The Lance of Marduk
This stone fortress stands near the town of Winterhaven in the Nentir Vale. The keep dates back to the empire of Nerath, who originally constructed and garrisoned it. Although often believed to be a defense against the gnoll marauders that once plagued the area, the keep was actually built to defend the site of a rift opened to the Shadowfell. Years ago, a death cult of Orcus attempted to open a rift to the Shadowfell and the Demon Lord to lead his undead armies into Midgard. The empire’s legions discovered the cult and destroyed them before they could complete their work. Though the imperial mages were unable to close the rift completely, they placed a powerful arcane seal over the rift and erected the keep above it to defend the site from future attack or discovery.
Eventually the empire fell and the ruin began to fall into disrepair. The garrison dwindled as the troops stationed there were deployed to the front lines of the failing nation. All the while, the rift was not patient. It’s whispers and fell energy pervaded the keep, instilling uncertainty and fear within the fort’s occupants. Eventually the whispers drove Ser Keegan, the commander of the keep, to madness. He lost his mind and attacked his family and his captains, and killed almost all of them before the remaining men banded together and drove him into the catacombs beneath the keep, where they sealed him in a tomb in the temple of Bahamut. He regained his senses in time, but nothing could be done. After his death, Bahamut raised his skeleton to guard over the keep. Centuries after, the cultists of Orcus discovered the ruins and the rift, and began to work on breaking the seal and completing the ritual to open the rift. The cultists were led by Kalarel, Scion of Orcus.
The Lance came to Winterhaven on behalf of the city of Fallcrest to investigate recent bandit attacks and suspicious activity in the area. When they arrived, they routed a den of kobolds on behalf of the leader of the town, Lord Padraig. After a very close shave in the kobold warren, they discovered that the kobolds were under the command of a goblin warlord named Irontooth, who almost overwhelmed them. Irontooth himself answered to Kalarel, a scion of Orcus and the leader of the cult within the keep. After returning to the town, the Lance ventured into the keep to put a stop to the dark ritual. They found more goblins, but passed by them in an effort to get to Kalarel. Within the first level of the keep they explored the catacombs and found Ser Keegan, who asked them to finish what he could not, and offered them Aecris to assist them. Further down, they discovered that there was a spy in Winterhaven working for Kalarel. They returned to the town to find that Ninarin, an Elf hunter, had retreated to the nearby graveyard and raised a force of undead in an effort to defeat the Lance.
After defeating her, the Lance returned to the keep. After a number of fights with the hobgoblin guards and undead, as well as with some of the cultists, they reached the rift and found Kalarel in the final stages of the dark ritual that would reopen it. After killing Kalarel, the rift continued to fight the Lance and attempt to pull them into the Shadowfell. At the last moment, Sydienne channeled a bolt of lightening into Kalarel’s amulet, which reverberated through the rift to a matching stone in Orcus’ possession, scarring him and closing the rift permanently.