Assault on Nightwyrm Fortress
￼￼Shadow dragons haunt crumbling cities and sunken palaces within the Shadowfell, voraciously hoarding food, wealth, and power. They are driven to commit atrocities to satisfy their appetites, pitilessly enslaving other beings to work as soldiers and servants. Most shadow dragons live far from settlements and are content to prey on those who dare the deepest darkness beyond the dim light of civilization.
Some time ago, the shadow dragon Urishtar Nightwyrm discovered an ancient structure in the Shadowfell, one whose foundation predated the rise of the Raven Queen. Urishtar claimed the site for herself and renamed the dread place Nightwyrm Fortress. Within its chambers, Urishtar learned much—too much—about the passage of mortals from life to death. She turned her newfound knowledge to capturing the life energy of just-slain mortals as they raced through the Shadowfell toward their ultimate destiny. By diverting life energy from its proper fate, the dragon risks the wrath of the Raven Queen. Urishtar cares not—she has her own goals in mind.
Following hints in dreams and clues born from fever visions, the shadow dragon Urishtar discovered an ancient structure in the Shadowfell. The structure first appeared during the wars between gods and primordials. In its lightless galleries, Urishtar discovered dread lore origi- nally reserved for divine agents and necromancer lords. Flush with newfound power over the afterlife, Urishtar began to explore the limits of these abilities. Few in the natural world or the Shadowfell were aware of her activities until she began to steal the departing life force of the recently deceased.
Jothan Ironspell, a prominent adventurer of the southern regions, died defending the natural world from marauding demons. After the demons were finally vanquished, Jothan’s corpse was recovered and returned to his home town of Vaester. Jothan’s father, Sir Halumoor Ironspell, arranged for a Raise Dead ritual that would restore Jothan to life. However, when the ritual was concluded, Jothan did not return. The ritual caster, a priest of Pelor named Beldan, reported that he’d made tentative contact with Jothan’s spirit and that the hero wished to return. But something was holding his life force back.
Grief-stricken, Sir Halumoor paid for the ritual to be performed again and again—four times in all. None succeeded. According to Beldan, contact with Jothan’s life force grew fainter each time he cast the ritual, as if it had slipped farther and farther away. On the final attempt, Beldan reported that Jothan was finally and truly gone.
This tragic news has many convinced that Vaester suffers under a dreadful curse. Several other Raise Dead rituals have failed since Beldan’s attempts to revive Jothan, and rumors claim that the Gentle Repose ritual now fails to preserve corpses. Desperate to find the answer, various casters performed Speak with Dead rituals. They report that many of the recently dead who were able to be called back to life have splintered memories of a terrible vision—a dragonlike entity of black mist reaching toward them and plucking the light from deep within them.
A close friend of Jothan, Moyshanna, believes some terrible creature akin to both dragon and wraith made off with Jothan’s spirit. She has pledged to learn the truth.
The adventurers arrive in Vaester, hearing something about the trouble the locals have had recently with the viability of Raise Dead rituals. By speaking with various people involved in these events, the adventurers learn about the entrance to the Gloomdeeps and the Tomb of Sartine that lies within (see “Supporting Characters,” page 5). After learning that something seems to be interfering with the natural process of life and death, the PCs might be inspired to follow the trail of stolen spirits into the Gloomdeeps.
The Gloomdeeps consists of a series of caverns under- lying a line of ridges near Vaester. The upper caves contain threats typical to the Underdark, and the adventurers should be able to bypass these and descend quickly to the area containing the Tomb of Sartine. Within these strangely shadowed tunnels, greater dangers stand between the PCs and Sartine’s tomb.
The Tomb of Sartine is the final resting place of a once-powerful shadar-kai warlock. It is infested with death traps of all sorts, as well as several guardian creatures. The adventurers can discover a powerful artifact, the Skull of Sartine. In the end, they pass through a dark portal into the Shadowfell.
Upon breaching the portal, the adventurers appear out- side the walls of a massive fortress, its spire poised directly beneath an ominous swirling cloud in the shadowy sky. Here is where the stolen life force gathers.
The adventurers must seek the soul rings that provide access to the keep. Captains stationed in the outer walls each possess one of these items, and each captain presents a deadly challenge. These captains are under the command of the larva mage Magrathar, whose defeat is also required to attune the rings to new owners.
Once they obtain and attune the soul rings, the adventurers must battle their way across catwalks (a fight that includes a brush with Urishtar) to reach Urishtar’s Keep. The party must defeat the challenges that protect the top of the spire and win one more showdown with Urishtar.
When the shadow dragon dies, the diversion of mortal life force ceases. The swirling darkness at the tower’s zenith slowly dissipates and this threat comes to an end. Urishtar’s role in a larger plot is revealed in the next adventure in the series, E1: Death’s Reach.
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