and form a pool in the center of the chamber. You land in its middle, ankle deep in coagulated blood, with the smell of copper and decay in your nostrils.
A yawning, black portal of shadows dominates the northern wall of the chamber. Something strains against the darkness within, wisps of shadow forming hands and faces, reaching out, straining against it as if it were a thin film keeping back vicious clawed beasts within. A set of blazing runes has been inscribed on the floor before the portal. Echoing whispers from a hundred dim voices can be heard from the portal, chanting for you, beckoning you to open the rift.
Opposite the portal, a massive statue of a demon stands. It points toward the shadow portal with a skull-capped wand, as if ordering it to rupture.
To the east, a series of steps lead to a platform where a small pit is flanked by two smaller statues of the same demon. A shadowy form with two piercing eyes of fire and undeath stares at you and fills your hearts with fear.
To the west another set of steps ascends to an altar of bone flanked by wide pillars. A human clad in heavy armor and carrying a skull-capped rod stands behind an altar filled with books and scrolls, two skeletons guarding him.
His eyes are closed, and a book rests open before him. He chants a low, droning prayer. “O Prince of the Undead, Master of Decay, Bane of Life, we thrive in your shadow. Deliver unto us eternal unlife and fill the world with blood and shadows, O thou Lord of Misery!”
Though the heroes again try to pass Sora off as a captive, the plan falls apart once they realize two of the enemies assembled below are none other than Gevaren and Treona. Together, they seem to be casting an elaborate ritual, one that Kaltharin is able to deduce as a ritual of unbinding.
Gevaren seems to be made of much tougher stuff than expected, weathering quite a beating without showing too many signs of slowing, until with a look of extreme shock, he’s pushed back into the rift, to be sucked in and instantly destroyed.
At just this moment, Ellariel’s faith falters, her prayers to The Raven Queen go unanswered, and the adventures fail to reverse the ritual unbinding the rift. With a stunned: “Fools, what have you done!? Run!!” Treona turns into mist, and flys up the grate in the ceiling.
The black, opaque barrier fades away. All is eerily silent. Behind the shadowy film, a tunnel stretches down, a cold chill of death emanating from the depths. (Ellariel recognizes it as an entrance to the Shadowfell) As a tremor is felt throughout the floor, the adventurers take that as their cue to retreat. Idria, Sora, and Kaltharin scramble up the chains, though Ellariel’s hands slip on the slick blood, and she slides back down. Something is coming up, out of the blackened tunnel. Ellariel’s curiosity gets the better of her, and she waits at the bottom of one of the chains, eyes straining intently into the darkness.
Out of the rift comes the stooping gait of what looks to be an emaciated ghoul, it’s eyes shining a vibrant green. The ghoul lays eyes on Ellariel, licks it’s lips hungrily, and starts forward, though not in time to catch her as she scrambles just out of reach.
As the foundations of the mansion begin to collapse, our four heroes find themselves gasping for breath, lying on the floor of the basement of the ancient Kiris manor.